Five Tips for Effective Coaching Questions, Part 2

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In my last blog, I talked about Tip #1 for asking a good coaching question. Let’s look at Tip #2 today.

Five Tips for Good Coaching Questions

1. Keep them Open
2. Keep them Short and Stupid
3. Keep them Advice-Free
4. Keep them Forward-Focused
5. Keep them Thought Provoking

2. Keep them Short and Stupid
A new manager may want to impress an employee with a long-winded, well-crafted question. However, short questions (no more than 10 words) keep the conversation flowing and make a better impact on the coachee.

In addition, questions that may seem “stupid”are often the best because it shows that you, as the coach, don’t have all the answers and trust that the coachee does. Since a manager’s job is not to fix the problem, but to empower her employee to fix the problem, “stupid” questions allow the coach to ask questions that may prompt some new thinking about the problem.

We missed our sales target again and my team is feeling discouraged.

Typical manager reply:
Yes, I’ve been thinking about that for awhile. I also did some reading in some of my college books and think that the problem may be related to the model on page 37 of this book. What do you think?

Better coaching question:
What’s the impact on you?
(This may seem stupid as the coachee already said that the team is feeling discouraged, but the team may also be feeling resentful, angry, ready to quit and other things that need to be considered.)

The typical manager reply sounds like the manager isn’t truly listening to the coachee and has already solved the problem in his head. The coachee then feels that she has to use the manager’s idea. So instead of empowering the coachee, the manager has just taken the problem on himself, instead of allowing the coachee to figure it out for herself. Consequently, the coachee will expect the manager to fix her problems in the future, which results in the manager often working on employee minutia instead of executing the organization strategy and vision. That’s a lose-lose-lose for the coachee, coach and organization!

In my next blog, I’ll go through the other three tips for good coaching questions. In the meantime, give it a try….when you’re next talking to an employee or colleague, practice asking short and stupid questions and see what happens. You’ll be surprised to see how the conversation opens up!

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