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"If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader."
  --- John Quincy Adams

Good Leaders Ask Good Questions 

by Francine R. Gaillour, MD, MBA, FACPE

In the past month, the topic of "asking good questions" as a way of demonstrating good leadership has come up in several client situations.  I thought I would rerun a popular article from our Daring Doctors archives that describes how to ask good open-ended questions of your team. 

Leaders Create Dialogue for Problem Solving 

As a leader or manager, effective dialogue is key to helping your subordinates or team members solve problems and move forward. Dialogue, which can be translated from its Greek roots as “meaning flowing through”, is the respectful, two-way, open-ended flow of communication that balances listening and speaking for the purpose of learning.  High-performing organizations are those whose teams developed deep personal bonds among colleagues.  These relationships form the context for achieving high performance.  Other forms of communication—debate, directing, discussing—may influence or control people, but compliance is often the best result, not productivity or effectiveness. 

As a leader, use effective questions to create dialogue, and therefore to accomplish mutual goals for you and your organization.  Effective questions are open-ended; for example:

  • What do you think about this idea?
  • What do you think is important?
  • How would you solve this?
  • If you were in my shoes, what would you do?
  • What other factors should we be considering?
  • In your opinion, why is this approach going to work?
  • What do you see as the obstacles we face?

When working with your team as a group, or in one-on-one situations, open-ended questions require respondents to share their thinking and their ideas. Problem-solving questions should flow from the global to the specific: 


  • How are things going?
  • What are you goals?
  • What are you trying to accomplish?

Problem Identification:

  • What results have you achieved so far?
  • Where are you stuck?
  • What kinds of problems are you encountering?

Options & Solutions:

  • What solutions have you attempted?
  • What do you see as your options?
  • Do you want input from me?


  • What is your “go forward” plan?
  • How can you apply what you’ve learned to your job?
  • Who else would benefit from knowing this?


  • What can I do to better support you?
  • Whose support do you need?
  • Would it be helpful to talk again?

Performance management is a significant business issue for leaders in every industry.  The questions and dialogue skills outlined here are from author and coach, Thomas G. Crane, in his book “The Heart of Coaching:  Using Transformational Coaching to Create a High-Performance Culture.  I highly recommend the book.

Are you wondering how well you lead your team by asking, rather than tellingContact me to arrange a complimentary coaching session on this topic.  We can quickly assess how you're doing and how you can improve.


Francine R. Gaillour, MD, MBA, FACPE is an executive coach and business consultant.  She is president of The Gaillour Group and director  of Creative Strategies in Physician Leadership.  Dr. Gaillour is a professional speaker on healthcare leadership,  cultural change and physician career development. 

She can be reached at (888) 562-7289 or francine@physicianleadership.com

In the Spotlight

Interview with Dr. Francine Gaillour in AMA News in December 20, 2004 "Scouting for a Career Coach When it's Time for a Change" 

AND look for the January launch of Dr. Gaillour's featured column, "Power Doc" in Physician's Practice magazine.

Dear Colleagues, 

This year my keynotes, seminars and workshops will educate, inform and inspire more than 1000 physicians, nurses, clinicians and healthcare leaders to transform their organizations.  Will your organization be hosting such an event?  Please contact me to discuss how I can help make your event a success.

Francine Gaillour, MD  francine@physicianleadership.com 
(888) 562-7289

Francine R. Gaillour, MD, MBA, FACPE
15600 NE 8th Street, Suite B1-173
Bellevue, WA  98008
(206) 686-4205

Francine R. Gaillour, MD   ©2006 Ki Health, Inc.