Many managers mistakenly think coaching is about “telling” others what they should be doing. While some very inexperienced people may need you to tell them what to do or how to do it, most others need to learn and explore topics and new skills or behaviors with their coaches instead. The hard part for many coaches is to listen and ask the right questions. And also to refrain from taking up most of the airtime during coaching sessions talking about their own lives and their own stories or just offering advice. While children happily accept new information simply because you tell them how things are, adults prefer to explore and learn by comparing and assimilating what you are sharing with what they already know and have learned in their pasts.
Coaching sessions is about asking open-ended questions which leads to learning and exploring. Asking the right questions is not an easy assignment to have as a coach. Some questions shut others down while limiting them to “yes” or “no” answers which does not allow for a rich conversation of exploration around the topic concerned. Closed questions are those that can be answered by a simple yes or no answer.
More useful questions to ask :
- Open-ended questions help others expand on ideas and contribute to the conversation vs staying mostly in listening-mode. These kinds of questions can help you discover the other person’s thought processes, motivations and how they feel about a topic or an option.
- Clarifying questions are helpful to ensure you understood your conversation partner correctly. When people get going on topics that they feel quite excited or passionate about they can sometimes lose sight of how familiar you are with that same topic. To ensure you (the coach) are able to follow along, you may need to pause, look back and clarify any comment made which you were unable to place within the context of the topic being discussed.
- Paraphrasing. This is a useful technique to summarize what you heard so far and help move the conversation towards a decision or planning a specific path forward (action). It also helps ensure that your impressions of what was said are correct. It can be very validating for someone to hear their own words summarized correctly by another trusted person (in this case you, as the coach).
This list of questions for coaches (which you can download above) can help you to ask the right questions at your next coaching session. I recommend you read through this as you prepare for the session, but do not commit yourself to asking specific pre-determined questions regardless of how the conversation goes. The important part about asking questions at a coaching session is that you (the coach) show up with a mindset of curiosity. That opens up the exploration in the conversation and enables learning to take place which is vital for adults in their learning process.
Use the links to other content which I show below and also the resource I am sharing above as a way to prepare for and get into inquiry mode before the planned coaching session.