Powerful Coaching Practices for Manufacturing Leaders - Part 4: The Artfulness of Asking Questions

Posted by Stacey Curry on Mar 1, 2023 11:38:35 AM

Coaching 4

A 6-part series focusing on impactful practices for developmental coaching conversations. 

If you have read the previous post in this series, thank you! If this is the first time you popped open one of my posts, thank you! 

Writing is not one of my stronger skill sets. Writing is an arduous experience as I tend to overthink grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, logical flow, and the greatest fear of all…being judged by an unidentified person behind a screen who I will most likely never meet. Better yet, what if they respond and like the post and I need to respond intelligently and respectfully? What if I sound like a complete ne’er-do-well? All this white noise in my head leads to me losing sight of the fact that I’m simply sharing my thoughts and ideas and that takes a ton of courage. When I write something and put it out there for public viewing, I am being completely, unequivocally, 100%, vulnerable! And therein lies the artfulness of asking questions – being completely, unequivocally, 100%, vulnerable. 

One consistent theme I hear and see when coaching manufacturing leaders is their need to provide quick responses and answers to challenging situations in the moment. This can create a “hero moment” for the leader – swooping in to solve problems and be the hero of the day.  This hero moment provides a feeling of being needed and relevant; but this feeling is only temporary, so our ego goes looking for more things to solve and fix – to be needed. The downside to the quick fixes we provide is that it takes away the ability and necessary time for the other person (or team) to think through the problem thoughtfully and explore their own possible options. By being vulnerable, putting the needs of our ego aside, we can open ourselves up by asking open-ended, thought-provoking questions. There is no need to get caught up on asking the “right” question. The goal of coaching is to ask unbiased, open-ended questions with a mindset of curiosity and support so that the other person can tap into their own unique resourcefulness and discover (with your encouragement) what they are capable of.   

Your goal as a coaching leader is to inspire the change you seek, gaining their buy-in; and you do that by posing questions that simply begin with “Who?”, “What?”, “When?”, “Where?”, and “How?”. Examples:

•    Who do you think you need to collaborate with to achieve/solve/address this?

•    What might you try next or instead?

•    What process or systems do you need to adjust before you do this again?

•    What might you do if challenges arise?

•    What do you think are the important issues here?

•    When you tried this, what were the results?

•    Where are you in the process, and what steps have you taken thus far to get there?

•    How do you think this could look different?

See, asking open-ended questions is quite simple.  What makes it hard is our need to solve and move on. We unwittingly create an enabled culture when we go immediately to our habit nature of solving instead of coaching and developing others in the moment. Coaching creates an empowered culture.

After the coaching conversation it is also important to take time for reflection. Ask yourself:

•    How did that conversation go for me and for them?

•    How did I truly listen with an open mind (and heart)? Be honest with yourself.

•    What was gained during this conversation?

•    What might I do differently next time?

•    What other questions are now surfacing?

•    Check in with any potential (personal) biases – what thoughts surfaced that need my attention? What assumptions need to be challenged?

•    How did I regulate my emotions during the conversation?

•    What am I learning about my coaching practices and approaches?

Asking questions with a mindset of curiosity and support allows others to take ownership of their own learning and discover what they are truly capable of. 

If you’re asked to solve a problem for others today, pause and ask yourself “Am I willing to let go of those ‘hero moments’ for myself and create an opportunity of discovery for the other person?”  Be vulnerable – try a new approach and see where it takes you. 


Next Up: Powerful Coaching Practice #5: Holding People Capable

Read Part 1 here.

Read Part 2 here.

Read Part 3 here.

Learn more how IMEC can help your leaders become impactful coaches here.

Stacey Curry

Written by Stacey Curry

Topics: manufacturing, Leadership, workforce coaching, Leadership Development, Team Coaching, leadership coaching, workplace culture

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