You’ll Never Get There Without Questions
The day you realize leadership is about them not you is the day you begin leading. If you can’t develop people, you can’t lead beyond your current potential. Furthermore, if you don’t develop people, they’ll leave.
Techniques that develop:
If you can’t ask great questions,
your people development skills are weak.
Coaching vs. mentoring:
During conversations with my coach, Bob Hancox, he asks, “Would you like to be coached?” When I say yes, I know I’ll hear a series of skillful questions.
Rene Petrin says, “Mentoring is a transformational relationship. Build the relationship – the outcomes will follow. Building relationships is about trust.” Petrin adds, “Skilled mentors ask great questions.”
Distinctions between coaching and mentoring help us discuss individual features and techniques but they overlap.
Questions – essential to success:
Regardless of definitions, coaches and mentors ask great questions. Great questions:
- Open windows.
- Challenge assumptions.
- Move toward clarity.
- Aren’t agenda driven.
Three types of mentoring questions:
First, Petrin suggests mentors explore. Second, ask questions that seek solutions. Third, ask process questions that evaluate mentor-mentee dynamics and explore what’s been learned.
Petrin suggests mentors ask things like:
- What do you understand about this situation?
- What have you done?
- What has worked?
- What hasn’t worked?
- What forces are at work?
- What are the potential consequences?
- Who does this impact?
- What are the obstacles?
I’ve found either/or thinkers come up with two options. I like repeating their options and asking, “What’s the third option?”
Rene Petrin’s resources.
Bob Hancox co-authored, “Coaching for Engagement.” It’s filled with great questions.
Facebook contributors provided their suggestions for great questions on 8/2/2012.
What questions aid the coaching/mentoring process?
What are the components of great questions?
In a “perfect world” how would you like to see/ like to have seen this work?
Now let’s look at it in your “real” world.
What worked/ didn’t work?
Now that you understand it better, how can you make this situation work better going forward?
What did you learn for future use?
Thank you Martina.
Always a pleasure! Love the, “In a perfect world” approach. We see an imperfect world – limited resources for example – and use that as a reason to shut down.
Dan, another thought provoking post! As a leader it is easy to fall into the trap of mentoring by telling team members what to do, or how to do it. The problem is, this practice robs them of the “light bulb” experience they get when they come to the understanding through their own thought process. The lessons are learned on a deeper level when the person being coached can reach the conclusion on their own, through the “skillful questions” you mentioned. Once again, enlightened by your post!
Thank you David.
I hear you man! If you can’t ask a question maybe it’s best to just shut up… at least once in awhile. 🙂
I have worked with several coaches over the years. The best ones asked probing questions that made me think hard.
Questions make me dig deep inside to come up with answers that match my core values.
Given the opportunity to coach or mentor someone else I find the use of questions to be invaluable.
Thank you Josey.
You are fortunate to have had several coaches…being coached changes me…I’m sure it has you too.
You must have also been a very willing coachee – willing to dig deep, willing to stay in tune with your core values. The coach needs to be skillful, and Dan’s post highlights this, but it helps when the coachee is all there!
I agree with your question about what is the next option and the next one after that. I also find asking what what the experience will be be like if the outcome is successful can get someone who is stuck to rethink the problem from the angle of success rather than the angle of the problem.
Thank you Bonnie.
Love this idea…rethink from the angle of success.
Love that you are calling leaders out on this, Dan.
Not to generalize too much, because some companies do coaching very well, but one of the things I sometimes lament, is that particularly mid-level would-be leaders in many companies are so burdened with reporting and day-to-day “moving of the hands” that they don’t make time or have the mental energy for coaching developing, mentoring, etc., and that means that they are not developing and practicing these skills… and that means those coming up are not getting to experience discovering more of their own choices and outcomes (experience is the true teacher) and are not seeing an example of coaching, and so on…
That’s not a good cultural cycle.
Thank you Mark.
Great seeing you again. It seems somehow we have to better appreciate the ROI on these activities.
The best flashlight – is a well formed question.
Thank you Pat. Nicely said.
Perhaps it is a given precursor…that we listen to and learn about the person before we engage in the techniques that develop.
By listening and learning first, we will know how far they have come and likely asking more informed and cogent questions.
By listening and learning each time, we can then individualize the questions we ask.
By listening and learning, we are modeling respect.
More concretely, with the above in process, other questions that come to mind might be:
What choice have you arrived at as the current best option and what factored into your decision?
When can I check back with you about how it is going?
Is there anything else I can do for you right now or for the next time we meet?
Love this post it gives me a boost in the right direction, thanks Dan and have a great Friday.
Great post! I enjoyed reading this. We’re currently discussing this in my HR class…coaching vs. mentoring.
Hello, I totally agree with your ideas on mentoring. In my experience, I found it easier to mentor staff with white collared jobs. Now, I work with a team of blue collared workers and it is quite a challenge. Any tips on this? Am I right feeling the difference in mentoring?