Five Tips for Effective Coaching Questions, Part 4

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In my last blog, I talked about Tip #3 for asking a good coaching question. Let’s look at Tip #4 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

4. Keep them Forward Focused
As a manager, it’s easy to stay in the past and constantly fight fires. It’s hard to lift your head from your daily tasks and actually get a sense of where your ship is heading. I get it. At one point in my career, I managed 2 hotels and a safari camp in Africa, with a total of 400+ staff and 400+ guests. I know what it’s like to barely manage my workload, let alone plan for the future.

Yet, it’s a manager’s job to get out of the weeds, stay forward focused and coach your employees to do the same. Otherwise, you and your team will barely move forward; you’ll just stay in the same place, treading water.

So how do you do this? When an employee comes to your with a problem, take a step back and try to see how this problem could impact the department’s strategic vision. Think about how the solution to the problem will impact the team, and organization, in a year. This will give you and your employee a very different perspective.


Here’s an example:Coachee:
I can’t work with Sue anymore. She cut me off again in today’s meeting. I want you to talk to her about it.

Typical manager reply:
She did? What did she say? Then what did you say? Then what was her reply? Let me have a word with her…. (This line of questions keeps the coachee in the past, and dis-empowers her from finding her own solution.)

Better coaching question:
Coach: I can see that you’re angry about this. What upsets you the most?

Coachee: The fact that she doesn’t respect my ideas.

Coach: I get it. What’s your contribution to the problem?

Coachee: Me? I dunno….maybe I don’t stand up for myself when she cuts me off.

Coach: And how does that impact the organization?

Coachee: My ideas don’t contribute to the bottom line.

Coach: That’s a big loss. What would happen if you stood up for yourself?

Coachee: I’d be more excited about working here. I’d speak up more. And listen more, because I wouldn’t be fuming in meetings. I’d collaborate better with others because I felt heard.

Coach: So how do you want to handle this in the future?

Coachee: I’ll remind Sue that I wasn’t finished with my thoughts and then finish them. Then I’ll listen to what she and others have to say about my idea.

Coach: Great! I know this will be hard at first…I also know that you can do it. Keep me posted on your progress.

In my next blog, I’ll discuss Tip #5. Until then…stay forward focused!

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