Six Powerful Questions for Leaders [May 03 2017]

Hundreds of verbal messages are exchanged in the corporate world daily. They are key in business. There are times when what we want to know cannot be expressed by words, or at least not the best way. It is simply because different brain areas are responsible for the verbal processing and other areas regulate our internal states and experiences. What can a leader do when interested in these hidden occurrences of his or her team members? Nonverbal messages are the most powerful and immediate means for leaders to check their members' (1) emotion, (2) opinion, (3) intention, (4) cognitive states (such as boredom or stress), (5) individual priorities and (6) whether what is overtly communicated by them is posed (fake) or felt (genuine).

There are six powerful questions you, as a leader, can use to help a team member grow in a coaching situation, based on the abovementioned areas. I call it as "The FADWIT" technique, based on the initials of the six key words in the questions.

1 - What is he/she feeling related to what we are talking about?

2 - What's his/her attitude about it?

3 - What is he/she going to do most likely?

4 - Why is that?

5 - So what is the most important element here?

6 - Is it true?

Next time a team member approaches you with a challenge and you believe knowing about his or her internal states could help solve it, "fadwit" it. Go beyond the words, the overt messages. Enter the world of the covert signals and messages. These two do not necessarily match. If this happens (which is actually called incongruence), you better believe the nonverbal level. If the words convey positivism but the body language consists of defensive displays and scepticism, listen to the latter ones.

I will give you six exercises to practice.

Case #1

You ask a team member, Fred, if he is ok to work with a new colleague, Phil. He says "yes". And this is what you see.


How do you "fadwit" it?

Case #2

You are presenting your monthly team results to your manager, Roy. He says he is satisfied with the numbers. And this is what you see.


What is your reaction?

Case #3

You are talking about a new business opportunity to your partner, Charles. He says he is not interested in it. And this is what you see.


Do you believe him?

Case #4

You are asking a new team member, Lisa, about how satisfied she is with the team and the position. She says she is very happy and energetic to work here. You see this:


What is your impression?

Case #5

A team member says she is sick so she cannot come to the team meeting. She calls up her mom as well to tell her she is sick. You see a micro expression of joy and a left shoulder shrug while saying "I'm sick".


How will you react?

Case #6

You are mentoring another leader, Leslie. He is having challenges with his manager. Last time you worked out a possible solution. Now you are asking about their relationship. He says he is happy because the problem has been solved. You see this.


What is your next step?

By now you might have formed an image about what incongruence means between the overt and the covert messages during a conversation. Finally, please remember two things when "reading" others. Firstly, what you see (e.g. a facial expression or a gesture) can be triggered by the immediate stimuli (e.g. your question), but not necessarily. A person satisfied with the job can express sadness because of a private life event. Secondly, the target of the expressed emotion is not necessarily you (or someone in the office), even if that person is looking at you. It can be a vivid picture in his or her memory, a silly thought or idea lighting through the person's mind. All you see is disgust on the face or a short contemptuous smile. Fadwit it!

If you have any questions, comments or stories, share them with me via email. We can publish them here.



by Bali Polyanki

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