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Top-Shelf Tip No. 72:

"I absolutely believe that people, unless coached, never reach their maximum potential."

Bob Nardelli

Ask These Types Of Questions When Coaching Employees

Coaching your employees and helping them improve is the mark of a successful leader. When you coach your team members, you help them unlock their potential and maximize their performance. However, coaching conversations can be scary. As a leader, you must provide constructive criticism and feedback, and you also must be prepared to provide guidance and direction.

Michael Schneider, a human capital specialist, says many leaders shy away from having coaching conversations simply because they're not sure what to say. Luckily, you don't need an answer and solution for everything. He says asking a great follow-up question is as powerful as giving a great response. In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we highlight Schneider's three types of questions every manager should have in their tool belt.

1. Open-ended questions. Instead of asking a question that can be answered with a simple "yes" or "no," ask an open-ended question that elicits a more thoughtful response. You could ask, "What's going well?" or "What's not going well?" Longer responses allow you to notice themes, better understand your employee's viewpoint and collect your own thoughts to craft a response. Schneider says this type of question is important because it puts the employee in the driver seat of the conversation. It's important for employees to voice their thoughts and feelings and come to their own conclusions.

2. Probing questions. This type of question helps you get to the root cause of employee issue. Consider it the grown-up version of asking "why" several times. You could say, "To what extent?" or "What do you mean?" Probing questions force employees to dig deeper, revealing the true cause of their stress, lack of performance or thoughts on certain issues. It's easy to take employees' answers at face value and quickly move on to different topics. However, if you can be disciplined and ask great follow-up probing questions, you'll be in a much better position to give great advice.

3. Hypothetical questions. You're a manager for a reason. You've proven your capability to make decisions. In coaching conversations, Schneider says you must fight the urge to quickly throw out answers based on your own experiences. While valuable, they might not be relevant in your employee's situation. Instead, managers should use hypothetical questions to gauge an employee's knowledge and understanding. An example is, "Tell me what you would do if 'x' happened." By asking hypothetical questions, you learn the limits of their capabilities and know where they could benefit from advice.

The next time you sit down with one of your employees, remember that you don't need to have all the answers. Sometimes, you just need to ask a great question and listen. Use the questions above to uncover critical information for employee growth and development and enhance your competency as a coach.

Source: Michael Schneider is a human capital specialist who concentrates on talent management, specifically employer branding, recruiting, onboarding and talent development. Schneider believes that people are an organization's most reliable form of sustainable competitive advantage and focuses on strategies to maximize their potential.

Compiled by Audrey Sellers

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