The Single Question That Can Change The Way You Lead

It’s one thing to manage a team: You follow organizational rules and procedures and you ensure your team does the same. Managing a team is no easy feat and now there’s an added weighty layer called “coaching”.

How in the world am I supposed to coach my team? I don’t have time for that.

Leadership is more than rule-following, it’s a responsibility to care for the organization and those individuals who are a part of it. Your responsibility goes beyond managing what shows up in a day-to-day, it means you are creating opportunity for members of your team to grow both personally and professionally. Growth goes beyond promotional steps, it’s about impacting the quality of the work completed by these individuals and impacting the quality of the individuals doing the work.

If this idea sounds grand and lofty, and way out of bounds on what can realistically be done in the limited hours of a day, perhaps think about it this way: 1%. Tiny, incremental changes for improvement will be a total game changer. They are achievable, doable and work like compound interest. With each improvement, the deck gets stacked for greater impact.

The same principle applies to improving our leadership skills. You don’t have to pull a 180-degree turnaround when it comes to leading your team in order to create significant change or to even be seen as a true leader. It’s about moving with intention in small and effective steps.

Not sure where to begin? Start in the one place most managers don’t: Don’t tell them what to do, ask them “What would YOU do?”

This simple, yet powerfully effective question will:

  • Impact every single conversation (you know, the ones you’re already having every day, all day) to help you and your team achieve even greater results (don’t discount the 1% rule here)
  • Sharpen problem-solving skills
  • Assist others in becoming more self-reliant and take greater responsibility and accountability for their actions
  • Help others work more easily with others (including you)
  • Teach how to communicate more effectively

Here are some examples in action:

If you had to do this over again, what is one thing you might try differently next time?

What do you think you should do if this happens again?

What do you think will be the challenge if we try this approach?

What do you think we should do to get “X” (desired outcome)?

Keep in mind these are questions that should be asked out of curiosity, not accusation that you feel something could have been done differently or done better. Maybe you do think there was a better way. Rather than offering a solution, giving your team the opportunity to reflect on their problem-solving approach and method of delivery strengthens their action-to-outcome thinking process and allows them to see for themselves room for improvement. Even if they don’t come up with ideas on their own, you should still use the opportunity to ask the question as it will begin to build trust that you see them as problem-solvers. The next go-round with these individuals might help them get their creative juices flowing in anticipation of the questions you’re ready to ask.