9 Coaching questions that should be in your coaching toolkit

Leading people through change isn’t easy.

While people might understand the change, they still mightn’t like it or be happy with it. How then, do we empower people through the change process?

Anna, a coachee of mine, asked herself the same question. Her team were experiencing a large complex change project that was creating chaos and uncertainty. While Anna was like a mother hen wanting to protect her brood, she knew fully well that her role in looking after her team was not shielding them, rather helping them embrace the challenges in a way that could increase the capability and capacity in her team. She reflected:

How do I as a leader help you to succeed despite your discomfort? How do I make sure that you know, that I am committed to helping you succeed?

Anna thought about how she needed to show up as a leader. She knew that being too directive would backfire (even though it would get things cracking quickly). Anna also knew that being free rein wasn’t going to give them the support they needed.

Average leaders come in with one or two hats. Great leaders have many hats – they can adapt to lots of different situations that require different things – Michael Ehrentraut

One of that hats Anna knew she needed to wear was her coaching hat. Why? Because empowering people is all about championing people to think differently.

At the heart of change is changing how people think

Empowering someone means giving them the opportunity to take responsibility for their decisions and actions in a way that builds confidence, skills and autonomy.

People don’t want to be told what to do. They want to be shown how to succeed.

Coaching at its core is about stretching someone’s thinking to generate new ideas, perspectives and solutions – leading to greater accountability, self-awareness and ownership of problems.

Anna realised the biggest difference she could make to her team was upskilling them on how to think – critically, creatively and conceptually – so they could take the initiative, get engaged in the change project early on, problem solve the challenges looming, make decisions and help each other succeed.

Knowing when to direct (give the answer) versus when to coach lies in sound judgement. Good leader coaches identify someone’s strengths and stretches are and what they are ready for (ie: how far their thinking can be stretched on something).

You cannot change someone’s mind about something, but you can shape their thinking.

Anna and I came up with a list of foundation coaching questions she believed would serve her well. Here are nine questions you should have in your coaching toolkit.

  •  What is the result you’re looking to achieve here?(Why does that matter?)
  • What’s happening now? (How is this a problem for you?)
  • What have you tried so far? (What is missing/ getting in the way/holding you back?)
  • How have you handled something like this before? (What was the outcome?)
  • How else could you approach this? (What ideas do you have? What else can also be possible/true?)
  • What’s the first thing you’re going to do to resolve/achieve this? (eg: What would that conversation sound like when you talk with……?)
  • What resources do you need?
  • What are you willing to commit to doing/trying/changing (by when)? (If you couldn’t use that thing that’s stopping you anymore, how would you move forward?)
  • When would it make sense for us to reconnect to ensure you have achieved the result you want?

Coaching is an investment in upskilling your reports on how to think. What return would building the thinking capacity in your team have on your team’s engagement and performance over the next 12 months? It’d be worth it, don’t you think?

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