1. What’s the problem? Company leaders may often find themselves asking this question or some variation of it. “What’s the problem, what’s going wrong, what is broken, what is our biggest threat — that is, unfortunately, the starting point of 80 percent of meetings in management,” Cooperrider says. But he maintains that if a company leader asks questions that are focused on problems and weaknesses, then the organization overall will tend to be fixated on that — rather than focusing on strengths and opportunities.
2. Whose fault is it? A better approach would be to ask, How can we work together to shore up any weaknesses? That identifies weak links and areas in need of improvement without focusing too much on blame.
3. Why don’t you do it this way? It’s better to allow people to figure out their own ideas and approaches, though you can sometimes help them along by asking, How were you thinking of doing it? What do you have in mind?
4. Haven’t we tried this already? Another, equally bad way of asking this is, Why do you think this would work when it hasn’t worked before? It’s not that a leader shouldn’t raise questions about proposed strategies — especially if something similar has been tried previously — but the tone is important.
5. What’s our iPad? Rather than put it in those imitative terms, it’s better to ask questions like: Why is our competitor having success with this product? What need is it satisfying? How might we use our particular strengths to do an even better job of meeting customers’ needs?