Make Coaching More Powerful
June 23, 2015
99% of coaching conversations don't deserve the label 'coaching.' Most of these interactions - that are masquerading as coaching would be better labelled as instruction or directive sessions. During these conversations, a problem has been or is identified and the coach seeks to help the coachee fix the problem by issuing corrective orders, offering up their past experiences as a road map or simply asking the coachee to "do it better." These conversations lack meaningful substance and no transformation occurs.
I recently discovered a quote that I think is one of the most powerful ways of conveying the true meaning of coaching: "Coaching is a relational process that brings the best out of the coachee, inspiring and supporting them to live into and realize their aspirations."
I told you it was powerful! For me, it illuminates notions of connection, positivity, discovery and change. It certainly reaffirms that coaching should be about building a rapport centered in trust that allows the coachee to discover their strengths and move towards their imagined future.
If coaching is about positive transformation then it is the discovery phase that fuels the change. Discovery can't happen in the presence of instruction or directives. It is the coach's role to help the coachee find new insights, to learn, to see, or to find something that was previously unknown to them. It is not the coach's role to make the discoveries but rather guide the coachee to their own discoveries.
Discovery Happens Through Powerful Questioning
Change begins with the questions we ask. Questions have the power to shift our perspectives, moving us into fresh new ways of looking at and solving problems. A world of questions is a world of possibilities.
The most effective communication is about 20% telling and 80% asking. Most of us have got this the wrong way around and spend 80% telling and 20% asking. For your coaching conversations to have meaning you need to spend more time demonstrating your curiosity and wonder at what the coachee offers up. Explore the possibilities through asking questions. A great coach should be judged by the quality of the questions they ask rather than the outcomes they help facilitate. You should be focused on asking questions that will elicit thoughts, feelings, ideas and solutions that the coachee hasn't given previous consideration to. Your role is to ask the right question, at the right time, during the conversation. It is only through questions you will unlock opportunities through growth.
You should be looking to ask questions that are thought provoking, positive, open-ended and specific. You want to use "what" and "how" questions and avoid "why" questions; they are useful for soliciting information, but can make people defensive if you ask too many.
You will still want the questions you ask to move the conversation forward and to achieve this you require your questions to be asked purposefully. You need to structure the questions you will be asking. A good approach is to use the C.O.A.CH model for questioning:
- Competencies -- check in to explore the coachees current reality and strengths.
- Outcome -- help the coachee to stretch and think big. Create the possibilities.
- Action -- engage in dialogue about realizing the possibilities. Determine what will be done.
- CHeck in -- Establish the timetable and milestones. This creates opportunity to review progress.
Let's look at how you could structure a coaching conversation using the C.O.A.CH model and the types of powerful questions you could be asking…
- What is going well?
- What did you do to contribute to your success here?
- What are you most proud of yourself for today?
- How confident do you feel about the direction you're headed in?
- What one or two things do you want more of?
- What do you really want?
- Where do you want to focus right now? What's possible here?
- If the problem were solved what would be different?
- What will it look like when you have mastered this? What will be better?
- Take a leap into your future? What do you see? What are you doing? What are you excited about?
- What are three steps to achieve your goal?
- If you had a choice, what would you do?
- What have you done before that you could do again to move toward your future?
- What will help you stay on track?
- How can you make the opportunity inspiring and uplifting?
- What will you do, by when, and how will you know you've done it?
- What can you do to help stay on track?
- How can I help you?
- How should we review your progress?
- What has been the most important thing you've learned about yourself?
If a successful coaching session is based 80% on asking and 20% on telling we, as coaches, need to stop preparing what we want to say and what we want the coachee to do and instead put our efforts into asking the most purposeful questions we can to help the coachee undergo their own exploration of their performance. Spend time carefully considering the questions you will ask to help them on their journey to improvement.
Great results begin with great questions!
I invite you to answer… What questions can I ask to inspire a positive change in the person I'm coaching?