Managerial coaching is not usually a sit down 30 minute coaching session, in fact most managers simply do not have this time available when managing their own work load. Often using questions like these in everyday conversations can help encourage team members to solve problems with less input from you as their manager and supports them in taking more ownership for their own growth.
“What is the specific outcome you want to create? What will you need to do to make that outcome happen?”
When to use: When a team member is starting a new project or gets stuck along the way with a project.
Helping team members clarify their ideal outcomes and create a timeline with a step by step plan can be very empowering. Another great time is when someone gets stuck in a more complex problem, it’s all too easy to stop thinking about the big picture and miss out on good solutions. This question helps your team member rethink a problem by reviewing their ideal outcomes and chunking it down in to a step by step plan to get there.
“What’s the most important areas for you to focus in on at this point?”
When to use : When a team member seems overwhelmed or needs help with prioritizing.
It might be easy for you as their manager to review a to-do list and pick out items that are most important. But that won’t help this team member figure it out next time, or the time after that. Instead, ask for their thoughts, including why they have chosen their “most important,” and what other options they considered. If what they picked doesn’t align with your views, you’ll need to discuss why. Maybe they don’t have much insight into your team’s and company’s priorities, in which case you’ll need to help them understood those.
“What’s are your initial ideas on how to handle this?”
When to use: Any time a team member comes to you with a problem and asks “What should I do?”
This question helps team members self-reflect and connect with their own ideas — two areas from which will help them begin to drive their own development. The words your opinion are important. You communicate that you’re not expecting perfect answers, just options you can explore together. When you use this question regularly, your team will become more proactive at solving problems.
I also love these problem solving questions for helping team members reframe their view of a complex problem they feel stuck around. Pick a “problem'”you currently feel stuck around and try using these and see what happens.
“What are you are learning on this project?”
When to use: In the middle or toward the end of a project.
Part of what makes this such a good question is the message it sends about your management style and the importance of learning and growing within the team. Ask it, and you are sending a sign “Your growth and progress are important to me.”
On a practical level, asking about learning gets your team members to be able to step back and view their current tasks in the broader context of their own development. Once you hear about lessons learned, look for openings to ask follow-up questions about lessons still to come: What should they learn next? What skills and capabilities need developing to get them to the next level? A good conversation could lead you to be able to create a development plan together.
“What specific areas of your work would you like more or less direction from me on?”
When to use: In weekly 1-on-1 or other check-in’s on how things are going.
Your outcome with this question is to convey that their growth while supported by you is driven by them. You are communicating that you are as willing to step back as they grow, as you are to step in and offer more guidance if they are having trouble.
However you need their input to do so. To answer your question, they will need to assess what’s best for their own growth, asking themselves, “How am I doing? Am I ready to take on more responsibility? What do I need in order to do in order to get better?” You may learn that they are more competent at the tasks at hand than you realized, in which case you can remove checking-in weekly to increase their autonomy Or maybe they think they are ready to take on more, but you see it differently and then you will need more discussion to get aligned on how to best move ahead.