Here are 12 action-oriented questions that instill accountability, fuel momentum and inspire people to create their own solutions.
We’re all looking for results today – fast. But standing at the podium preaching to your team about change and needing to work harder gets real old and tiring for both you and your team. Moreover, it simply doesn’t work to effectively and consistently drive the changes and the activity you need for the long term.
Accountability-driven questions get people out of their head, challenges their well crafted stories (excuses) and redirects their focus towards a solution they generate which in turn, gets them inspired and into action.
Rather than continually over-engineering the conversations with your salespeople, shift the conversation towards the actionable, measurable tasks they can engage in to achieve the specific and measurable results you seek, rather than you telling them what they should do or believing you need to know every painful detail about every situation so that you can then rebut with advice or a solution. After all, if they come up with the solution, then they own it. And if they own it, they’re going to be more willing to act on it.
Treat these questions like a buffet. So, take what you like and leave what you don’t. Depending upon your situation and the individual you’re coaching, every question may not work for everyone. However, since we’re all looking for new and better results, take some of these questions out for a test drive before you dismiss any of them or assume they won’t work (on you or your team), as you will not know how effective they are until you actually try them out.
- What is most important for you to achieve now?
- What’s the right approach for you to take in this situation?
- What are the steps you are going to take in order to resolve this? What are you willing to do or change in order to achieve this goal?
- What are the three measurable activities you can commit to this week and the outcomes you expect that will move you closer to your goal?
- What change in your thinking would help you achieve your goals faster and in a more enjoyable way?
- What drastic change can you make today that would support your goals?
- What would you like to have completed by our next (meeting, coaching session, etc.)?
- What’s the biggest change you are willing to make this week, starting today?
- What are you going to begin doing immediately after our meeting that would reduce your stress and help you hit your sales objectives?
- What are you willing to commit to this week that would give you a sense of accomplishment?
- What behavior or assumptions do you need to give up or abandon in order to achieve your goal? This holds true in thinking as well as strategy, action and habit. Sometimes in order to grow, you have to let go.
- If I wasn’t here, in your opinion, how would you move forward? (handle this, respond to that customer, etc.)? This one is one of my favorite coaching questions for managers who are looking to reinvent their role and move away from being the chief problem solver and solution provider and instead, help their people grow and develop the mental muscle to confidently generate solutions on their own. After all, everyone has an opinion, whether right or wrong, good or bad. It’s your responsibility when coaching not to judge but to seek to understand the other person’s point of view. The benefit here is, when you respect someone’s point of view, they, in turn, will respect yours.
Remember, the answer you get is only as good as the question you ask. So, make sure you give each person the time and space needed to truly process the question in order to come up with a more structured and thought out, honest answer that would shift outcomes and create new possibilities.
Photo Credit: JustinJensen
Keith- I’m a huge fan of yours, let me say that first so you don’t get mad at me, but every single one of those questions above 1-12 would infuriate me if I ever had my vp of sales ask any of them. And I would feel dumb asking my reps too!
I don’t get it.
Thanks for the comment! Much appreciated. Why would I get mad? Keep your comments coming! I don’t expect everyone to agree with everything I write. Besides, if I post stuff that everyone agrees with, then I’m not doing my job ;-) Just like I told a client today; “If you plan on doing what you did yesterday, aren’t open to challenging your current way of thinking and are able to see every blind spot on your own which is getting in the way of better performance (you can’t self diagnose when you’re in the middle of the game), then what do you need me for?”
Back to your post. I was very mindful when posting these questions that they may not work for everyone and are distinctly positioned for specific situations. As I wrote in this post: “Remember, treat these questions like a buffet. So, take what you like and leave what you don’t. Depending upon your situation and the individual you’re coaching, every question may not work for everyone. Conversely, since we all looking for new and better results, take some of these questions out for a test drive, as you may not know how effective they are until you try them out.”
So, who are these questions for? Well, probably not for your top performer or the person who’s self driven and accountable. These questions are for the salesperson who may be stuck, either in follow through, in their own story and excuses or in taking the necessary actions to better their performance. For the manager, getting on your soapbox and preaching what needs to be done gets old fast and doesn’t work for the long haul.
Which is the point of these questions. So often, managers see the problem, see what needs to change in order to fix the problem and as such, get into the tell mode of dumping the solution on their people. Conversely, these questions find the gap, or what is missing either in the person’s thinking, skills or resources and deepens the level of accountability that every manger is looking to instill, preventing the salesperson from using more creative excuses to justify their performance!
I’m guessing that you personally, (I don’t like to make assumptions) don’t fall into the category of the underperformer? So yes, in that case, these questions certainly wouldn’t fit for you. Conversely, be mindful that, just because they don’t fit for you, doesn’t mean they won’t fit for anyone or for another person on your team. After all, just like in selling, you don’t want to sell the way you buy, that is, instilling your values and decision making process on the customer, assuming they think and process information the same way you do. You also don’t want to coach the way you like to be coached, because then you’re essentially coaching in your own image (building robots vs. respecting each person’s individuality and where they’re at).
Look at the spirit behind each question. I have hundreds of coaching questions that I use, and it’s not only about having the right questions, but when to use them and with whom that makes the difference.
Does this make more sense now? Let me know!
Thanks, Dolly! Once managers can surrender the obligation they feel of having to solve all the problems their direct reports are faced with, they can actually leverage these questions and, with great surprise, observe how powerful they can be! This is when a manager’s job gets to become fun again rather than monotonous. Why? Because when you ask these questions, you’re truly providing your people the space to create new and more exciting possibilities, rather than continually hearing yourself serve up the same old, boring answers!
Great tips. I’m a VP of sales and your book has helped me be more of a leader of leader than always trying to fix people’s problems or preach. Helps people come to their own conclusions and support the plan.