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5 Great Questions Great Leader Asks Their Team

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What makes one company more successful than another? Better products, services, strategies, or technologies? While all of these contribute to superior performance, all of them can also be copied over time. The one thing that creates sustainable competitive advantage – and therefore ROI, company value and long-term strength – is the people who are the company. And when it comes to people, research has shown, time and again, that employees who are engaged significantly outperform workgroups that are not engaged. 

Where companies that enjoy a 60% to 70% employee engagement, the average total shareholder’s return stood at 24.2%; in companies with 49% to 60% of their employees engaged, TSR fell to 9.1 percent; companies with engagement below 25 percent suffered negative TSR. (Source: Employee engagement at double-digit growth companies, Hewitt Research Brief)

In the fight for competitive advantage where employees are the differentiator, engaged employees are the ultimate goal.

As leaders, we can be tempted to share our wisdom and solve things for people – too often and too quickly. When we do, we don’t allow others to grow, to develop, to come up with a brilliant idea…so pretty soon, they don’t try anymore. So rather than solve the issue for them, ask questions to get the team engaged in problem-solving. The answers become conversations about things that are important or meaningful. Conversations are more likely to turn to action. Action turns into results, and that’s the ultimate goal, engaged teams that take action and produce results.

Here are some of the questions that can help you get started.

1. What do you think?

Instead of offering our answer first, get them thinking, talking and sharing. Hold back, no matter how tempting to share your solution. And when they start talking, make sure you listen and maybe ask a probing question, like “What else?” No judgment, no qualifying, and no hi-jacking. Let them explore with your help. No one has every answer, by engaging your team to think about solutions they add to the answer pool. Your team also starts self-solving as the start to realize they often have the answer to their problems.

2. What would you do?

Asking this question encourages leadership thinking and ownership – at all levels of the company. Again, follow up with probing questions to keep listening. This question also builds confidence and contributes to the answer pool. People feel more engaged and fulfilled when they contribute and when they have an impact. Asking “What would you do?” allows them to help and have an impact on decisions. They now have skin in the game.

3. What’s the real challenge here for you?

The key here is the word “real”. When you ask about challenges, you may open the flood gates. Help them focus on the real problem so that they can begin to find their way out. Focus on the correct challenge is the fastest way to reach a solution. Focusing on the most significant piece of a problem allows the proper resources to be gathered to solve it. Too often, we focus on the small, most comfortable part of the project. As a result, we look like we are making progress when, in reality, the biggest struggle is still to come.

4. Where are you stuck?

Sometimes we need a push…we may need to admit that we are stuck so that we open ourselves to ideas and new perspectives. Asking this question permits your team to accept they are stuck so that they can move forward. It also helps identify the “real” challenge. Being able to point to the obstacles and give it name is an incredibly powerful tool. Often just putting a name to the what’s holding a team member back is enough for them to create their own solution and quickly move past it without you solving it for them

5. How can I help?

When your employee gets stuck, they may become frustrated and disengaged. Asking, “How can I help?” gives hope that they are not alone, and can be the relief they need to move forward. Go through the other questions first; there is a reason this one is last. Recognize that if the previous questions did not produce a solution or move the team forward, they may also not know what help they need. That’s when your experience comes in most valueable. It’s time to roll up the sleeves and dig into this challenge with the team and solve it together. The result is a stronger bonded team, with high trust and respect for each other. Groups that work in this fashion have higher levels of engagement and results.

Learn2 works with leaders to help them develop and implement strategies to engage their teams to get great results. Work with one of our team members to help you achieve lasting change in your organization. Want to know more about your management style? Take our Natural Approach Assessment.

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