It is easy to “tell” someone what to do. However, to build commitment and conviction it is imperative to help team members go through a process of self-discovery and understand the significance of their proposed action. It can be achieved through a process of deliberate “inquiry”.

Here are 7 questions that have helped a lot of managers guide their team members through the process of self-discovery:

  1. What “future state” do you aim to achieve?
    Note the use of “you”. The question focuses on accountability and ownership. The idea that “you” can own this piece of work and I’m there to support. But, there has to be a context – things going wrong, working on a prestigious project that’ll boost the career or an opportunity to increase visibility within the organization. Start the process only after establishing with the team member that there is indeed clear What’s In It for Me? The clearer the future state, the easier it is to reach there!
  2. What is your “current state”?
    Invite the team member is to explore the current state. Together, the likelihood of noting down all relevant current situation aspects is higher. Building a clear understanding of the current state is essential for the next few questions.
  3. What Obstacles do you perceive is preventing you from reaching the “future state”? This question exhorts the team member to explore “seen” and “unseen” obstacles or “personal” or “system” related obstacles etc. This question is followed up with the next two will establish the way forward.
  4. Which of these obstacles can you handle?
  5. What kind of help do you require?
    If the rapport between the manager and the team member is excellent, responses to Questions 4 and 5 will be a lot easier. If not, a lot of work needs to be done in the rapport area. The manager has to skillfully navigate this area in to make a team member feel safe while he undertakes risky tasks. It helps build confidence over a period of time.

6. What is your next step? What outcome do you expect from it?

These two questions help the team member walk away with a clear list of “things to do”. If this is left out, my experience has been that another meeting is required to get the team member to “start” the activities. What did you learn from this conversation about yourself, given the “future state” that you want to achieve?

7. What did you learn from this conversation about yourself, given the “future state” that you want to achieve?
Introspection is key to learning and this question provides that opportunity. Once the team member realizes the number of things that are learned about self, and the situation that the team member is in, the need to be Coached goes up, thereby creating a virtuous cycle of learning.

by Manoj Prabhu,

ICF Accredited Executive Coach, Experienced Leadership Facilitator, and Assessment & Development Centre Consultant