A great coach asks outstanding coaching questions. Whether you are a leader, executive, coach, parent, teacher or manager the quality of the question determines the quality of the response. Masterful executive leadership coaching demands outstanding questions be raised, the type of questions few have the courage or foresight to ask. Ask a better question and transformation is possible.
I have always believed in the power of questions. When I ask a question with a genuine interest in finding an answer, my mind opens. Even if the answer seems impossible. If I don’t open my mind to a question, and ask it, the answer is always no. Most people I work with do not ask enough questions. They either make an assumption that there is no answer, or that they do not have the answer, or that its too hard, not possible, won’t work…Their mind shuts down. Creativity ends. The possibility of precession ceases.
While all coaching questions are situational, applicable to that very moment in time, there are some general questions worth having in your tool kit.
Questions for situations that appear insurmountable or to stimulate creativity;
*How can we do X?
*What is possible here that we are not seeing?
*Is there anyone we can ask who may have an answer?
*Is anyone making any progress in the area anywhere else in the company, state, nation, world?
*What am I (are we) not seeing?
*How would a child see this?
*Can I use technology (Facebook, Twitter, etc) to find a possible answer that we cannot see?
An example of asking the right coaching questions when the odds seemed stacked against a positive result occurred in the 1990’s. Jerry Sternin, the person who is recognised for having put the term Positive Deviant into our lexicon, was given the task by ‘Save the Children’, of finding a solution to malnutrition in Vietnam. He was given six months and virtually a zero budget. The issues were complex and systemic. Poverty, poor sanitation, lack of clean water, lack of education.
Most people focus on the problem and try to find what is broken and what needs to be done to fix it. With little time and little resources, Jerry did not have this luxury. Instead, he asked a better question.
“What is working and how do we do more of it?”
This coaching question was so powerful that within six months of Jerry’s first visit to the village in Vietnam, 65% of the kids were better nourished, and they stayed that way. They used the resources they had, and modeled the few Positive Deviant parents that did not have malnourished children even though their economic and environmental circumstances were the same as the other villagers.
Questions to ask when we do not know what to do;
*If you did know, what would that be? (Most of us have some idea, but we discount it as silly, impossible, or we are embarrassed to speak it.)
*Who would know what to do in this situation?
*What are you afraid to voice in this situation and why?
Powerful coaching questions for addressing uncertainty and doubt may include;
*Are you 100% sure this is what you want/need to do?
*What do you want?
*If you do this, what will happen next…and next..and next…?
*What if you did not do this?
*What is the highest road you can take in this situation?
*Is this the highest road you can take in this situation?
Coaching Questions for Gaining a More Systemic perspective;
*What would you do today if you knew what your circumstances looked like in 12 months?
*What assumptions are you making? (Check them all)
*What information do you not have?
*Who do you need to speak to to get the information you need.
An example of these coaching questions in application are evidenced in the following two stories.
Recently the public has been made aware of pirate activity off the coast of Somalia. The pirates have been cast as terrorists. Who has asked the question from the perspective of the pirates? Why are they doing this? What are their circumstances? What motivates them? What assumptions am I/are we making about this situation? (If you don’t know the answer to these questions, then I recommend you take the time to find out. You may be surprised.)
One of my clients is working on a high tech product due to be launched in a year. Getting the product right is critical. The working team were experiencing difficulties, getting very stuck in the stress of the moment. I asked my client what the product needed from them today? What was the best action they could take today for the success of the product, as if the product was an entity that could speak to its own needs today. This question provoked the recognition that some changes in the team needed to happen as a priority.
The list of coaching questions are endless. And this is just a small taste.
What questions have you asked of others that have changed their lives?
What questions have been asked of you that has changed your life?