There are a number of suggested open-ended questions available, including as part of The Leadership Challenge® Facilitation Set, for collecting this type of narrative feedback. And up to 50 questions can be stored for future use when creating an invitation for a specific leader. But I began to wonder whether there were some questions that were more effective than others in soliciting the most insightful and truly helpful feedback for leaders. And to answer that question, I recently polled my fellow Certified Masters of The Leadership Challenge®, in the spirit of Ask the Experts. Over 75% of the group responded to the request I issued: “I'd like to have your opinion on the best questions to ask Observers on the LPI®360, the questions that you think elicit the best information from Observers to help leaders improve their leadership.” And from all of the various responses, some very helpful patterns emerged:
Focus on Strengths
Many Certified Masters frame their questions to be strengths-based and positive, not focused on a leader’s deficits:
- Highlight strengths and identify development opportunities that will benefit the leader and the organization.
- List three positive leadership characteristics that you have observed with this leader.
- What is one specific contribution this leader has made to you or your organization for which you would like to express appreciation and gratitude?
- What does this leader do that makes working for this organization a positive experience?
- What is the one behavior that most contributes to this leader’s effectiveness?
Another focus of questions related to making a connection between leadership and the values of the organization. If the organization espouses a value of ethical behavior, for example:
- What does this leader do that demonstrates XYZ’s value of ethical behavior?
The third pattern noticeable in the responses relates to Q#16 on the LPI®—Asks for feedback on how his/her actions affect other people's performance—that links to the Practice of Model the Way. Several Certified Masters, citing that they are “big fans” of Q#16, offered these examples:
- How does the leader’s behavior impact your ability to do your best work?
- What specifically would you recommend that this leader start, stop, or continue doing?
- What specifically does this leader do that either enables or disables you doing your best work?
- What is one constructive suggestion for this leader to demonstrate in their behavior that would support your performance?
Overall, it was a fascinating exercise and kudos to all of the Certified Masters who were so generous with their responses.
Beverley Simpson is principal of Toronto-based Beverley Simpson Associates and a Certified Master of The Leadership Challenge®. A nurse by training, she specializes in people, teams, and systems development in healthcare. For a complete list of questions and comments contributed by Certified Masters to this effort, please contact Bev directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.