For leaders, questions are king when it comes to coaching and training.

Learning and practicing effective questioning skills is central to effective leadership. There are five rules for asking the right questions, at the right time, in the right way.

These five rules will enable you to create more authentic and open communication that generates accountability and loyalty.

They can be applied in a number of scenarios:

  • Casual employee conversations
  • Formal one to ones
  • Performance reviews
  • Meetings
  • Interviews

Rule #1

People Won’t Tell You the Whole Truth Until They Feel Connected to You

Because you are the boss, people naturally have their wall up. Connecting is designed to pull the wall down.

You connect by listening, allowing others to tell their story, giving people your complete attention, and being genuinely interested in what they have to say.

Rule #2

Ask The Easy Questions First

To get people to reveal their problems, roadblocks, concerns, and feelings, you need them to talk. The more they talk, the more problems they will reveal.

To make it easy for people to talk, begin conversations with questions that are easy to answer and that they will enjoy answering.

Once they feel comfortable talking, the door will open to ask deeper or more direct questions designed to trigger self-awareness.

Rule #3

People Communicate with Stories

In conversations, people don’t spit out facts. Instead, they tell stories. When you listen attentively and patiently, you foster encourage the speaker to expand on and tell more stories.

The cues and clues that lead to emotions, roadblocks, and opportunities to coach, train, and develop are buried inside these stories.

Rule #4

Be Empathetic: Follow Emotional Cues to Problems

Listening deeply with your eyes, ears, and intuition will lead you to emotional cues like voice inflection, facial expressions, and body language that indicate that a story point or issue has emotional significance.

When you find these cues, use follow-up questions to dig deeper. This is where real problems and opportunities to create self-awareness will be found.

Rule #5

Never Make Assumptions

Many leaders assume that they know exactly what people need. After a little questioning, they shift into pontificating.

They dump their answers on the other person who eventually just tunes them out. Leaders assume, rather than ask questions because they are in a hurry, bored, impatient, or lack empathy.

Besides all of the obvious pitfalls of assuming, there is also an emotional trap. No one, not you, not me, not the people who work for you, likes to be told that we are not unique.

We resent it. We want to be treated as individuals.

Bonus Rule

Do Not Answer Your Own Questions

When you ask hard questions of people, they will often attempt to freeze you out with silence.

People have learned that the best way to get out of the hot seat is to just stare back at their manager.

The manager, intimidated by this silence and impatient to move on, rewards this behavior by answering his own question — usually as a run-on sentence.

The employee then walks away, off the hook, and nothing changes.

About the author

Jeb Blount

Jeb Blount is one of the most sought-after and transformative speakers in the world…

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