When coaching, finding the right question at the most appropriate time is both a skill, as well as an art. Even with the daily pressures and tight schedules, there are still some baseline facts you need to know in any situation. Here are 10 questions you can use in practically every conversation.
After coaching thousands of managers and thousands of salespeople across the world, I’m overly sensitive to the fact that great coaches coach from their heart, not from their head.
However, just like learning anything new, such as how to swing a golf club, you’re initially focused on doing it right; the best practices, the mechanics of your swing, each movement, step by step. It is only after consistent repetition of the same movement, does it become your own. You stop thinking about the mechanics, and habitually just do it. You even develop your own style, which is fine, since it’s been created on a strong foundation; the basics and core competencies.
The Baseline of Best
I find sales leaders and managers go through a similar transformation when learning how to ask the right coaching questions. Granted, there’s a multitude of different questions you can use in any coaching conversation. However, when the best questions are used and used consistently, the conversation becomes magical and both the coach and coachee walk away from that experience feeling great. Value was delivered, a new solution was co-created, a new possibility emerged.
That’s when this transformation starts to happen; the manager starts recognizing positive results from coaching and as a result, their confidence increases. They begin to trust their intuition, their gut, their coaching abilities and their instincts more and more.
The byproduct? The right questions just show up naturally and organically within each conversation.
Whether it’s sports, music or coaching people, you still need to start with a baseline of best practices to ensure you have a solid foundation to build from before you can make it your own and leverage your own style, strengths and personality into your coaching.
We Resist What We Hear but Believe What We Say
This is human nature and where the real power of coaching and artful questioning lies. If we create a solution, then we own it. And if we own it, we’re more apt to act on it, rather than being told what to do. The only way to get someone to self generate ideas and solutions is by asking them, which is why questions are so critical.
Over the years, I have found certain questions to work in practically every conversation. (Actually, I’ve provided you with more than ten questions but condensed a few questions together, as there are several ways to ask the same question, depending upon your own style of coaching and communicating.)
These questions will support development of problem solving and decision making skills, while challenging people to bring out their best. This leads to greater accountability, self-awareness and ownership of the problem. When you give people the space to share ideas and more important, be heard and acknowledged, it strengthens people’s confidence, along with the level of trust that’s essential for great coaching to occur.
Of course, depending upon the conversation, you may not need to leverage every single question. However, as you use them throughout your coaching efforts, you’ll start recognizing the questions you need and which ones are the most appropriate.
Keep in mind, this is just one of many ways to facilitate an effective coaching conversation. And if you don’t have a great manager or a coach in your corner, you can also leverage some of these questions for self-coaching! (Just don’t argue with yourself over the responses you hear! ;- )
10 Coaching Questions That Work In Any Conversation
- What is the outcome you’re looking to achieve here?
- Can you share the specifics of what’s going on?
- What have you tried so far?
- How have you handled something like this before? (What was the outcome?)
- Why do you think this is happening? (What’s another way to look at this/respond? What else can also be possible/true? What assumptions could you be making here?)
- What’s your opinion on how to handle this? (EVERYONE has an opinion. Seek to understand theirs first.) If I wasn’t here, what would you do to achieve/resolve this? If we were to switch roles, how would you handle this? What ideas do you have? What’s another approach that may work (which you haven’t tried yet?)
- What’s the first thing you need to do to (resolve/achieve this)? (What would that conversation sound like when you talk with……? TIP FROM THE COACH: Coach The Message! The Big Miss for managers is stepping over the myriad of opportunities to coach your people on their message, their ‘languaging,’ their communication.)
- What resources do you need? (Who else do you think needs to be involved in this? How else can I support you around your efforts to complete this?)
- What are you willing to commit to doing/trying/changing (by when)? If you couldn’t use that excuse anymore, how would you move forward?
- When would it make sense for us reconnect to ensure you have achieved the result you want?
Pleasure or Pain – Choose
If you sense any resistance to change or a lack of ownership around the issue, goal or problem, you can weave in one of these questions that either help the person better visualize what success means to them or articulate the implications or consequences by not changing.
- What would it mean to you if you could (achieve this, resolve this, etc….)? This question helps the person visualize what’s in it for them – and it’s the thing that they want rather than the manager trying to tell or ‘sell’ them on what the benefit is.
- How would this impact/affect you (your team, career, etc.) if this (continues, doesn’t change, doesn’t get resolved)? This question enables the person to see/articulate the measurable cost of not changing rather than being told the negative consequence. Remember, if they say it, then they own it. And if they own it, they act on it. When people feel threatened or hear less than favorable news, quite often it leads to resistance and they in turn shut down.
Great questions stretch the coach and the coachee beyond the typical, superficial, result driven, fire fighting conversation and instead, enable you to create richer, more engaging conversations with superior outcomes.