“I’m not here to answer your questions. I’m here to question your answers.”
As a coach, asking the accurate questions is more valuable than having the exact answers. When an individual builds the solutions from their own, they are followed more by the people.
A proper question at the proper time can change a professional life for your teams by creating inspiration. Asking questions curiously helps people to oversee in what they are lagging to achieve the desired outcome. While learning coaching skills, you can be distracted by a need to “get it done in the right way.” A coach steers the conversation through curiosity instead of following a script. The more you concentrate on the target audience, the more assertive and efficient you will be. It highlights your good deeds and shines it on the teams. ‘Keeping an eye on the desired outcome’- is the key to success of the teams and yours as well.
“The ability to-
Ask questions that reveal the information needed for maximum benefit to the coaching relationship and the client
Ask questions that reflect active listening and an understanding of the client’s perspective
Ask questions that evoke discovery, insight, commitment or action (e.g., those that challenge the client’s assumptions)
Ask open-ended questions that create greater clarity, possibility or new learning
Ask questions that move the client towards what they desire, not questions that ask for the client to justify or look backward”
There may be 15 or 100 questions you could ask at any time that will invoke insight. The important thing is that you asked it with curiosity in the context of careful listening, fully present with your clients in the here and now and attuned to their needs.
Why is this important?
Questions are tools for coaches. We get people to think about their situations, goals, needs, environments and more by asking questions and giving them the time and space for them to think.
People seem to have less and less time and space for reflection. An experienced agile coach, Andrew Annett, describes the coach role this way, “I’m not here to answer your questions. I’m here to question your answers.” It’s an important change in the way we approach those we help.
What makes questions powerful?
- Open questions
The power of good coaching let your team members explore their own ideas and making them coming up with the new solutions to move ahead. Open questions form the backbone of an effective coaching session can be the best version of themselves.
Open questions typically start with ‘what,’ ‘how,’ ‘where,’ ‘who,’ ‘when’ or statements such as ‘tell me about…’ or ‘explain to me more about…’
- What would you like to achieve from this session?
- How did you do that?
- Tell me about your experience with…..
- When have you achieved success in the past?
- Who can help you achieve this?
- When do you plan to do this by?
- Which option do you prefer?
- Effective questions
As a coach, asking the questions will benefit mainly to your team. Developing the mindset of helping the team in finding the unique solutions, will definitely result in asking the right questions.
Effective questions can help you in the following ways:
- Gain clarity, understanding, and perspective.
- Provoke deeper or alternative thinking.
- Challenge current thinking.
- Evaluate themselves and their situation.
- Explore options.
- Explore facts, thoughts, and feelings.
- Look at issues from a different point of view.
- Plan and take action.
The below image exhibits the concept of effective questioning.
Not all clients will respond in the same way to the same questions. Over time you may gradually build up a portfolio of questions which you will instinctively know when to use at that moment.
- Solution-focused questions
As a name suggests, Solution-focussed questions provide a way of taking a client in finding the proper solution instead of digging the issue or the reasons for the problem.
Collated below are the examples, distinguishing the problem-focused questions with their solutions-focused alternatives:
- Problem-focused: What is the problem?
Solutions-focused: What would you like to achieve from this session?
- Problem-focused: What is holding you back?
Solutions Focused: What progress have you made so far?
- Problem-focused: Why is this an issue for you?
Solutions focused: What would it mean to achieve success?
- Problem-focused: How long have you been experiencing difficulties?
Solutions focused: When in the past have you achieved a positive outcome?
- Problem-focused: Who is to blame?
Solutions focused: Who can help you?
- Reflective questions
Reflecting back the words shows that you are a good listener. This trait will help to build a mutual understanding. Also, reflecting back give rise to more exploration and time to throwback.
Example: “You said, you are agitated about the changes…., tell me more?”
An example of a reflection of both words and feelings is: “You sound excited, but I’m also sensing you are little scared?”
Where do coaches make mistakes?
- Lots of coaches over-think their questions. They move away from natural curiosity and attention to their client and into a self-conscious stance.
A powerful question is one that helps people move toward what they desire. It may be one they never asked themselves or chose not to ask. It makes them think about something in a way they haven’t before. It’s well-timed and flows naturally from the conversation. It reflects careful listening and an understanding of your client’s position.
- Words such as “provocative,” “powerful,” and “challenging”, when applied to questions, can suggest confrontation. Taking a confrontational stance rarely works in any situation and it’s a very poor strategy for coaching. When someone feels attacked, s/he can’t think. The best coaching questions are “thinking questions” that make people think about the goal, challenge or dilemma they face in a way that’s new for them. As their coach, when you are fully in the conversation and bring your own curiosity, personality and intuition to your questioning, you expand their thinking.
- If you watched shows like Law & Order, you’ll recall the phrase, “Objection! Counsel is leading the witness.” Leading questions are aimed at taking your client or team to the answer YOU want. For example, “Would it work if you tried [whatever]?” You may think you know what’s best – and you could be right – but that is not coaching. A better question would be, “What else might work? And what else?” or “Is there anything you haven’t tried?” or “What have you already eliminated?” That way, clients come to their own conclusions.
- Another questioning mistake can be settling for the first answer. It’s fast. It’s easy. It’s convenient. But another idea or explanation may be more valid. Encourage your clients to explore options.