What are powerful questions? In the last couple of posts we looked at the importance of effective listening and listening techniques. Now we can look at what powerful questions are in coaching.
It is not the job of the coach to have a book of questions that will shock the client or leave them in awe of their coach’s intelligence. Coaching is not about showcasing a coach’s supreme intelligence. It is rather to assist the client to focus on their issues or goals from a different perspective.
The real aim with powerful questions are that the answers will help the client to move forward. The coach’s understanding of the answers, is less important. It is important to dance in the moment with your client, trusting in your ability to ask powerful questions, by actively listening to your client. The following are examples of the types of questions one could ask during your coaching session.
What makes powerful questions?
Open questions are questions for which the client is not going to give a one word answer like “Yes” or “No.” Open questions help your client to open up and give more information. The power of a good coaching session lies in being able to help your client to look at new possibilities, explore their own thoughts, ideas and feelings and come up with their own solutions to move forward. Open question form the backbone of an effective coaching session.
Open questions typically start with ‘what,’ ‘how,’ ‘where,’ ‘who,’ ‘when’ or a statements such as ‘tell me about…’ or ‘explain to me more about…’
• What would you like to achieve from the session?
• How did you do that?
• Tell me about your experience with…
• When have you achieved success in the past?
• Who can help you achieve this?
• When do you plan to do this by?
• Which option do you prefer?
If coaching is about assisting the client to identify their own solutions to moving forward then the ability to ask effective questions lie at the heart of a good coaching session. If we apply the Pareto principle, then around 80% of a coaching session should be taken up by client speaking and giving thought to the questions posed by the coach. The coach only takes around 20% of the time to ask questions, summarizing, clarifying and reflecting back to client.
One of the most important rules of asking effective questions is to remember that the session belongs to the client. Thus the questions you ask are for the benefit of your client rather than your own. Adopting the mind set of assisting the client to find their own unique solution and not yours, will help you to naturally ask the right questions.
As an effective coach you will ask a wide range of questions at the appropriate time that will help your client in the following ways:
• Gain clarity, understanding and perspective.
• Provoke deeper or alternative thinking.
• Challenge current thinking.
• Evaluate themselves and their situation.
• Explore options.
• Explore facts, thoughts and feelings.
• Look at issues from a different point of view.
• Plan and take action.
As a coach we also need to avoid leading questions which in effect imply an answer you think the client should take. Whilst this approach may be used in directive coaching, it is not true coaching and does not conform to the ICF Core Competencies.
Not all clients will respond in the same way to the same questions. As you build up your experience as a coach, you find some questions work particularly well for some clients and others less so. Over time you may gradually build up a portfolio of questions which you will instinctively know when to use at what moment, remembering of course, that coaching is not merely the asking of a bunch of questions.
Solutions focused questions are a really effective way of moving a client towards a solution rather than dwelling on the issue or the causes of the problem. This is also one of the key aspects for the NLP practitioner. So the combination of NLP in coaching is really useful as it gives the coach a number of techniques to use.
Here are some examples comparing problem focused questions with their solutions focused alternatives:
Problem focused: What is the problem?
Solutions focused: What would you like to achieve from this session?
Problem focused: What is hindering you?
Solutions Focused: What progress have you made so far?
Problem focused: Why is this an issue for you?
Solutions focused: What would it mean to achieve success?
Problem focused: How long have you been experiencing difficulties?
Solutions focused: When in the past have you achieved a positive outcome?
Problem focused: Who is to blame?
Solutions focused: Who can help you?
Reflecting back the words, thoughts and feelings that you have picked up from your client. This serves both the purpose of showing that you are listening, which in turn helps build rapport. Also to reflect back to the client to prompt further exploration. It is important to give your client space and time to reflect.
Example: “You say you are apprehensive about the changes…tell me more?” An example of a reflection of both words and feelings is: “You sound excited, but I’m also sensing you are a little scared?”
This can be very illuminating to your client and you may get a response like, “Did I really say that?” or “Hearing you repeat what I’ve said, helps me to clarify what’s on my mind.”
These were simply an example of how we can use questions to assist our client in getting to where they want to be. I hope you found this post useful and that it will assist you in your coaching sessions. Helping you to become the most amazing coach you can be.
In the next post we will look at some types of questions to avoid during coaching.
If you want to find out more about the coaching courses offered by Coaching with NLP, simply contact us today and we will be more than happy to help.