Many of you will know that open questions are those that cannot be answered with a one word answer but I want to very quickly bring this to top of mind.

If you are having trouble getting staff to get involved, think for themselves and solve problems, check the questions you are asking.

Questions that begin with “Who”, When”, “Did you”, “Will you” or “Can you” often end in 1 word answers from staff.

If you were Mentoring them, that’s OK. You can give them the answer to their problems but then they will probably return tomorrow with a similar issue.

However your objective as a Coach to your team is to ask questions that get them thinking about how to solve the problem for themselves.

It will take slightly longer and demand your self control and patience to hold back on the answer, but when they discover it for themselves, the rewards are long lasting.

Questions that begin with “Why”, “How”, “What” or “Tell me”, tend to generate more meaningful answers because the person is forced to say a whole sentence.

As a Coach to your staff, here are the 4 most important questions to ask.

• How? How did you get the project started?

• Tell me about? Tell me about what’s most challenging or inspiring for you.

• What? What do you think could improve the outcome?

• Why? Why do you think that would work?

In a coaching environment, the objective is for the staff to do most of the talking. If you find that you are doing most of the talking, there’s a good chance you are asking closed questions and giving them advice or suggesting solutions in which case you are possibly Mentoring them.

Listen, to their answers with the intent of understanding. If you don’t understand their answer you can “drill down” by asking more inquiring questions.
“Tell me more about that” The more open the questions, the more information they will share and the more insight will be revealed to help them find their own solution.

Invest the time in coaching to develop your staff and free yourself from putting out fires!

Author's Bio: 

Juliette Robertson is an Executive Coach offering webinar based Coach Training for new managers in "How to Coach Your Staff. Her 7 module coach training is globally accessible on-line and perfect for busy new managers who want the benefits of e-learning and access to qualified coaching tutors to help fast track their coaching skills.

To register for 60 minutes of free webinar based Coach Training, visit

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