A big part of coaching is asking the right questions, the right way. You can’t guide employees toward the best use of their energy and skills if you don’t know what motivates them and what’s getting in their way.
But sometimes managers don’t know how to phrase the questions they put to coachees, or get tangled in excess verbiage.
Usually, the shorter the question the better.
The right focus
Short questions help the coach focus on the employee rather than on him- or herself (“what do I say now?”), keep the coach from offering advice (remember, coaching is about helping people find their own solutions), and make it easier for the employee to grasp what is being asked.
Here are examples of three coaching questions asked first in a long, convoluted way, and then in a short, direct way:
- “In the end, if it could go perfectly in your mind, how would you like everything to work out?”
“What do you want?”
- “Tell me how you see that playing out and what kind of effect do you expect it to have on the project?”
“What will that get you?”
- “Are you letting your concern over the numbers outweigh your desire for everyone on the team to get along?”
“What’s stopping you?”
Source: “A Manager’s Guide to Coaching,” by Emerson and Loehr.
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