Have you ever had a conversation with someone that went around and around in circles and ended without any resolution, next steps, or action plan? That might be OK for some informal or ideological discussions, but a coaching relationship helps the client make progress towards a goal.
An effective coaching process begins with the client (or spouse/child/co-worker/friend) choosing a personal or professional goal, and then discussing options and barriers with the help of open and probing questions from the coach. Once the client chooses their best option, it is time to move the conversation towards action steps.
I recently learned three types of questions that the coach can ask to help the client move forward: Direct, Revealing, and Ownership.
Good direct questions focus and challenge, but do not threaten or judge. They are neutral and inquire without using guilt. They avoid the word “why”. They ask for action or decision and point toward a positive outcome.
“What will you do?” “Do you want to focus on XXX or on XXXX?”
“What investigation have you done?”
“What might you need to do to ensure a good decision?”
Revealing questions help people “get out of the box” when they feel stuck and unable to move forward. They help the client discover the limitations (physical limitations, finances, fear, priorities, lack of information, etc) they view as unchangeable obstacles and look for creative alternatives.
“What if you thought outside of the normal structure?”
“Who else could help you?” “What could you do differently to free up new resources?” “What if you had four extra hours in your day?”
“If that difficult person wasn’t there, what would you do?
Another option is to help them imagine a new situation without the barrier… “What if you had all the time you needed, what would you do?” “If you couldn’t fail, what would you try?” “How would your perfect job look?”
Ownership questions help people avoid blaming others and take responsibility for the action. They help take away justification, excuses, and passivity, and instead lead to growth opportunities.
“What might you have done that contributed to the conflict?”
“How can you make things better?” “What might you do differently?”
“Which step do you want to take?” “How do you want to do that?”
A last helpful tip or two… When your client talks about action steps, help them be as specific as possible and include timelines.
Usually, in a coaching situation, the coach is simply helping the client recall or use their own existing information and knowledge. If, as the coach, you feel the situation requires your input, ask permission before you speak!
“Can I challenge you on that?”
“Would you be open to hearing a different perspective?”
These questions can help us get out off of the roundabout and on to our destination!
Which of these questions might be most helpful to you?
Many of these questions and more can be found in Leadership Coaching by Tony Stoltzfus. I highly recommend the book!