As an executive, manager or supervisor you are supposed to have all the answers. After all, that is why you get paid the big bucks: to solve problems. And most of the problems you deal with are typically people problems. If there are people challenges in your organization, then as the leader you are the answer.

But what if it’s the questions that you actually need?

In his new book The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead, best selling author Michael Bungay Stanier notes that the key to successful leadership is successful coaching. But he also says, “You’re probably not getting very effective coaching; and you’re probably not delivering very effective coaching.” The difference between ineffective and effective coaching is asking questions. But not just any questions: the right questions.

In his book, Bungay Stanier offers the seven best questions any manager can ask an employee to improve their performance. Below are three of those questions and how to best implement them. For the remaining four, be sure to pick up a copy of his book (it has tons of solid information to grow your leaders).

(1) The Kickstart Question: What’s on your mind?

Bungay Stanier says staring with this question you can turn a chat into a “real conversation….It’s a question that says, ‘Let’s talk about the thing that matters most.’” Rather than wasting unnecessary time (and what leader has an excess of time these days), this questions is about getting quickly to the thing that matters most.

(2) The Focus Question: What’s the real challenge for you here?

This question gets to the heart of the challenge at hand. With the coaching habit there is no more beating around the bush. Too many times when employees start a conversation about a situation, they start off topic and not what is really on their mind. They chase rabbits. This question forces your direct reports to peel back the layers and identify the core issue.

(3) The Lazy Question: How can I help?

The lazy question works in two ways. First, it forces the other person to make a clear request, by forcing her to get clear on what it is she wants or needs. Second, it is a self-management tool to keep you as the manager curious and keep you lazy: it prevents you from spending time doing things you think people want you to do.

Now that you know some of the questions to ask, what do you do what the information? Here are a few application suggestions:

  • Ask these questions when you are coaching your employees
  • Use this book as a management training tool with your leaders
  • Implement these questions in management team meetings

Those are just a few key insights and application points from three of the questions in The Coaching Habit. The book offers many more ideas, tips and resources to improve the way you lead. As John Maxwell says, “everything rises and falls on leadership.” If you want your organization to rise with your leadership, then it starts by asking the right questions.

To discover what those right questions are, read “The Coaching Habit”.