A.S.K. - Draw Employees in with 12 Powerful Questions
Managers are people; we each have our own style, personality, quirks, beliefs and passions. Naturally, these traits influence how we do our jobs and how we lead our employees. The best managers are the ones who have and use tools and resources to bring out the best in others and achieve desired outcomes through their people. Less-than-stellar managers essentially do what needs to be done to cover their own you-know-whats, without much regard for how their people feel or what they need to be successful. One of the most direct routes to being the best manager you can be, is to learn how to unleash the potential of your individual employees and your team. This requires desire, intuition, coaching skills, dedication and the ability to ask.
Powerful Questions are:
Open ended – They cannot be answered in a single word, but rather they elicit thoughtful responses.
Non-judgmental – They aren’t leading and they don’t encompass your personal views.
Mind opening – They challenge thinking and probe for thoughts employees may not have known existed.
Respectful – They consider your people’s feelings and emotions in order to obtain honesty.
12 Powerful Questions to draw employees in:
ALIGN on the topic for the coaching conversation:
What is most important for you to talk about? What’s #1 on your employee’s mind?
This should become important to you, too! Remember, employees bring their whole selves to work. What they may need to talk about may have nothing to do with work, but it may directly impact their performance. Even when you raise a topic, be sure to uncover what’s most important for the employee to discuss within that subject.
What are your desired results? Ask employees about the results they want to achieve.
This empowers them to establish goals that they can own. Once you, as the manager, understand your employees’ desired results, you can help them shape goals that will support their success.
What are your actual results today, and how did they come to be (WiG - what is good)?
Your employees need to understand where they are starting. Then they can identify the gaps to be bridged between actual and desired results. This question can be very re- vealing as employees talk about things that they believe have held them back. Pay particular attention to this part of the conversation, as it can often confirm or identify the need to re-address what is really most important to talk about (see #1).
SEEK to understand current realities, real or perceived:
What’s really happening, and what are the judgements you added to your story?
Coaching employees requires you to help them separate facts from judgements or views. Listen carefully and distinguish between facts that can be substantiated and judgements that are subjective. Your employees might even regard their judgments as beliefs. Your job is to help them understand the difference.
What attitude or outlook do you have based on your judgements?
An employee’s judgements influence their attitudes when working toward desired re- sults. You may witness an “aha” moment when an employee realizes for the first time that achieving the desired results may require a shift or adjustment on their part.
What speech or words are you using, and how is that impacting your ability to achieve the results you want?
Listen carefully to the speech an employee uses to describe current results, attitudes, and judgements. Listen for thinking words, feeling words, and tone of voice. All these can help or hinder their ability to achieve their goals. When an employee considers their speech and tone, they can see the impact they have on their actions, results, and even the people around them.
How are your judgements and attitudes showing up physically?
Observe and ask about facial expressions, body movements, posture, gestures and breathing patterns. Ask employees to pay attention to how they respond physically
to their judgements. This will help them recognize ways their judgements affect their physical being. It may be tense shoulders, rolling eyes, or something less noticeable, but these physical manifestations of judgements and attitudes can either aid or block success.
KICKSTART shifts that drive action:
What actions will your current thinking (judgements, attitude, speech, or physicality) likely inspire?
Help employees create needed shifts in their approach to reaching their desired results. Sometimes the slightest adjustment in one area can open up new possibilities. A sust- ainable shift will occur when people identify the need for it themselves.
If nothing were in your way and you knew that it would all turn out well, what would you do?
Stories your employees tell themselves may prevent them from reaching their goals. They may perceive obstacles that aren’t really present or as insurmountable as they thought. Allowing them to devise solutions with no restrictions or constraints can help them create new stories and work to attain those solutions.
May I offer you my observations?
By offering your observations as a coach, you can offer a new lens through which your employees can view themselves. Your employee might agree with your observations or reject them. Either way, you’re helping them gain the clarity needed to shift their judge- ments. The key here is to ask if you may offer your observations before offering them. This demonstrates respect for their ability and a willingness to listen. Off course, if your employee doesn’t want you to share your observations it’s to be accepted. But you can ask for the reasons.
What new practices can you put into place to ensure your success (WiB - what is better)?
Asking employees to formulate their new practices allows them to take ownership of their future and gives you a common connection point. Over time, you can check in on their new practices and help determine if they are working or not. This is a perfect opportunity to offer suggestions and brainstorm.
Are you willing to take action? By when? And if not, why not?
If an employee is unwilling to take action, your Powerful Questions must focus on exactly what is holding them back and why. This may require greater understanding about your employee’s judgements of the situation at hand. While you may repeat some previously asked questions, you’ll be asking them within a new context – that of an unwillingness to take action.
If your employee is willing to take action, then proceed! Focus on first steps, timing, accountability, and establishing future coaching conversations. Establishing a timeline can create a sense of urgency and inspire activity toward the goal. It also provides an opportunity to check on progress and coach as needed along the way.
Plus one for good luck
As a bonus, always ask “What else?” in a coaching conversation. This Powerful Question is so flexible that it can be used at almost any time. Keep this question in mind and incorporate it as needed into and among the 12 Powerful Questions. It can be difficult for employees to think of everything they want to say in the moment of your meeting. The question “What else?” gives them an opportunity to truly reflect and bring additional thoughts to the surface.
Make them your own
The A.S.K. Framework and the Powerful Questions are now yours. Own them, personalize them and give them your unique style. When you use the Powerful Questions, make sure you listen actively. Offer observations to facilitate shifts in your employees’ beliefs, actions and behaviors. Then, listen and share your obser- vations again. Make sure they know you hear them and that your interest is genuine.
The best part about this is that you’ll not only get to the heart of the matters with your employees, but you will also establish trust and reinforce your relationships with the people who work for you. Seize the opportunity to learn what’s important to them, and connect their goals to the goals of the business for the benefit of your company or your projects.