15 Simple Questions that will make you a better leader

Leadership is about empowering and inspiring people to be successful at their jobs and take pride in what they do. Great leaders ask questions and learn from their teams so they can do a better job leading their organization. No matter how great you think you are you are only as good as the team you surround yourself with and allow them to be.

The following are a few powerful questions and statements you can use to change the course of any conversation to learn what your team is thinking and what’s important to them.  Whether you are a CEO leading from the boardroom, working with a small team in a county office, or leading a team of firefighters to battle a raging wildfire these simple phrases and questions will have a powerful impact on your team and further your success.

“I’m Sorry”

This can be the most powerful of all. It is usually unexpected and it shows you’re human. It also demonstrates you are willing to be accountable to the team and the company.

“Tell Me More”

It’s open-ended, it shows interest, and it demonstrates your listening skills. The important part is listening. If you encourage your employees to open up to you and only hear, not listen they will never tell you more again. Remember your conversation, take notes if appropriate and act on those things that are actionable.

“What’s Working?”

Especially good if everyone’s on your team is complaining or in a funk. This one will  help you refocus on the positive. You can’t ignore the problems but by building  on what’s working you’ve changed the conversation so the problems may not seem as important.

“I’m Proud of you

Everyone needs to be recognized and as the boss you hope your team likes and respects you. These simple words when stated in a sincere fashion are powerful because they are clear, concise and from the heart.

“How can I be of help?”

Simple, but I’m often surprised at the responses. It may be that simply offering an ear is help enough, but often there are few specifics offered that really can make a difference and are easy to do.

“What are your Goals?”

This may be the goal for the team or for the project. It may also be personal goals including career aspirations. Knowing each team member’s goal, as articulated by the person, can change your opinion or perspective of them and their capabilities.

“What’s the most common things you’ve heard employees grumbling about?”

Try this one, Many will be shy about complaining. They don’t want to be seen publicly as the naysayer. But this question allows them to say what “others” are thinking and therein lies the power to get to what that person is thinking.

“You have my full Support”

If you desire to instill confidence that your team or a member of it has your support, this simple phrase will do it.

“Let me start by bragging about you and this team?”

There’s no better team builder than to give them accolades in front of an audience. Make it about them not you.

“If you were my what one thing would you change?”

This question gives them the opportunity to say what their thinking. The question is will they be honest and really say what’s on their mind. This is an opportunity to see how much they trust you.

“ What’s keeping you up at night?”

You may be up at night thinking about a major organizational change or a strategic issue. There can be an assumption that everyone is thinking about the same problem. That’s probably not the case. Ask this simple question and listen to what others are worried about and then help them solve their challenges. You may learn about a challenge you never knew existed but that could have a significant impact on your organization if it doesn’t go addressed.

“How could we get better and faster?”

How do we get better, how can we service our customers faster, more efficiently and with the same or better quality. These are important questions  to ask. As a consultant I make my living asking questions, writing down the answers your employees give me, and then putting them into reports for you.  By asking these same questions, you will save time, a lot of money, and more importantly build the kind of rapport with your staff that will enable you to lead.

“Tell me what you’re hearing from customers?”

Customers are the lifeblood of any organization. A good leader is listening to customers directly and talking to their team who have a vast amount of information about them. They may have a completely different perspective than you do or may reaffirm your assumptions, There may be a problem with a particular customer that only you can fix but if you don’t know about it how can you fix it. I remember many similar conversations I had with my team in a mood of frustration, maybe in those days even anger, about why did I not know about a particular problem. I don’t have enough fingers and toes on my body to count how many times the response was “You never asked”. Touche!!

“What else?”

A catch all question that can evoke a lot of different responses. That’s the point you have just opened the door and allowed your employee to talk about anything that may be on their mind.

“Why are you proud to work here?”

The answer may surprise you but in most cases it will allow people to talk about their co-workers, helping customers or maybe even you. Listen carefully you may hear accolades and praises for another employee who pitched in on a project or stayed late to meet a deadline. Leaders need to seek out the unsung heros and sing about them.


There a only a few moments in every conversation that allow you to impact the conversation and empower your staff to open up and tell you what’s on their mind. They almost always have the best interest of your organization in mind and you should take whatever they say in this spirit. Keep these simple phrases in your back pocket, they will help you move your organization forward and build a loyal empowered team around you, after all it’s your success that’s at stake.


Beartooth Business Consulting’s purpose is to make a positive impact on businesses and organizations through strategic goal setting, operational excellence and leadership coaching.  We can be reached at 406-690-5988 or by email at mike@beartoothiz.com

15 Simple Questions that will make you a better leader
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