Asking questions is one of the most essential skill sets of a powerful coach. According to most leaders I work with, the art of asking good questions is not an easy skill to build.
There are a few basic rules to a great coaching question. One is that the question is open-ended, often beginning with “what” or “how.” Another thing to watch for is that the question is a leading question, such as, “Have you tried XYZ?”
Over the years, I’ve collected a few questions that I find especially useful and appropriate in various coaching scenarios.
This question was taught to me by Gisele Shelley Garcia of The Glenbrook Group. I love to ask this question when the coachee are stuck in grumbling about their situation. When the coachee feels like something isn’t fair or is unpleasant asking, “What do you want?” switches their thinking to what they desire, which moves them out of a rut. Sometimes they can quickly express what they want and other times, they realize they aren’t sure what they want. Either way, they move out of the spin of focusing on what isn’t working for them.
Often the coachee just needs someone who will listen. Many times the coachee can even resolve their own challenge as they talk out loud. I like to ask, “What else?” when I believe there is more to their story. This often allows the coachee to go deeper and further explore their situation.
As the coachee begins to discover what they want and have insights about themselves and/or their situation, it’s important to help them find a way to put this into action. When they have an “ah ha” moment or at the end of the coaching session asking, “What is your next step?” guides the coachee to describe out loud what they will do. Speaking next steps creates accountability.
While many coaching questions are very specific to a person or a coaching conversation, I find it helpful to have some simple questions useful to have in my back pocket. What is a coaching question you would love to ask?
About the Author: Leigh Ann Rodgers, Founder of Better Teams and the Forward, community, is an IAF Certified Professional Facilitator with 20 years of experience in the human development field. Leigh Ann is a skilled meeting facilitator, trainer, and coach working across the globe to help leaders cultivate teams that are happy and high-performing.
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