“Do you think you should…?” isn’t really a question, it is expressing an opinion. The way questions are asked determines the flow of the conversation. Sometimes a coach asks questions so that the conversation stays on track. Sometimes coaches ask questions that limit thinking. Formulating effective questions is a skill that requires consistent practice.
Coaching questions are clarifying, probing, advice-free, and open-ended. Tips for formulating questions include:
- KISS: Keep It Short and Simple
- Ask questions that focus forward
- Ask questions that are open to possibilities
- If the client is logical, ask thinking questions
- If the client relies on their gut instincts, ask feeling questions
- The answer often leads to the next question
- Use ‘What’ or ‘How’ questions
Here is an example without and then with these tips for powerful questioning:
- Without: Do you think it is better for you to discuss this with your manager or should you go to HR?
- With: What are your options for addressing it?
In the first example, two possibilities are given and the focus is limited to considering only those two options. In the second example, the client will consider more ways of addressing it and more people with whom to discuss it, and then choose what makes the most sense for them.
In coaching, the client is their own best expert. For the coach to effectively partner with the client, learning powerful questioning is essential.