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The six magic questions

Wouldn't it be amazing if we could wave a magic wand and all of our personal and organisational developmental goals would appear - poof, just like that? Wouldn't it be pure bliss if all leaders came 'fit for purpose' and all direct reports came 'perfectly aligned'?

Sounds like corporate utopia right.....well there are quick, sure fire ways to bring reality a little closer to magic land.

For this reason I always admonish the leaders I work with to deploy the six questions that create magic within a team and if used consistently within an entire organisation.

"The wise man doesn't give the right answers, he asks the right questions." - Claude Levi-Strauss

1. WHERE ARE WE GOING? This question is really useful to gauge the direct reports understanding of, and alignment to what I would call the meta-orginisational vision. It is also used to gauge the degree of commitment to this high level shared vision. Only when you know how your people are reacting and aligning can you make plans to execute anything of meaning. This is an important question to ask.

2. WHERE ARE YOU GOING? Question two helps the leader establish the goals, vision and determination the direct report has for her specific area of the organisation. This question's primary purpose is to articulate and align the the individual's priorities with the leaders broader or more expansive vision for the organisation.

3.WHAT IS GOING WELL? Success is the super glue of any coaching process. Yes you have to deal with problems some of the time, but the success is what bonds and helps build the energy needed for change. This question allows the leader and the direct report to exchange ideas about what has been recent successes in the individuals part of the organisation. It tests actual metrics, makes sure everyone is on the same page about what success looks like and focusses everyone on the the next goal.

4. WHAT ARE KEY SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPROVEMENT? This is an opportunity for the leader to weigh in and give constructive suggestions for the future. These suggestions should be carefully chosen and should be instrumental in helping the direct report achieve the agreed goals. They should be 'key' suggestions meaning a few of the most important things that would make a big difference quickly.

5. HOW CAN I HELP? This is called the mother of all questions, it is one of the most powerful and important coaching questions a leader can ask a direct report.

6. WHAT SUGGESTIONS DO YOU HAVE FOR ME? This is the dialogue question and it allows the power dynamic to shift. Listening to and acting on direct report's suggestions and ideas will almost always result is a dramatic increase in perceived as well as actual leadership effectiveness.

THE CAVEAT: There is a shared non-negotiable responsibility for the success of an internal coaching conversation, there is mutual culpability if it goes wrong, shared glory if it all goes to plan. Additional to this, the direct report must 'own' the process of contacting the leader if immediate and urgent help is ever needed executing agreed upon goals and deliverables. Likewise the leader promises to stay true to the scheduled dialogues and in addition be responsive, supportive and helpful should the direct report reach for assistance.

With both parties in agreement and collaborating in this feedback loop system they are headed toward success, no magical thinking needed.


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