Probing Questions to Get Beneath the Surface
You’ve probably had the experience of asking a staff member how a project is going and receiving a simple “good” in response. Where do you go from there in order to get beneath the surface and understand what’s really happening?
If you simply run down a list of projects without digging deeper, you’re likely to miss important information about what obstacles might be looming and how you might be a resource to your staff in avoiding them. Here are some questions that can help you get beneath the surface:
- What one or two things would make this week a success for you?
- How do you know you’re on track?
- How are you checking to make sure that’s working?
- How are you handling X [a specific element]?
- What seems to be working well? Why do you think that’s working?
- What could go wrong? What are you most worried about?
- Have you thought about what you’ll do if Y happens?
- What’s most important out of all those things?
- What makes you say that?
- What kind of data do we have to inform how that’s working?
- Roughly how much of your time are you spending on that?
- What’s your timeline for that?
- Can you give me a specific example of that?
- Can we take one specific instance and talk through how you’re approaching it?
- Can we role-play what that might look like?
- What does your agenda for that look like?
- What other options did you consider?