Thursday, August 09, 2018

Asking the Hard Questions in Coaching

Having coached for almost ten years now, I have assumed that one thing that makes me attractive as a coach is my easy-going attitude.  For the most part, I come across as non-judgmental and supportive.  Some have termed it “Southern graciousness.”

At some point in a coaching relationship, however, I may find it necessary to set this persona aside if I am to effectively coach my client.  I was reminded of this last year when I attended a coach training event in California.  We were asked to identify skills we needed to work on to be better coaches.  I chose three:  challenging, intruding, and taking charge.

Now all of these run counter to my normal way of doing things, but our trainers pointed out that sometimes a coach should stretch and step outside of his or her comfort zone to serve the client more effectively.

Clients do not need a coach who is a “yes” person but one who will make them dig deeper and discover the abilities, determination, and initiative that is too often been dormant. Sometimes a coach needs to move a client into less comfortable territory.

Some questions that display these skills are:

“You have used this approach in the past.  What have been the results?”  When a coach has worked with a client for awhile, he or she has seen how the client addresses certain concerns.  The coach realizes that the client has an accepted modus operandi that probably should be challenged to determine its effectiveness in the current situation.

“Is this something you really want to do?  Your failure to follow through indicates otherwise.”  If a client has set a goal and fails to pursue it, the coach digs deeper to help the client identify motivation and assess commitment. Perhaps this item is no longer a priority for the client and there is a need to focus attention elsewhere.  On the other hand, the goal may need to be redefined or clarified.

“When are you going to ‘pull the trigger’ on this project?”  If a client has clear goals or great ideas but never acts, what’s the obstacle? Perhaps there is no sense of urgency or a fear of failure.  The coach’s role is to help the client get “unstuck.”

“What’s the real concern here?”  Often a client will talk at length about a situation, perhaps as a way of avoiding action. The coach can help the client to focus and move on by calling the conversation to a halt and challenging the client to determine the real issue and a plan of action.

Of course, these questions are productive only when one has developed trust and rapport with the client.  He or she must know that by asking these questions the coach is doing his or her job to help the client move to the next level. 

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