The coaching process is communication between two people to enhance ones’ skills, motivation, attitude, or performance. It is a two-way conversation that requires intelligence gathering, active listening, and flexible objectives. Coaching is an ongoing process, which over time, will lead to permanent improvement of processes and performance. There are many skills that need to be utilized in order to be a good coach. One of the most important coaching skills is the ability to ask good questions.
Questions can be used in a variety of ways and achieve multiple results. Questions are the best way to open up a dialogue and encourage active participation from another person. They are used to gather information and to clarify understanding. Questions can help you propose new ideas and strategies and they can raise the constructive tension between people. There are two types of coaching questions, open and closed ended.
Open-ended questions promote interaction by drawing out responses, information and ideas. These questions begin with, who, what, where, when, why, or how, and cannot be answered with a simple yes or no. Open-ended questions bring out feelings and opinions, which adds depth to the information that you receive.
Closed-ended questions seek specific, brief responses. They are fact finding questions used to gain commitment and to confirm what has been said. They get right to the point and save time in a conversation.
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It is important to build rapport and give support while coaching. Questions are the best way to find out what the person being coached thinks and feels about the issue at hand. A good starter question might be, “What are some of the challenges you have encountered?” or “What are your reactions to this issue?” Let them know that you would like to understand their perspective. Create an environment that is relaxed and emotionally safe for open and constructive dialogue. Provide non-verbal support by maintaining eye contact and not multi-tasking during the conversation. Remember to give positive feedback about the person’s successes.
It is also possible to transfer ownership of a situation to the person being coached. Simply asking questions such as, “Do you think your current strategy is giving you the results you need?” or “What is it we are trying to accomplish as a team?” can establish the importance of the topic. Specific impact questions can help eliminate any perceptual blind spots the person being coached might have. They also add relevance to the subject at hand and provide motivation to seek new alternatives.
Use open-ended questions to gain pertinent responses and ideas, as well as the feelings and motivations driving them. Use closed-ended questions to solidify what you have been discussing and confirm your important objectives. Utilizing questions in coaching situations is the most effective way to understand where the other person is coming from, the specifics surrounding the topic at hand, and how to build cooperation and prepare to move on to a plan of action. The best way to navigate through the coaching process is to understand as much as you can about the other person and their situation. Questions provide the road map that will lead you to the end results.
Mark Peacock is the Sales & Marketing Director for CMOE. His many years experience collaborating with top Organizational Development clients allows him a unique perspective into the topics and issues that real world companies are dealing with and the solutions they use to impact their challenges.
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