The Engaging Questions are set out in the latest book called ‘Triggers’ by master coach, Marshall Goldsmith. In it, Mr Goldsmith confronts the subject of change and how we can improve our odds of successfully achieving our goals. According to Mr Goldsmith, there are some givens when it comes to making changes: 1. Change doesn’t happen overnight; 2. Success is the sum of small efforts day in and day out; and 3. If you try, you will get better. If you don’t, you won’t.

In his book, Mr Goldsmith suggests measures to enable lasting and beneficial change. Key to this is a daily routine using a series of questions written in the active versus passive voice, since how questions are posed significantly influences the results. There is nothing inherently wrong about asking passive questions. They can be a very useful tool in helping companies know what they can do to improve. However, they can produce unintended negative consequences. When asked exclusively, passive questions become the natural enemy of taking personal responsibility and demonstrating accountability.

The alternative is to ask active questions. There is a vast difference between “Do you have clear goals?” and “Did you do your best to set clear goals for yourself?” The former is trying to determine the employee’s state of mind while the latter challenges the employee to describe a course of action. Adding “’Did I do my best to…’ triggers the act of trying.” Mr Goldsmith calls these “the Engaging Questions”.

Below are the Engaging Questions recommended in the book: “Did I do my best to …” Set clear goals today?

  • Make progress toward my goals?
  • Find meaning today?
  • Be happy today?
  • Build positive relationships today?
  • Be fully engaged today?

This process can help managers stay focused on making positive changes to how they engage their employees. Here are some sample questions that can be added: “Did I do my best to …”

  • Check in with each of my direct reports today?
  • Communicate company priorities today?
  • Avoid angry or destructive comments about others today?
  • Be aware of playing favourites today?
  • Give constructive and timely feedback?

Encouraging team members to think about their efforts using the “Did I do my best …” format can help create focus and a sense of personal accountability and responsibility for their work. The process is simple and easy to apply in practice. It just takes application and effort which I guess is Mr Goldsmith’s point

Beverly Landais  comes to coaching from a senior business background, including at board-level. Beverly has first-hand experience and knowledge of the challenges that you may be facing and expertise in how to successfully deal with them.

Visit Beverly’s website including her latest blog.