Employee Leadership Coaching 101: Ask, Don’t Tell

Leadership Coaching 101

Leadership coaching is a practice of building skills and providing constructive feedback to individuals in order to improve their overall performance. It is an effective tool for strengthening workplace communication, fostering collaboration, and helping employees reach their full potential. Coaching can provide employees with direction, motivation and accountability to help them become more successful in their roles within the organization.

Effective leadership coaching can help managers identify and address issues before they arise by shifting the focus from telling team members what to do to asking them questions and understanding why they are behaving in a certain way. Through this kind of inquiry, leaders can better understand the motivations and reasoning behind their employees' behavior, allowing employees to solve their own problems which leads to empowerment, increased enjoyment at work and self-sufficiency.

There are 4 reasons why I believe leaders tell team members what to do:

  1. Absence of knowledge or self-awareness from a lack of leadership training and development
  2. The belief that a leader has to be a problem solver, solution provider, and fixer
  3. Protecting the image of needing to be helpful and supportive 
  4. A need for speed and convenience while problem solving in order to move to the next problem 

There are 3 reasons why asking is more effective than telling: 

  • Individuals will  take ownership of their own challenges and/or opportunities which helps them to reach personal empowerment and satisfaction in the workplace
  • Empowered employees demonstrate a greater level of satisfaction and commitment at work
  • Questioning allows employees to develop their own problem solving skills, reducing reliance on leaders for problem solving and freeing up time for leaders to spend on other areas of the business   

So how do you ask the correct questions so that employees can solve their own problems? 

Here is a step-by step guide that highlights  what questions to ask in order to empower your team to solve their own problems: 

4 Questions to Ask that Will Help Employees Solve Their Own Problems

This is an example of someone who’s missing deadlines.


1. Uncover Root Cause:  What is happening and/or not happening with the behavior? Why?

Example Questions:

“What do you think is happening that makes it difficult for you to stay on top of your workload and meet your deadlines?”

“What is likely to make it difficult for you to change the situation?” 


2. Understand the Reasons for Change: Help them understand the value of change and/or the consequences of not changing. This provides motivation to change.

Example Questions:

“What do you think might happen if you do nothing to change?”

“Why is it important for you to improve?”


3. Envision the Desired State: Paint a picture of the desired state, how will they operate more effectively? What benefits will they achieve? How will they be performing better? 

Example Questions:

“What would you like to accomplish?”

“How will you know when you’ve succeeded?” 


4. Explore Actions to Achieve Change: What is needed to change? What problems or barriers will arise that will affect the ability to change? Who needs to be involved? How and when will the change happen? The practical reality, the plan.

Example Questions:

“What would you like to accomplish?”

“How will you know when you’ve succeeded?” 



After you are done asking these questions and discussing the answers, create a plan on how to execute the solutions you’ve collaborated on. Set a date for a follow-up meeting to discuss progress and offer your support as the plan unfolds.

Take the time to reflect as a leader. What did you learn from this article? What will you implement during your next one on one with a team member? Comment below and let me know how this 4 step strategy worked and the impact it had on creating an empowered, successful workplace. 

For successful leadership coaching, it’s important to use a questioning approach to develop trusting relationships and create a strong team . If you want to gain an even better understanding of how to lead your team with confidence and take on more step-by-step practices, consider signing up for my course The Confident Leader where I’ll provide in-depth information on the subject.