Questions for Coaching


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.

closed question examples
Closed Questions

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.

These are great questions to consider asking when you coach: Life Coaching Questions    Coaching questions for managers

How to start Coaching your direct reports


I often hear from managers that they don’t know how to approach coaching their direct reports. It appears the word coaching implies to them that they must have some special insights and skills which would qualify them to coach someone else. Most managers do not realize that they actually know a lot about the company, how things work, how things should be working and how it is going generally. Perhaps all they need is a way to get the conversation going?

Sometimes employees have questions, which are easy to address and other times you need time to get back to them with answers.

Coaching may seem a little less daunting if you had this checklist ( see download button above) of topics to discuss with employees as a group or as individuals. There is a lot to be said for group coaching sessions! They can also be very effective in developing a group of people who may roughly all have the similar development needs and questions for you.

As their manager, you can open a conversation covering one of the questions on the sheet and just state “I can imagine you may have some questions or would like to know more about….” (use one of the questions shown on the sheet). Once the conversation is kicked-off it often happens that the employee will start to bring up more specific questions that he or she may have.

coaching process 4 steps

This graphic shows the basic 4 steps that can be used to start and keep a good coaching relationship going. Trust is a key component and building trust is important – honesty, integrity and showing employees that you care about their work, their careers and their well-being all help to build trust.

Coaching can be a highly structured program requiring a lot of specialized communication and coaching skills and training. It can also be simply helping employees understand the basics around their roles, the company and how things work in their environment. It is your role as their manager to coach them and develop their knowledge, skills and competencies on an on-going basis. If you need more training and support with regards to coaching, do talk to your HR or L&D representative. In the interim, this conversation-starting summary sheet may be helpful to you!

Internal Communication Effectiveness SURVEY


comms

Internal communications should go at least in two directions: from the leaders to the people and from the people to the leaders. Employees should receive regular updates from management about the company and should be informed about planned changes, successes achieved in the company and how their efforts have lead to good outcomes and wins for the company. Communication should also go in the other direction where employee opinions and feedback are sought and captured to help managers make better decisions and improve efforts in areas where company actions or activities are not as effective as they had imagined.

Ensuring that employees receive important and relevant information internally on a regular basis and in the right ways is mostly the responsibility of the HR function. In some cases HR shares this responsibility with the Communications department. Whomever is responsible for managing this, there should be planned moments of checking outcomes of the internal communication plan against original objectives set.

Internal Communication Checkup Survey

Effectiveness of internal communication should be evaluated periodically. I would not repeat a survey like this one on a monthly basis unless you are going through a specific change initiative in this regard and would like to ensure you have a good understanding of how well your change process is going. Once per year or once in 18 months should be a good evaluation period. Keep it short to optimize your chances of getting good feedback and a high level of participation.

Tips:

  • Ensure your questions are specific and simple – survey respondents should know what exactly you are asking about. Do not combine more than one question into one.
  • Always make a post-survey action plan and share that with survey respondents and other stakeholders in the success of internal communications.
  • If you are an HR Director or in HR Management – stay close to the creation of internal communications. Read everything before it is released or published internally in your area of responsibility. The tone of communications and the contents of messages that are sent into the company very closely link to how employees are interpreting how the company’s management “feels” about them and you will often find disconnects started with some internal message that was misinterpreted.

HR Function checkup – Feedback from internal customers


In the same way that companies would approach external customers to gather their views on what is going well and what needs improvement (customer satisfaction), the HR function should reach out to its internal customers to find out how satisfied they are with the services and support that they receive. It is true that there are more than one model for HR service delivery, but that does not change the fact that it is wise to gather feedback on the services and support that you do provide given the structure and focus for HR in your company.

The HR function is often guilty of focusing its developmental and improvement efforts exclusively on helping other departments and neglects using those same skills and expertise to improve the HR function as a whole and developing the people who deliver the HR services to others.

