Today we’re going to talk about what I call “power coaching questions”.
I’ve been a coach now for nearly 14 years and throughout that time, what you learn to be is really good at asking questions and at interviewing people. The reason is because you have to be curious and you’ve got to listen very carefully to what people say, the pitch and tone of the voice when they say things, where their attention is, their nonverbal cues, and their body language that goes with it.
One other thing that you’re always on the hunt for is to help people have an insight into their performance and how they can do something better.
And coaching is not advisory; you’re not telling people what to do. Instead, you’re trying to create an environment or a process that will give them options and maybe resources to move past something on which they’re stuck.
Three questions for your coaching toolbox
Remember, all leaders are effectively coaches. That means you, Chief, are also a coach. So when you’re leading your people, or when you are even self-reflecting on your own career and challenges, have these questions somewhere to call upon regularly.
1. What is a step change performance improvement for you?
As leaders, we do a lot of “outcomes-based coaching” and so it’s really important to begin with the end in mind. So this question you would use often at the very beginning of a coaching engagement or when you’re setting outcomes for a direct report or someone in the team.
Let’s say I’m working with a new client, I always ask this question upfront. And the way to frame it is around time, so six months from now, which could be at the end of the coaching engagement, what does a step change better look like for that individual? In martial arts terminology, you were a yellow belt, and now you’re a red belt.
Delving a little deeper, what specifically would be different? How would you be acting differently? How would you feel? What would be happening that is different to now?
What’s so great about this question is that it automatically assumes that we can be better. I bet you anything that you already know what “better” looks like in your own mind because you’ve got to live with yourself every day.
2. What are you pretending to believe to be true about that?
This is all about getting deeper on an issue you’re having and some of the things that might be holding you back on it.
Someone might come to you as the leader and say, “Look, we can’t execute this project.” Or maybe they will say, “This person in my team, or that particular stakeholder, will not come to the party. They will not join us. They’re just going to be resistant to change the whole time.” Or perhaps even it’s you thinking, “I can’t achieve that goal; I can’t run a marathon.”
And so my question to you is, what are you pretending to believe to be true about that? And why?
3. If you were the CEO or the boss, what would you be thinking right now? And what would you do next?
This question is about encouraging individuals to jump into the shoes of someone else to expand their perspective, have more empathy, and perhaps gain some greater insight in how they might even influence someone.
There’s a few variations on that. Let’s just say someone’s been in a team meeting and they’ve said something that someone else was offended by. This really happens all the time. So, as a leader, you might ask the individual who said something, “Hey, if you were Jane or Bob and they heard someone say what you just said, what might they be thinking and feeling? And what would they do next?”
And then, as the leader, return the question to yourself and say, “What would I be thinking and what would I do next?
Chief, I hope those 3 questions are powerful for you and will really make a difference. They certainly have done so for me in my coaching career, and still do to this day.