As a coach, you are aware that you have your own frame of reference that shapes how you view everything around you, including your coaching clients and their issues. This frame of reference is shaped by the experiences you have had, the education you underwent, the values you uphold, among others. In the same way, your coaching clients also come with their own frames of reference shaped by their unique experiences, education, culture, religion, among others.
Since both you and your client have different frames of reference, it is important that you select the questions that you put to the client carefully so that you get a clear picture of the coaching client’s frame of reference. The questions will help you to focus on the client and their point of view, and this will save you from making erroneous assumptions about what you think is on the mind of the client.
The following sample questions illustrate some of the ways through which you can prompt your coaching clients to explain clearly what their visions of a desired outcome are.
1. What Is an Example?
While your client is explaining their vision, you can ask him or her to provide a clear example to concretize what their vision is really like.
For example, if the client’s vision is to grow in their chosen career, you can ask the client to give an example of what growth will look like to them.
Don’t assume that growth means getting frequent promotions. Listen actively and the client may end up telling you career growth means being put in charge of progressively bigger teams, getting to travel to represent the company and its interests, and so on.
This example of career growth may differ significantly from that of another person who may define it as having their salary bumped up every now and then, in addition to getting a corner office!
By asking your client to provide an example of what their vision is, you get clarification of their point of view and are therefore better placed to coach that client towards the attainment of their own goals.
2. What Would That Look Like?
This is another question that you can use to tease out details of the client’s vision. This question prompts the client to think about and clearly describe what their vision is.
Don’t be surprised if some of your clients are unable to answer this question clearly and precisely. Some clients may only have a vague idea of what they want, so when you don’t get a clear answer when you ask them what their vision looks like, take that as an opportunity to steer their thinking towards coming up with a vivid image of their vision.
Remember, each individual is different, so avoid follow-up questions that may be leading questions (You want to be CEO of your company one day, don’t you?), questions that are marred by your own opinions or judgments (How could you talk back to your boss?), and other such questions that derail the thought processes of the client or make the client defensive.
3. Like What? Such As?
One of the vital skills that you need to develop as a coach is how to put forward short and concise questions. Precise and concise questions don’t confuse the client and they serve the added bonus of keeping the session client-centered since the client will do most of the talking.
As you find out the client’s vision, strategically chip in brief questions, such as “Like what?” Such questions let the client know that you are following what they have been saying and that you value their opinion. Once you have the client’s trust, it will become easy for you to know their vision, and this information will help you to gently steer your interactions towards attaining that vision.
4. What Would Success Look Like to You?
You can also get accurate information about the client’s vision by asking them to explain or describe what success means or looks like to them.
Each person defines success differently and you are not there to impose your definition of success or judge the client’s definition of success. Instead, ask the client to open up about what success means to them, and listen attentively to what they have to say.
Ask follow-up questions if the client doesn’t provide ample clarification of what success would mean to them. Once a clear picture emerges, get to work facilitating the process of attaining the success described by the client.
5. What Would Failure Mean or Look Like?
It is equally important for you to ask the client to describe or explain what failure means to them. Many times, getting people to talk about what they don’t want can help them to get a clearer picture of what they want.
At another level, getting the client to talk about what failure would mean to them serves as a motivator for them to work towards their vision, thereby averting the failure that they have just described.
For example, your coaching client may describe failure as being fired from their job or losing their spouse. Note that there are many ways to define failure, so what your client pinpoints out of all those options is very telling about what is occupying their mind at that point in time.
You might therefore want to probe further and learn more about that specific concern so that once you get to the root of the situation an appropriate remedy can be found.
Summing it up…
As you may have noticed, “what” and “how” questions feature prominently among the questions suggested in this blog post. Such questions tend to be neutral and make the client to feel free to express themselves without fear that they will be judged. This is not say that “why” questions or other questions are bad. Those can also be used as long as the coach phrases them in a way that allows the client to talk freely. For example, asking a client to explain why getting more balance is important to them gives such a client an opportunity to share their values and what they regard as important.
If you have been coaching clients for a while, you may have realized that some types of questions may be needed less frequently than others, so use your discretion and intuition to guide you on what point in the coaching conversation certain questions are appropriate.
It is now your turn to share your experiences. Which other question have you found to be helpful in getting a client to clarify their vision? Is there a particular question that you have learned not to ask during a session with your clients as you talk about their vision? Be sure to grab the resource guide below to expand on these questions once you get your clients’ laser-focused!
To Your Success,
Jairek Robbins & Team PCU
Ready to level up your coaching and leadership game? Want to make a big impact in the lives of others? Add more power to your purpose with our 12-week online Performance Coach certification course. Apply here: Course overview & Application!