Want to be a better leader? Learn to ask better questions.

W5 Leaders Ask Better Questions

John Nieuwenburg

John Nieuwenburg has been a professional business coach since 2004. Prior to becoming a coach, he held executive positions with Tip Top Tailors and BC Liquor Stores. In 2019, MacKay CEO Forums awarded him with Canada’s CEO Trusted Advisor Award in the Small Business category. Since becoming a coach, John has worked with over 350 clients, taking them through a systematic process that helps them feel organized, confident and in control of their businesses.

If you want to have a successful business, you need to take the role of leader

At W5 we say that “systems run the business, people run the systems, and you lead the people.”

Today, let’s look at the third piece of that equation: leadership.

To successfully lead your business, you need to develop skills in planning, time management, and delegation.

You also need to adjust your mindset.

Many business owners fall into the trap of believing that good leadership is about having the right answers.

The problem is that when you’re seen as the “person with all the answers” you end up as the centre of a hub and spoke – creating employees that need your guidance and input for everything.

Instead, if you are going to be a successful leader, you have to get better at asking good questions.

When you ask better questions, you help people discover their own insights.

Sometimes I am asked what the meaning of the W5 is in W5 Coaching.

It refers to the 5 core “W questions”

  • Who
  • What
  • When
  • Where
  • Why

Questions are the foundation of the Socratic Method of teaching.

When you use the Socratic approach, your role is “the guide on the side” instead of the “sage on the stage.”

This creates a shared experience where both parties are responsible for pushing the dialogue forward by asking questions.

The “teacher,” or leader of the dialogue, asks probing questions in an effort to expose the values and beliefs which frame and support the thoughts and statements of the participants in the inquiry.

The client asks questions as well, both of the teacher and of themselves.

The inquiry progresses interactively, and the leader (or coach) is as much a participant as a guide of the discussion.

I use the Socratic method in my coaching – and I recommend that my clients use it in their leadership.

(It’s also an excellent way to get better at sales!)

Success with this method begins with learning how to ask good questions.

Here are 5 tips to help you do that.

5 tips for asking better questions

1. Ask open-ended questions.

Open-ended questions are questions that cannot be answered with just “yes” or “no.”

The other person will be more honest and revealing, when you get better at asking open questions.

2. Get behind the assumptions.

You may have an answer but check to see if it matches theirs

3. Get both sides of the story.

The truth is often somewhere in the middle, isn’t it?

4. Ask follow-up questions.

Play dumb and dig deeper.

5. Get comfortable with “dead air.”

The best answers often come after “the silence”

How good are you at asking questions?

Think about your leadership style. When it comes to questions, are you an asker or an answerer?

Taking the Socratic approach and asking more questions can help you get the best from your team, reduce misunderstandings, and get you out of the hub and spoke trap.

Which is a huge step towards fulfilling the purpose of your business and getting the life you really want.

If you’d like some help with that, book 15 minutes on my calendar to talk about coaching. You can do that here: book time with John

You can expect I’ll have some questions for you 😉

The Ultimate Guide to Scaling Your Business

w5 what does it mean to scale your business

How to grow your business without sacrificing time freedom

This post is part of my Ultimate Guide to Scaling Your Business. Visit the guide homepage to get my best advice and coaching exercises to help you:

  • Develop systems and processes to free up your time
  • Hire and manage a great team to run your business (mostly) without you
  • Make the mindset changes that enable you to grow your business bigger - faster than you dreamed possible