Asking these Questions can Skyrocket your Leadership Fluency!

Leadership is not about shining some charisma around and get some likes and followers for a happy feeling - just like the social media. Rather, it is about realistically developing more leaders. 

Being a leadership coach, I come across many leaders who ask - "how can I be more fluent in my leadership practices and create a robust influence?" Well, this article can only answer a part of this question because leadership fluency comes through positive practices and behaviors. But one of the major tools of developing leadership fluency and having a greater influence lies in the art of asking the right questions to others. Remember, fluency doesn't necessarily mean influence. But creating influence is definitely a part of leadership fluency.

"Judge a book not by its cover but the questions it carries that lead to your growth"

We have talked about having high impact one-on-one conversations before but the questions we are talking about in the context of leadership fluency come from the sphere of pure human interactions that are grounded in trust, empathy, genuine interest in developing others through the art of inquiry and coaching.

We are not going to talk about different leadership styles and personalities here and which questions are the best in which scenario. Rather, you will learn some of those powerful questions that will create a real connection between your leadership and others. 

I would like you to take a moment and think about a leader that you really enjoyed working with or observed in your career. What were those characteristics relating to their communication style that created a positive influence? What made them stand out? Why did you like them? How fluent were they in their leadership practices?

I have asked many leaders about these questions and the answers revolve around the "authenticity of their interactions".

Authentic and influential interactions usually happen when they bring together the head, heart and hands. This means, combining the logical influence, emotional influence and cooperative influence. 

Here is a list of questions that can enhance your leadership fluency and establish a robust connection with others based on providing a holistic and authentic approach to your interactions:

1. How are you feeling?

Many studies based on psychology, focusing on emotional intelligence suggest that asking this basic question can trigger a human connection instantly, regardless of the personality type of a person. It deals with the foundations of the Maslow's Hierarchy of needs.  It caters to the basic psychological needs of a human being accompanied by care, inclusion and a sense of belonging.

As a leader, it can tell you the pulse of the team members and the team itself. Are they happy? Are they under pressure? Are they over tasked or under tasked? Are they feeling psychologically safe? Do they have the right conditions to perform well? Where in the performance continuum are they at? Are they happy or satisfied? Figure them out.

2. What's most challenging for you these days?

This question is not to provide a platform to the employees to vent about every single challenge they might be facing in their lives. Rather, it provides an opportunity for leaders to provide an ear to their employees and understand them holistically. It also allows leaders to know what is working well and what's not working well in their team, processes, plans, organizational culture, individual employees, etc. There could be more than what you imagined. Listen carefully.

3. What's that one thing you would do differently?

Now you are truly wearing a coach's hat, allowing the employee(s) to navigate their own path and stretch themselves. It is important that they understand their own triggers and the ways to manage their triggers that might be contributing towards challenges. Ask more open-ended questions till they are able to come to some action items. This question can help employees feel more confident in their own abilities that they might not be able to harness during challenging times. If needed, ask them to map-out the challenges and possibilities to overcome them on a piece of paper. Help them see things through and make connections. 

Nudge them to think strategically from different perspectives and impacts - individual level, team and department level and even organizational level. If they are missing out on some pivotal information, then communicate it to them. Empower them.

4. How can I support you in navigating your challenges?

Now comes your part as a doer. It is time that you listen with an open mind and also be ready to shift some of your own practices that you might not have realized are creating barriers and challenges for others. There is no need of getting defensive at this moment. For example, because of your lack of decision-making and time management skills, others might be feeling the pressure. that's just one example. As you listen carefully, keep asking those open-ended questions to help the employee get to the real point of support. It is possible that the support needs to come form somewhere or someone else. You could only be a facilitator of the support. For example, for a technical skill based support, training might be suitable. For a challenge relating to behavioral issues, assumptions or fear, a focused and open conversation with an action plan might be necessary. Even providing greater flexibility and autonomy might just do the trick. It is all contextual. Be open and be ready to genuinely offer support. Be hands-on.

These conversations not only work as a great support mechanism for employees but also provide a great opportunity to leaders to continuously evolve themselves to expand their capacity. These questions and the interactions around them create high levels of trust, help build stronger credibility and ultimately enhance leadership influence.

There could be many other leadership questions that a leader can ask and enhance their interactions, influence and ultimately a part of your leadership fluency. But the questions mentioned here are timeless and impactful.

Don't forget to try them out as soon as you can!

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Sahil Sharma
Talent, Learning & Leadership Development Professional | Certified Leadership Coach

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