Six Questions to Ask Every Direct Report

After discussing the barriers to effective coaching at the executive level, we want to dive into six simple questions that every direct report should be asked throughout the year.  This process has worked consistently well for top-performing executives and produced a measurable change in their effectiveness as leaders and as coaches.

For this process, we recommend that leaders host a one-on-one dialogue once per quarter with their direct reports, which should last around 30 minutes each.

To make each session most effective, both parties are asked to:

  • Make each question an open dialogue, not a demand for answers.
  • Focus on the future, not on the past.
  • Truly listen to the other person’s ideas.
  • Focus on understanding disagreements and respecting differences in opinion.

Let’s get to the questions:

The Six Questions

Question #1: Where are we going?

The first question is targeted at reaching an alignment and commitment to the overall organizational vision.

Question #2: Where are you going?

Question two explores the vision, goals, and priorities of the direct report for his or her part of the organization. The goal is to align the individual’s priorities with the leader’s larger vision for the organization.

Question #3: What is going well?

Executives and directs report exchange what they see as recent successes for the direct report’s part of the organization. Providing positive recognition for achievements is a crucial element of effective coaching.

Question #4: What are key suggestions for improvement?

It’s now the leader’s turn to give the direct report constructive suggestions for the future. These should be limited to the key opportunities for improvement.

Question #5: How can I help?

This is one of the greatest coaching questions to ask a direct report.

Question #6: What suggestions do you have for me?

This question changes the dynamic of the coaching process to become a genuine dialogue. Listening to and implementing direct reports’ suggestions almost always results in dramatic increases in leadership effectiveness.

While the process can be tailored to fit any unique situation, a non-negotiable factor for an effective two-way coaching relationship is mutual responsibility. The direct report has to take responsibility for contacting the executive if immediate help is needed while the executive promises to honor the scheduled dialogues and be responsive and helpful.

With the two parties in agreement, they are both headed towards success.

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