The Five Question Leader

The Five Question Leader

Let’s cut through the huge amount of advice and literature on leadership by looking through a different lens or perspective. Yes, I always appreciate a different point of view. We all want to be more effective as leaders and managers. Most of us as often feel like we need to do something in order to fulfill our role. The truth of course is we need to empower our people to make decisions and solve problems on their own. If we can do that, then we can do the more impactful things we need to do as leaders.

So, how do we empower our people? Is there a new perspective that may help? There is today a lot of focus on business leaders being “coaches.” However, Michael Burner Stanier, author of The Coaching Habit is adamant that “We don’t want you to be a coach. We do want you to be more coach-like.”

The fundamental change Stanier is advocating for busy leaders is this: Stay curious a little bit longer and rush to action a little more slowly. You can deliver more benefits than you thought possible by embracing these two simple behaviors. And when your people come to you with a question, instead of answering, respond: “Great question, before I give you answers, and I will give you one, I’m going to ask you a few questions.”

I didn’t realize how powerful the Five Questions Michael Bungay Stainer shares in his book are until we practiced them at the Gazelles Scale-Up Summit in San Antonio last month. His message and exercises delivered a strong impact on our audience. Read on to learn these five questions that will empower your people. Become a Five Question Leader.

Five Questions

It is hard for many leaders “not to give feedback” on the spot. Not giving feedback creates a sense of anxiety.

TAKE AWAY: When’s the best time to give advice? The longer you can wait to give advice, the better!

So, when your people come to you with a question, instead of answering, respond: “Great question, before I give you answers, and I will give you one, I’m going to ask you a few questions.”

The Kickstart Question. What’s on your mind?

It’s how to start a conversation more quickly so you get to the conversation that matters.

The Focus Question. What’s the real challenge here for you?
Stainer emphasized the importance of including, “for you.”  This will allow you to spend time working on the real issue, not the first issue. This swings it away from the problem to them.

The AWE Question. And what else?

This is the best coaching question in the world! Their first answer is rarely their only answer, and it’s rarely the best answer. Ask the AWE question several times.

The Foundation Question. What do you want?

It’s really the heart of the conversation. Ask them this question. Ask yourself this question.

The Learning Question. What was most useful or valuable here for you?

This finishes any conversation more strongly

What’s the real value in this?

When you do this exercise you learn to be a more effective leader. Why? Stainer shared this: We need to be more effective teachers.

  • People do not learn when you tell them stuff.
  • They don’t learn much when they do stuff.
  • People learn stuff when they have time to reflect!

WARNING: You won’t realize the full impact of these Five Questions until you practice them with someone else!

 Contact me for help in becoming a Five Question Leader.

© 2017-2020 David Paul Carter. All rights reserved.

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