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Coaching Questions to Inspire Employee Problem-Solving

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Coaching Questions to Inspire Employee Problem-Solving

As leaders, what do you discuss with your direct reports during one-on-one conversations?

Each person brings their own unique perceptions, assumptions, and emotions to every situation. When navigating challenging situations in the workplace, sometimes leaders need to guide employees to slow down and evaluate what they’re bringing into the situation in order to identify the next steps. With 3 in 10 U.S. employees feeling burned out at work, according to the Gallup Organization, it can be challenging to engage with employees who may have mentally checked out.

Regular one-on-one discussions with employees can be so much more than a status report. It’s helpful to talk with team members about their career goals, to help them further clarify those goals and take ownership of their career trajectory. Talking through perspectives on different topics helps you, as a people manager, gain insight into a team member’s background and how that shapes the way they think and work today. Once employees have clear goals and understand their personal perspectives, they can arrive at their own solutions for handling sticky situations.  

When talking with employees, leaders should ask questions that are:

  • Open-ended
  • Not leading or “advice-heavy”
  • Begin with “what” or “how”, avoiding questions beginning with “why”
  • Help the employee clarify thoughts, assumptions, and emotions
  • Bolster the employee’s agency in the situation

Here are some examples of good coaching questions to use in your one-on-one conversations with employees:

  • What does success look like on the other side of this problem?
  • What outcome would be ideal?
  • What have you already tried, and what happened?
  • What did you learn from what happened?
  • What do you think would happen if you tried that?
  • What motivates or frustrates the other parties involved?

The ability to navigate the motivations, goals, and perspectives of other team members is a valuable skill for leaders, managers, and other contributors. Not only can it help you create strong working relationships, but it can also improve the overall work satisfaction of your employees. Start using these ideas today and empower your employees to use their unique experiences and backgrounds to problem-solve in the workplace.

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