Questions, Questions!

In a coaching conversation this week, I asked a client to describe her effectiveness on her team, now that a month has passed since she’s taken a new position in her company.  (One of the responsibilities of a coach is to ask questions which elicit the wisdom of the person being coached.) 

She shared how she’s choosing to behave in ways that build trust in the group, and how her actions underscore her intention to be supportive and leaderly.   Hearing herself speak about the importance of “trust” and “support” in response to my question, my client had a big “a-ha” regarding the impact of the questioning technique employed by her boss in her old work group.

 She recounted how her former supervisor would direct team members to research and present on an issue for a team meeting.   After hours of preparation, the team member would distribute a report in advance of the meeting.   Upon completion of the presentation, rather than moving to discussion or decision, the boss would invariably ask:   “have you thought of analyzing the data in __x__ manner?” and send the presenter off…only to repeat the process again at the next meeting.  My client knew full well that the boss simply hadn’t READ the report.  Her boss was trying to appear clever.  However, the impact of his “clever” questioning was that it eroded trust.  Team members felt unsupported because they were  going in circles with aimless work.   Far from being clever, that boss’s behavior caused him to lose a valuable team member—my client!

So, rather than leaving your job—or being left—to get a new perspective, I’ve got some questions:

  • What is the true purpose behind the questions YOU ask? 
  • Are your questions helping to clarify? 
  • Are you questioning just for the sake of questioning?
  • Do your questions increase understanding, or do they make others feel manipulated?
  • What other questions do you need to ask yourself?

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