The Coaching Habit (Amazon) is a really helpful book about asking questions. It starts with the premise of offer less advice, and ask more questions (which obviously I am bought into). I also like the concept of “the advice monster”. It probably belabours the point a bit, but it’s a short read so that isn’t too irritating.
The first question is “what’s on your mind?” – a good way to open a 1:1. Then you have three directions you can potentially take the conversation in: project, people and patterns.
The second question is “and what else?” – see where that takes you. Don’t ask rhetorical questions in order to passively dispense advice. Stay open.
The third question is “what’s the real challenge here for you?” – this gets you to the centre of it (one question I really like to ask in 1:1s is “what are you most worried about?”)
Questions should start with “what”. For example, the fourth question “what do you want?” – this is the go to question when conversation is not productive and you’re not sure why. You can also say what you want.
The key to a question driven interaction it to get comfortable with silence – give people time to think.
The fifth question is “how can I help?” Or more bluntly “what do you want from me?” Important to be mindful of tone with that one! (I like to ask “is there anything I can help you with” towards the end of each of my 1:1s).
The sixth question is “what are you saying yes to?” and the other side of that, “what are you saying no to?” – this gets to actively choosing priorities.
It’s important to acknowledge answers to questions. It’s not an interrogation!
The last question is “what was most useful here for you?” Offer what was most useful for you in return. This can help you improve. It sounds scary though – I will have to psych myself up and try it!
Main caveat – I’m following a reading list lately which means the writers are less diverse than I usually aim for. This book cited men I think exclusively, including a man giving a talk that mentions a study… which I recognized as being by Sheena Iyengar (a blind woman of color) whose name wasn’t even mentioned (watch her TED talk – it’s amazing). The book recommendations at the end were seemingly all by men. It was definitely a helpful book but possibly missing context about the other 50% of the population. Maybe that’s why the act of asking questions instead of offering advice seems so radical.