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5 Questions to ask as a leader

Posted on September 16, 2016

By Joanne Goveas

“Be curious, be lazy, be often,” says Michael Bungay Stanier, one of the world’s top three leadership coaches.

Yesterday, I attended a Rotman Speaker Series sponsored by our Executive Programs featuring Michael Stainer, Partner and Co-Founder of Box of Crayons. Michael wants everyone to do less good work (what’s in your job description) and more great work (the kind of work you can’t stop talking about). And coaching teams to help them do just that should be a regular part of any leader’s day.

Combining research based in neuroscience and behavioural economics, Michael led a packed house at the Rotman School of Management in a highly-interactive and highly-entertaining one-hour session.


Between laughs and a-ha moments, he shared five of his seven essential coaching questions and got the entire room talking and practicing proven coaching methods.

1.      First, he had us practice The Kickstart Question: What’s on your mind?

He paired us up and the person with the longest hair asked the other ‘What’s on your mind?’ We had to listen without interrupting or trying to add value or give advice. If you are too quick to offer possible solutions, you might solve a problem, but it probably won’t be the most important problem or even the real problem one.

2.      Next, we took turns asking The Focus Question: What’s the real challenge…for you?

He asked us to nominate the best looking person in the pair to go first. I went second.

The ‘for you’ pulls away from the problem and gets to what’s really affecting the individual.

3.      Then, we asked The AWE Question which, according to Michael, is the most important question in the world: And what else?

This question helps us stay curious. Michael said the first answer given is rarely the only answer or the best answer so asking ‘And what else?’ helps your team dig deeper for the real problem or the heart of the challenge.

4.      So, what do you want? This is Michael’s Focus Question.

This helps you be a good lazy coach by enabling your counterpart to work out the solution on their own.  The insights my partner and I gained simply by answering this question were surprising!

5.      Finally, we wrapped up the session with The Learning Question: ‘What was the most useful part of the session’?

We were surprised to learn each of us came away with a unique take away from the talk.

Learn more with Michael’s short book The Coaching Habit.

For upcoming Rotman events, check out our Speaker Series.

For more Executive Education, check out our portfolio of high-impact programs or contact me at any time at 416.946.0722.

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