One of the touchstones of professional life coaching is the ability to ask powerful questions. One author defines powerful questions as “provocative inquiries that put a halt to evasion and confusion.” (Kimsey-House, et al, Co-Active Coaching, 3rd ed.). One might say that these are questions that challenge the client to move to the next level in clarity, action, and discovery. Such questions are very important in a process that seeks to help individuals become the best, most productive, and most fulfilled people that they can be.
Christian Coaches Network International conducts regular continuing education seminars online on both the ICF core competencies and best practices related to coaching. In a recent presentation, Janice Lavore-Fletcher of Christian Coaching Institute offered some interesting perspectives on asking powerful questions. One of the ideas I found particularly interesting was the difference between transactional questions and transformational questions.
Transactional questions are “doing” questions. They address actions and details, the kinds of things that task oriented such as me like. Transactional questions produce “to do” lists. For example, if a client is concerned about time management, the coach works with her to produce SMART (Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound) Goals to achieve.
Transformational questions are “being” rather than “doing” questions. These are the questions that get to a person’s motivation. For example, if a client brings up time management as a concern, the first question might be, “Why is time management important to you?” Transformational questions seek to help the client understand how the selected area for growth aligns with one’s core values. The result is a more motivated person who understands why someone wants to address a need.
Both types of questions are necessary in a coaching conversation but if the appropriate amount of time is spent on the transformational questions, a person will be more motivated to follow through on the answers to the transactional questions.
What are the powerful questions that you should be asking yourself?