HR Function – Feedback Survey

This survey can help you gather the information you need from your internal customers to help you identify specific areas of excellence in HR and also those areas where improvement may be needed. When improvement is needed it will often imply additional training and development of some HR representatives (HRBPs or Generalists) and may also  include communicating the HR vision and goals more clearly within the HR function. Remember to recognize and reward those who were part of delivering excellent services when you review the survey results.

Tips:

  • Add comment fields next to scores if you want to be certain to capture specific comments about the scores.
  • Do be sure to provide survey participants with feedback on the outcome of the survey and the actions that you plan to take as a result of the survey. This motivates participants to continue providing you with valuable feedback in the future.
  • Create an action plan and communicate that clearly within the HR function so that everyone understands which areas you plan to address and how you plan to do that. It may help to set specific metrics around your planned improvements to make it easier to report progress.
  • Regularly update stakeholders – internal to the HR function and those who are internal customers in your company – on the progress of improvement efforts as you implement the post-survey action plan.
  • Remember to celebrate successes (milestones and outcomes achieved) and be prepared to add additional actions to your plan in cases where your improvement efforts are not reaping the results you had planned for.

Having a standard survey which you use ever year gives the opportunity to track the progress in specific questions over time and helps with trend analysis and showing % improvements over time.

Team Effectiveness Check


The strength of teams lies in their ability to achieve more as a group working together than as individuals working independently on various parts of a project or activity.  The main obstacle to a team achieving the optimal performance level is the ability of the individual team members to work together collaboratively.

You can select the right team members based on the knowledge you need, the skills and competencies you need and the experience levels you need for a project. And the team performance can still be very disappointing if the team members do not communicate effectively, are not sharing information in a comprehensible way, and are not clear on how to coordinate with each other to avoid rework or waste their efforts working on the wrong items.

The success of a team is measured by more than one aspect. Examples include:

  • Achieving project milestones and objectives
  • Satisfied stakeholders
  • How well team members are working together – getting more done with more innovation and inclusiveness in a shorter period of time
Team Success Measures

Phases of a team

Any team will go through developmental phases starting from the first day the team members spend together. If these phases are navigated successfully, they can help team members build a high level of trust which enables the team to achieve a high performance level. The leader of a team has an important role to play throughout the phases of team development to help the team achieve their goals in the most effective and efficient .

Measuring team outcomes

Setting out to measure the progress of a team’s efforts is simply about communicating and then monitoring KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) on a regular basis. KPIs are typically set around costs, time to completion, quality of the product etc.

Measuring the cohesion between team members and how well the team is functioning is not that simple. Every team member most likely has his or her own opinion of how well the team is functioning and where improvements may be needed. Team members also would have opinions about whose “fault” it may be that things are not better. The question is often whether it is a lack of knowledge, a lack of motivation or actually interpersonal conflicts and distrust which is contributing the most to dysfunctions.

Team effectiveness Check

Using this short team effectiveness check, is a great way for leaders to take a quick look at how each of the team members see the team at that moment in time and identify where discussions may be needed to clarify or remove issues that may be hampering team functioning.

The purpose of this quick survey is to gather input from the team on their own perspectives. Remember that a perspective is just how one person sees things at that moment in time. It does not mean that the perspective of one person holds true for the rest of the team. It is important though that you understand whether one or more team members are not feeling included, engaged or unable to contribute based on a lack of internal alignment with other team members on goals etc

As the team leader or team coach, ask your team members to fill this out maybe once a month – more often if you are going through a difficult phase as a team and you are concerned about how well things are going for each team member. I would not do this more than once per week.

Note that your team dynamics will most likely change when you add members, remove members or when your project enters a completely new phase of functioning and performance expectations. At those moments you are likely to see a decline in previously recorded good scores for team effectiveness and functioning.

Use this tool as a way to quickly diagnose where the team is at and use it as a starting point for some team or one-on-one discussions to address concerns raised. Include an external person to facilitate difficult team discussions if you feel it may be helpful – someone from HR/Learning and Development/team coach may be able to use their expertise and skills in group dynamics, conflict resolution and interpersonal relationships to get your team out of a rough spot when it occurs.