As supervisor and mangers, if you are interested in developing your employees, you may be struggling to shift from a telling or directing mode to a more listening and questioning mode.

In addition, you’ve may have had employees come to you with ideas or decisions that you either don’t have time to consider or you want them to rely on themselves to determine their next actions.

In both situations, it is useful to have a ready set of reliable and powerful questions that put the responsibility back on their shoulders—questions that are empowering rather than diminishing.

Here are my favorites:

Someone comes to you about a decision he or she wants to make and would like you to approve:

What is the worst that can happen if we do this, and can we live with that if it happens?

Someone comes to you with a complaint about Noah, a co-worker:

Sounds as if you need to have a conversation with Noah. How can I support you in doing that?

Someone comes to you about a problem he or she can’t solve:

Who knows the answer to this and how might you reach that person?

The key is to develop a set of questions that get to the heart of the matter.

Here are some others you might practice:

  • To nail down a commitment: When do you think you’ll be able to complete this?
  • To respond to a complaint: What is your request?
  • To check for alignment: Are you okay with this?
  • To push back on whining or griping: What might we do to change that situation?

In the next few weeks, listen for the questions used in meetings that add clarity, get alignment, elicit responsibility, or produce action. Pick out the ones you like and begin to use them.

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