Asking Empowering Questions

“Objection, your Honor! Counsel is leading the witness.”

As we watch Law & Order, L.A. Law, Boston Legal, or Suits (you choose your law-show guilty pleasure), it’s clear to hear when a “leading question” has been asked. According to, a leading question is defined as “a question so worded as to suggest the proper or desired answer”.

Think back to conversations with your direct reports. Could you be guilty of the same thing? Or guilty of asking closed questions- where your direct report feels there is only one way to answer the question?

Wording questions to help your direct report think deeper can be difficult. Judith Ross from the Harvard Business Review gives some great practical tips on How to Ask Better Questions and create a culture that embraces questions.

Why should you ask empowering questions? Because an empowering question, “does more than convey respect for the person to whom it’s posed. It actually encourages that person’s development as a thinker and problem solver, thereby delivering both short-term and long-term value”.

Empowering questions, “create clarity, inspire people to reflect, challenge assumptions, and create ownership of solutions”, and much more!

What does the opposite look like? A disempowering question, “undercuts the confidence of the person to whom it’s asked and sabotages her performance”.

In a conversation this week, try to rephrase a question to be more empowering!

How’d it go?