Asking The Right Sort of Questions

January 10, 2010 | By | Add a Comment

To create great conversations, we need to engage fully with those we want to talk with. There are tactics that anyone can use to draw out the information that is so valuable, as well as showing an interest in the individual on the other side.

It’s not that difficult.

There are several sorts of questions that you need to be aware of. You may already understand these and naturally have a talent for using them in the right places, as some people do.

Some of the questions are simply no-go areas, as they will serve you little purpose. As a hint, listen to radio interviewers as they are often really good examples of how not to do it!

The key is to create conversations that will engage and enthuse your people, building confidence in their own abilities as well as encouraging a healthy, strong and close relationship with you as their line manager.

This is not as tricky as it might sound and simply requires an understanding of the ways you can leverage the unique opportunities you have, with people around you that you can develop your working style with.

One of the best ways to create a conversation is to as what are described as ‘Open’ questions.

Typically these start with the ‘W’ letter, Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? (well, it has a ‘w’ in it!) and are the keys that unlock a conversation.

These are undoubtedly the questions that encourage discovery of information. That’s why they are sometimes called ‘discovery questions’.

When you are coaching (which, as a manager, is much of your time, right?), these will form up towards 80% of the questions you ask – and more.

Interestingly, other tactics can be described as ‘open’ in this context. For example, other favorites are:-

‘You mentioned the delay on the project, tell me more about that…’

You could vary this a little as you get used to it, by saying something like:-

‘Say more about the solutions you found…’

Over time, you will get easier with your own favorites that work well for you, in the context of the conversation you are having with the person you are coaching.

The beauty of ‘open’ questions are that they show an interest in the other person, who, most often, will be only too delighted to talk more about themselves.

Then, using your excellent listening skills you ‘hear’ and get the ongoing contextual clues that will lead you – and them – forward along the self-discovery path, through the next question – and so on.

Remember, as a coaching manager, you are helping them find out about what they can contribute – not what you can fix for them.

(c) 2010 Martin Haworth. This is a short excerpt from one of 52 lessons in management development at Super Successful Manager!, an easy to use, step-by-step weekly development program for managers of EVERY skill level. Find out more at

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Filed in: Business Coaching, Coaching and Feedback, Employee Development, Leadership and Management | Tags: , , , ,

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