What do your coaching sessions sound like? If they’re all about you asking your team members the ‘Are you done with the project yet?’ question, your management effort isn’t as effective as it could be. After all, your employee can simply answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and the discussion on the topic is over. We all know that coaching means asking questions, and Mary Jo Asmus at Aspire Collaborative Services encourages readers to ask the right kind of questions to improve coaching outcomes.

Not everyone is comfortable talking about their challenges at work or the trouble they’re having with a specific project. If you engage a team member by using ‘leading questions’ during a coaching session, you have a better chance of opening a dialog. A question such as, ‘What part of this project has been most challenging for you?” is likely to prompt a team member to open up about what is really going on.

Once your employee reveals what she is struggling with, work with her to come up with solutions. For example, she may be having trouble learning how to use a program like Excel, and that problem is stalling her progress on a project. At that point, you might be tempted to swoop in like a helicopter parent and urge her to sign up for a specific kind of training. This rush to help discourages your employee from thinking for herself.

Keep the conversation going by asking more leading questions, such as, “What solutions do you feel would be most effective for you at this point?” Maybe she would prefer time to do self-directed training on Excel or she might want to attend a formal workshop.

Be sure to listen carefully to your employee’s answers. What she’s telling you about her problems and desired path to potential solutions are important in the current situation. These details may also form the basis for her future talent development.

If you’re new to the concept of using leading questions, set aside time before each coaching session to think of what to ask each team member. Consider audio taping, with your employee’s consent, the coaching session. The idea is for you to listen to yourself so you can improve your technique and to reinforce the idea that you should listen more than you talk during these sessions.