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This article was translated from our Spanish edition using AI technologies. Errors can occur because of this process.
The opinions of entrepreneurs' contributors are their own.
The name Michael Bungay Stanier will certainly go unnoticed in the world of traditional leadership, but it is one of the most talked about in certain currents of coaching, especially among leaders focused on development and productivity.
Michael is the founder of his company Box of Crayons, where, among other things, they offer training programs of 10 minutes or less aimed at busy people. He is also the author of books that guide sales on Amazon, including "The Habit of Coaching", which is themed "The 7 Key Questions to Leading Teams and Organizations of the XXI Century".
In this book, he shares a series of seven questions every leader needs to know in order to work with their teams.
Ultimately, leadership is about influencing, inspiring, motivating and accompanying people as they develop their potential. This last characteristic is also part of the definition of what coaching is.
How to improve leadership conversations with 7 questions
A fundamental aspect of the role of leaders in teams is to have valuable, provocative conversations that encourage reflection and action. From this perspective we can talk about what I call “coach leadership”, i.e. becoming a team coach.
Here are the seven questions designed to facilitate dialogue with people at work, inspired by the author; And of course, you can apply them in your personal life too:
1 – What do you have in mind?
The intent is to get at the center of what the person is thinking and processing internally without taking on the role of the "mind reader" that some leaders often put themselves into; that is, they already know the answer.
Cognitive biases can lead to this behavior. A bias is a path, a common path that the brain makes due to the habit of its mental behavior. The difficulty is that it does not allow us to see the hereafter, and in the face of similar stimuli it will always evoke the same automatic response from the guide.
The intent is that the person with this question can share what is most relevant to solve; And by listening to the question and its answer, the goal is so that you can focus on it in a targeted manner.
2 – What else?
Bungay affirms that this is one of the most powerful questions in the coaching process and that in leadership it is necessary to apply because the first answer is rarely “the answer”: it is necessary to dig deeper.
The "What else?" motivates people to think deeper than the first thing that comes to mind. It also helps executives avoid being firefighters putting out fires or becoming advisors who end up hurting people's chances as they usually don't have all of the information and context that the other person has.
3 – What is the real challenge for you now in this matter?
This question is aimed at clearly focusing the topic and identifying the actual level at which the person is debating, which usually occurs when both interlocutors flow into greater depth. Imagine if you were examining this.
The inclusion of the words “real challenge” and “for you” works on two levels: The person can concentrate even more on their situation and the bond is also personalized in order to achieve more closeness and empathy in the exchange.
4 – What do you want?
These two words conceal multiple answers and often difficulties in finding the right answer.
The "wanting" has to do with the choice, with the choice of a path that the person may be willing to go. It's not an obligation, not an "I have to …", but it opens up possibilities.
For all people who honestly ask "What do I want?" It is also the key to self-regulating your life during times when you feel like you are lost and need more clarity. In fact, repeating it over and over again, it works, like a pattern where each layer of reaction – like peeling an onion – leads to a deeper one, until you reach the very root of consciousness.
5 – How can I help?
Michael Bungay calls it "the lazy question" because it poses the leading person to the savior of the other and at the same time eliminates the creative possibilities of the superior. At the same time, time is wasted and does nothing to help grow or awaken people's potential.
You can see that the question begins with the assumption that the other needs something for the leader to give or resolve.
Instead of doing this, the author suggests asking directly what the other person wants and giving them the space to ask about it and find alternatives without guessing or offering immediate help.
6 – If you say yes to that, what do you say no to?
In this case, it's a strategic, deep, and insightful question because every time a course of action is chosen, it is automatically said no to other things.
In the context of leadership, this question aims at the person learning how to manage their decisions and what each really entails; and again become aware of what you need to put aside by making a conscious choice.
In everyday life one could assume that the person in front of you "knows" the answers, although, as you can see, when formulating the "What should I give up on this choice" part, the analytical perspective is more precise and focuses better on what this person really wants what they will accept and what they know to put aside.
7 – What was the most useful and valuable to you?
Bungay points out that this is a study question. Each leader must ensure that the other person understood and capitalized on the conversation and the decisions made.
Neurons connect information as they act and think about what is going on. It is therefore important to create the space to make this case of learning calibration clear.
It also gives you guidelines to know where to strategize in future conversations with this person and shows what their internal process is for them to come to the point – what they say, what they affirm, their commitments – that they are manufacturing it.
The triad of questions for action
In addition, here is a triad of questions that encourage action, which was also inspired by Michael Bungay Stanier, whom he shared in his trainings:
1 – What is the challenge? Explained above.
2 – What are your options? Here the space is opened to find generative ideas that help the person to find answers and concrete options for action.
3 – How are you going to start / ignite the action? In this case, it is directly about the form of execution that everyone discovers in relation to their goals to be achieved.
Remember that the question "What else?" it's strategic to keep adding them to keep opening up and deepening opportunities.