(Influential Leadership) Ask Powerful Questions

Question Mark

In order to be a great leader, you want to be masterful at going beneath the surface to really understand your people and the issues they face.


It’s not enough for a leader to utilize the process of coaching. The key is to become a masterful coach.


There are certain skills that will make you a masterful coach and leader. They’re not complicated, but if you don’t know them and don’t practice them, your leadership will be ineffective.


For example, one of the foundational skills in coaching is deep listening. We explored this in our last tip: “Master Level 2 Listening.”


Another core coaching competency is asking powerful questions. Powerful questioning is the ability to ask questions for the maximum benefit of your follower and the organization. These are typically open-ended questions that create greater clarity, possibility or new learning. They evoke discovery, insight, commitment or action.


The Problem With Directive Questions

Let’s say one of your direct reports comes to you with a certain challenge. They feel that there is only one course of action to overcome this challenge. You observe that they’re ruling out many other, possibly superior, options.


Many leaders will ask a directive question, such as: “Have you thought about doing ________?”


This is a “yes/no” question that doesn’t encourage ownership in your follower.


Often when you utilize a directive style like this, you create followers who are dependent on you to solve their problems. They will gladly follow your suggestions and if that solution doesn’t work, they will come back to you for another suggestion.


A Better Alternative

Alternatively, you could ask a more powerful question like, “What other possibilities are there that would give us an even better result?” This question will send your follower to a more creative and resourceful place.


If they draw a blank, invite them to brainstorm options. Powerful questions often lead to collaboration between you and your follower to create higher quality answers, while at the same time pr


(Contributed by David C MillerLearn more about how to ask powerful questions and other influencing skills in his book: The Influential Actuary. )

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *