As a coach, you know that the most effective tool you have in your toolkit are the questions that you ask your coaching clients. Questions are important because clients are already “experts” who have tried different ways to solve a situation in which they feel stuck, but they haven’t had the success they desire. So, they have come to you for help as their coach.
However, coaches don’t just handout solutions to clients’ problems. Rather, you are a facilitator whose main task is to help the client to explore the situation from different angles or perspectives, and then select the solution that they (the client) thinks is the best.
For that reason, your skill in asking the right questions, at the right time and in the right way comes in. Remember, the client has already thought over their dilemma and even tried different solutions, to no avail. Your expertly selected questions therefore are intended to help the client think outside the box (their current way of defining the problem, for example) and by going beyond the fringes of their frame of mind, new approaches will emerge and a solution will be found.
As you can see, the questions that you put before the client aren’t in any way intended to showcase what a genius you are. Instead, those questions should be aimed at drawing out the client from their current mental or emotional “shell” and into a space where a breakthrough will be found.
This is where you, as the coach will shine in your role as a facilitator moving the client from where they are stuck to where they desire to be. As it has been said, the thinking that put the client into an undesirable situation isn’t the same thinking that will get them out of there. They need to see things differently!
The following are some of the powerful questions that you can ask as a way of helping your coaching client to explore the situation around which they need your help.
1. What Do You Want to Explore About This Situation?
This question is important because it helps you and the coaching client to be on the same page regarding the goal of the session.
For example, the client may tell you that they would like to have more balance in their life. While such a statement isn’t clear enough on its own, it helps to exclude many other things that could have been covered during the coaching session.
The question also nudges the coaching client to think about what is most important to them at that point in time, and by doing so, they unconsciously set realistic expectations of what is achievable during that particular session.
2. What Do You Want to Learn More About?
This question will cause the coaching client to think deeply about the concern that they need help with in a given coaching session. In the example above, for instance, the client may tell you that they would like to learn more about how they can reduce how many days they work late so that time can be freed to be with family.
As you can see, the answers that the client provides when you pose this question will shed more light on the specific aspects of the topic that they have selected for the coaching session.
3. Which Aspects of the Situation Haven’t You Explored?
As already mentioned, the coaching client is already an “expert” in their problem and they have only come to you because everything that they have tried before hasn’t yielded the desired results.
By asking about the aspects of the problem that they haven’t explored, you will be steering the client towards ticking off all the possible ways through which the problem can be viewed. That alone can trigger an “aha!” moment, or at the very least it will help you to identify the gaps in the way the client has been looking at the problem.
Once you pinpoint those gaps in the client’s grasp of the problem, you have the ammunition you need to ask follow-up questions that open the client’s eyes to the possible source of the solution they have been looking for. Remember, you as the coach can only help the client to find the solution. Don’t “give” the client direct suggestions or remedies to their problems. Everything that the client is looking for is within them, so help them draw it out.
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4. What Additional Angles Can You Think Of?
This particular question can be a good follow-up question to the one discussed above since it compels the coaching client to think harder about any additional perspectives that they could have missed and yet are worthy of consideration.
This act of thinking hard about the problem is in itself good for the client because they will be unconsciously training themselves to evaluate a problem from different angles before picking a solution to that problem. This is empowering because the client will use the same approach when faced with other problems that aren’t related to the problem for which they sought help from a coach.
For you as the coach, an immediate benefit of asking the client about the additional angles of looking at a problem is that you will get a clearer picture of how the client frames problems, and this will in turn guide you as you steer the client towards a better way to resolve the problem they are struggling with.
5. What is One Other Possibility or Way to Explore?
This question may come in when you see that the coaching client isn’t turning their attention to all the important ways of defining or framing their current situation. For example, the client who wants more balance in their life may have omitted the long commute in heavy traffic as a factor to explain why they are unable to spend as much time with family as possible.
By nudging the client to say more about their situation, they may eventually get around to see that the long commute is a factor, and once that matter has been brought to light, then a more comprehensive remedy can be designed to create more balance in their life.
6. What Other Options Are There?
This question may be particularly helpful at the point when you are discussing possible remedies to the problem. Here, you encourage the coaching client to come up with as many possible solutions to the problem as possible.
That large pool of options increases the odds of selecting the most appropriate alternative so that the client can become unstuck and move forward. Remember, if the only option or tool the client has is a hammer, he or she may find it hard to stop thinking that everything in front of them is a nail!
It is important for you to prompt the client to explore the situation for which he or she needs your help. Without a proper definition of the problem, it is hard to get a solution since you and the client don’t know what you are trying to fix.
So, what other questions have you been using to help your coaching clients to explore the situations they are faced with?
Which of the questions above may transform the way you interact with your clients?
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To Your Success,
Jairek Robbins and Team PCU
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