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The Power of Positive Questions: Management Best Practices

Updated: Sep 23, 2020

Coaches and leaders know that the motivation that makes the difference comes from within. Telling and yelling are tactics of the coaches or leaders who believes they can impose their will on others. They behave as though fear is the most effective motivator.

We Need “Soul Power”

But we intuitively know that fear moves people just far enough to get out of the way of the fear producer. It does not often get people to dig deep and give their best thinking and best efforts. And it certainly won’t get them to put their hearts and souls in the effort.

In the great movie Remember The Titans, the team learned that they could not perform at a championship level based on what the coaches could get from them. They needed something more, something that came from within each of them. Black and white leaders got the team together and asked the critical questions: Who are we? Who do we want to be? What do we need to do to get together and play as a team rather than a bunch of individuals forced to function together? How are we going to take responsibility and hold each other accountable for encouraging each other, for supporting each other? And the answer was “soul power”; the internal and voluntary giving up of winning as an individual in favor of winning as a team. (Somebody call Russell Westbrook, please.)

Getting Outside of Ourselves With Questions

Good coaching and leadership includes at least the following:

  • Show people why their work is important

  • Expand an individual’s and a team’s capacity to be effective

  • Help people figure out how to work together so they can win

  • Keep the goals and results always in mind but also in perspective

Great questions can help you ask people how they understand their role in each of these areas. Powerful questions can lead to exactly the kind of discussion that will show where you are in agreement, how they understand the big and small picture, and where you need to help them move forward. With the right questions and the right attitude, people will let you know how their world really works, what they will commit to, and where they cannot succeed. All critical information…and very difficult to discover in a fearful atmosphere.

Being Positive – Even About the Negative

Generally, it isn’t the just the questions that brings out the best information, it is how you go about asking them. People are always reading your behavior to see if it is safe enough to reveal the truth. Or to see if you are even interested in the truth. If you are to move forward, you need to match up your EQ with your IQ and frame your questions positively. (see Little Things Matter) Even if the situation is bad, going negative on people will not make it better. As a leader and/or a coach, keep any negative emotions in check and find a way to use positive questions to unleash the power of getting the most out of people.

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