Get better at asking questions

And your team will too!

I?once coached a leader, we?ll call Amber, who shared feedback given by her manager regarding her performance. Her manager said there were two areas she needed to focus on:

?You need to improve the way you communicate?


?You need to do more for your clients?

Amber, being grateful for any feedback and not wanting to appear defensive, politely accepted it without question. She agreed to work on the areas of focus. The challenge Amber faced was, in its delivered form, the feedback was not specific enough to do anything with!

Imagine a sporting coach saying to one of their players ?you need to improve your performance?. The player takes on the feedback, making an assumption that the coach is talking about their endurance. They invest a lot of time and effort on endurance activities, in the hope their ?performance? will improve. When the player is dropped from the team, because their ?performance? had not improved, they are left dumbfounded.

The coach doesn?t understand why the player is so upset, they?d had the conversation about ?performance? and the coach assumed, differently, that the player would know the issue was with coordination?not endurance! The feedback, in its delivered form, was not specific enough to take targeted action on and the outcome, in this case, is devastating for the player.

When broad statements are made it is up to you, as the receiver, to understand their true meaning?and not simply assume! The easiest way to do this is by asking a combination of open and closed questions. In Ambers case, regarding communication, she could have asked:

  • Which particular aspects of communication do I need to improve? i.e. verbal, non-verbal, written.
  • Has there been a time when I?ve communicated really well?
  • Are there particular scenarios when my communication is worse than usual? i.e. when I?m stressed or in a rush, or when I?m put on the spot.
  • Do you have any suggestions on how I might start to improve the way I communicate?
  • If I get better at doing x, y and z will I have improved the way I communicate in your opinion?
  • Do you have any other expectations of me when it comes to communicating?

Questions open up conversation and allow you to understand another perspective. When you improve the way you ask questions your team will also become better at it. In her article How To Ask Better Questions, Judith Ross says ?By asking your direct reports the right questions, you can help them develop their ability to solve problems, their creativity, and their resourcefulness. Not only will their greater strength in these areas reflect well on you, but it also will enable them to better help you and the whole unit when fresh challenges arise.?

Asking good questions eliminates ambiguity and reduces the risk of disappointment and disengagement when expectations are not met. There is so much involved in asking good questions, this blog is just the tip of the iceberg?if you want to become a pro at asking questions please reach out for a conversation.

Finally, remember that the questions you ask should come from a position of curiosity and acceptance, not one of judgement or resistance.

Shelley Flett is a passionate leader with a keen focus on creating efficient and dynamic team environments through adaptable leadership. She is a Leadership Coach, Trainer, Facilitator, Mentor and Speaker who ignites vision and purpose in those she works with.

If you?d like to know more about her latest program ?Creating Dynamic Teams? please drop her an email

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