Coaching operates in the very premise that the client is intelligent and is the only person who fully comprehends her challenges. Thus, the only person expert enough to find the right solution. There is nothing wrong or broken with the client. They are naturally resourceful and creative. The only possible reason why they have partnered with the coach is because they might be feeling stuck.
The job of the coach is to nudge them in the right direction. To help the client become un-stuck, feel inspired to overcome their challenges. A coach may use any technique from her toolkit to do so. One such technique is asking “powerful questions”.
Powerful questions are questions that make the client think. It invokes deeper understanding of the situation, who the client is and connects the client with the situation in such a way that they feel inspired. Powerful questions are open ended which means they lead to exploration and do not terminate the discussion with a “yes” or “no”.
Let us explore a few Powerful Questions.
What do you Want?
Often clients are stuck at the effect instead of looking at the cause. As a result instead of owning up the responsibility to craft their experiences, they tend to react to circumstances.
For ex: A client looking for a job change often talks about why he doesn’t want to be in his current job. The reasons could be many – pay is not enough, manager is too bossy etc. The client is looking at the effects of her work environment. Will changing the job bring the desired outcome? No one knows.
Asking “What do you want?” puts the client in an exploratory mode. Encourages them to focus on their desired outcomes and enables them to be accountable for their own experience.
What is Important to You about this?
Another typical situation that arises in coaching is when the client is in dilemma of what to choose. Although, in a day to day scenario we often don’t talk a lot about values, but in situations of dilemma values play an important role. It is often the conflict of values that puts us in to the dilemma. For ex choosing between work or play, fitness or leisure, personal or professional life is always tricky.
When a coach puts this question across, the client must consider the values in play and think what is really important to her. This often helps clients to prioritise theirs requirements and supports decision making.
How will you know you have got what you want?
This question helps clients to move away from vague desires towards more specific details of the outcomes they want to achieve. This is a typical Evidence Frame question. As a coach, we want clients to define specific evidences that would ensure through tangible measures, if the client is moving towards or away from the desired outcomes.
What is getting your way?
Clients, while on their journey of excellence are impacted by many external and internal factors such as location, resources, funding or lack of personal expertise. With this question client can shift focus to identifying the interference that are holding them back. Once the factors are identified it is to create an approach that would change the situation around.
What is the first step?
A journey of thousand miles starts with a single step.
Coaching sessions are rewarding when the client can arrive at some kind of future course of action. This also creates accountability for the client. However, determining the entire course of action could be daunting and some time just turns out to be a to-do list. With this question, the coach helps the client to shift towards an action to achieve her goals by putting the focus on something to think about instead of just procrastinating. Determining the first step helps client move from current state towards the desired state.
And What Else?
During coaching conversations, many aspects are touched upon. Sometimes the conversations/topics can be so overwhelming actual agenda might be lost in the overload of information. Or may be at-times the discussions revolve around a very trivial aspect leaving aside the real thing that might be troubling the client. With this question, we open up the conversation for client to raise another challenge, another issue that has not yet been discussed. This often helps clients to reveal the actual issue that they might not have even thought of.
Powerful questions are a great technique to nudge the client in the right direction. This helps the conversation to remain on track and progressing forward. However, the most important aspect of powerful questions is not to generate a response, but is to create awareness which inspires the client. Also, while asking questions be curious to understand don’t contemplate on what question to ask next.
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