7 Questions You Can Use to Help Anyone Develop, Even the Boss

Leadership is more than getting things done. Leaders bring out the best in people.

Successful leaders ask questions that help others develop.

Successful leaders ask questions that help others develop. Image of a flame.

7 questions that help anyone develop:

#1. What do people admire about you?

Listen for traits and behaviors. Affirm their response. Come up with at least three responses.

#2. Why do you think they admire those traits and behaviors?

This question may feel awkward. Don’t push too hard. Move to the next question.

#3. What value do those traits and behaviors bring others?

Use the word others. Leadership is about others. If the person initially listed qualities and behaviors that were self-serving, ask #1 again using the lens of “value to others”.

Don’t rush to question #3. It might be enlightening to gently shift the conversation from self-serving to other-serving.

#4. If you were asked how to develop those admirable traits and behaviors, what practices would you suggest?

Come up with observable actions. Take time to develop a list. Ask, “And what else comes to mind?”

#5. Which one of those traits has most contributed to your success? What makes you say that?

#6. What is the potential downside your admirable traits and behaviors? How might they hold you back?

#7. If you were to get better at one of your admirable traits or behaviors, what could you try?


Genuine curiosity is essential. Don’t use questions to manipulate. Questions #3 provides an opportunity to shift perspective, but you can’t force it.

Always have the best interest of others at heart. When you help people develop, do it for them.

Gently probe after first responses. Ask, “I wonder if you could come up with at least three things?” Or, “What else comes to mind?”

Soften questions with phrases like, “I’m curious,” or “I wonder.”

How would you adapt the above set of questions?

How do you develop people, even the boss?

Still curious:

15 Questions that Change the Way People Think

10 Questions You Need to Ask to Develop Employees