Dear leader.  Please remember that you don’t know everything about the way your business is run.  The knowledge lies with the company as a whole.

So when you discuss issues with your senior team you should not be telling them what to do, because in their area of expertise they should be the expert – not you.

Take for example a situation I saw recently where a company had a sudden and urgent need to change a software platform.  The Technical Director comes to the CEO with the proposition because of major stability problems on the current platform.  What does the CEO say?  He is not the expert and doesn’t have the detailed knowledge of the situation to be able to say yes or no to the proposal.  But what he can do is constructively challenge the thinking of the Technical Director by asking questions.

So here are some of the questions he asks:

  • What is your motivation for making this change?
  • Have you thought about …?
  • What will happen if you do that?
  • What makes you choose that option?
  • What would John say? (where John is the most likely person to disagree with the action)

Questions like this make people think about their decisions from different perspectives. It holds up a mirror to what they are doing and allows them to see it through another’s eyes.  It gives them a chance to find out whether it stands up to scrutiny before it is too late. If you help them to think these things through in a safe place, when they go public their decision is more likely to be robust.

Asking questions is always more powerful than telling people things because asking questions encourages them to think for themselves.  So it is important as a leader to coach the senior team in this way, and also to encourage those managers to help others around them similarly.  In this way you introduce a coaching style of management and encourage individuals to think for themselves.

… And if you want to learn how to ask better questions then you might be interested in our Coaching skills for Managers course.