As a leadership coach, one of the predominate tools you will use in your coaching conversations is questioning. Questioning comes not only from you as the coach, but also the client as they are developing questions that will help them determine what they are hoping to gain through the coaching relationship. Questions also help the client to expand their way of thinking to step beyond the things that tend to cause barriers for forward motion.
When breaking down the word question, you come to the root word “quest.” According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a quest is an “inquiry or investigation made in order to discover some fact.” I think this really gets to the very heart of what we do in the world of coaching. We are with our clients on an investigation into their past and present as they seek to discover their future.
Questions are at the center of this journey, however, these questions must be utilized in appropriate ways in order to illicit the most beneficial response. A question itself is not powerful; it is a matter of timing. The when of a question is as important as the what.
As coaches we discover powerful questions when we listen to the client with the intent of hearing what is being said just below the surface of the words that are actually being spoken. What is the client trying to tell you? What is the problem?
It is also important to remember that powerful questions can contain presuppositions. For example, when I ask a client “do you want to do this right now and call me back or would you rather do it right after our call?” the presupposition is that you will take action immediately, either now or in a short while.
One question that tends to lack power within the coaching conversation is “Why?” It asks the client to look to the past to justify a situation. It can take the client into their head, to try to “figure it out.” Additionally, information gathering questions or those that are closed ended yes/no responses also lack power within coaching. Information gathering is often useful in a coaching interaction, but generally does not to lead to new insight or awareness. In the same way, a yes/no questions can diminish curiosity.
So what is a Powerful Question?
In general, a powerful question is open ended, rather than one that would elicit a yes or no response. It does not include complex language, but rather is simplistic in its construction. A powerful question reflects the curiosity of the asker and generally starts with words such as what, how, when and where.
Using Powerful Questions to reflect the coaching presence
When a coach asks a powerful question they are demonstrating a willingness to take a risk within the coaching conversation.
Powerful questions also demonstrate the coach’s ability to dig deeper into the conversation to get to the truth and to help the coachee discover the untruths they might be telling themselves.
Humorous questions encourage the client to access their own humor as well.
Powerful questions also demonstrate the coach’s authenticity within the conversation. They show that the coach is committed to the conversation as well as to the well-being of the client.
Clients become empowered to ask themselves hard questions which they may have been avoiding when they are confronted with powerful questions.
Knowing that at Academy of Leadership Coaching & NLP we combine NLP with Coaching, you might be asking, “What type of questions could I use within an NLP coaching conversation to create productive dialogue?” Here are a few ideas that I use within my own coaching practice to shift the way the coachee is thinking about a certain situation or problem so that they can open their mind to new ways of thinking and new possibilities around certain issues they are feeling stuck around.
What’s great about this problem?
What’s not perfect yet?
What are you willing to do to make it the way you want it?
What are you not willing to do to make it the way you want it?
How can you enjoy the process of creating the results you want?
Do you want to learn more about using powerful questions within a coaching conversation? Do you need tools to bring your coaching sessions to the next level? Contact the team at ALCN to discover how powerful questions can help you or your team move your coaching conversations to a new level.