Want to know if you’re a world-class coach? Looking for the core coaching competencies every manager needs to develop to ensure they can successfully create the next generation of leaders? Use these 7 questions to uncover what you’re doing well, along with the opportunities for you to excel and continually develop a team of champions.

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How does a manager know when they’re, in fact, coaching effectively? While many managers believe they are coaching their sales team, the hard truth is, they’re not. They’re doing something else, such as telling people what to do, putting out other people’s fires, training, directing, counseling, mentoring or advising. And just to be clear, there is no such thing as ‘directive coaching.’ Talk about an oxymoron!

Of course, to truly assess how good a coach you really are, just ask your sales team! Interestingly, after reviewing these questions below, you’ll also find that many of these 7 questions apply directly to salespeople as well!

And if you’re a salesperson, these questions can help you self-assess your selling skills and whether or not you’re following best sales practices. Conversely, if you’re a manager, you can also use these questions to help uncover coaching opportunities within your sales team.

So, if you and your direct reports are having a different experience, or you find it difficult to coach, built trust, facilitate positive change, uncover people’s individuality and motivation and hold people accountable, here are some tips from your coach, along with 7 questions to uncover your growth opportunities so that you can continue your transformational journey to becoming a world-class leader and coach.

1. Are you facilitating every conversation with open ended, non-leading questions or closed ended questions?

If you’re asking closed ended questions, you’re closing your people and directing them to the outcome you want, not coaching them. Don’t be sneaky! Open ended, leading questions that contain your opinion or advice don’t count! (Example: “Don’t you think it would be a good idea to…..” or “Have you tried…”) Besides, you can assess if you’re coaching or closing by reviewing your inner narrative. If it sounds like, “What are the questions I need to ask that will guide the person to where I want them to be? This is manipulating and pushing someone to the outcome you want, rather than creating a new possibility together.

In every conversation, lead with questions, not answers.

2. Are you patient? Do you give people the space to think through issues and arrive at a conclusion in the way THEY process information?

Respecting each person’s individuality also means respecting their thought process. If you find that you’re losing your patience during a conversation, or believe they’re not getting it ‘fast enough,’ then chances are, you’re ‘shoulding’ all over your people! (Example: “They’ve been selling for years! They should already know how to do this!”) Do yourself and your team a favor, don’t ‘should’ on them. After all, a ‘should’ is simply the excrement of your own agenda and a way to make others, and yourself, wrong.

THE SECRET TO ETERNAL PATIENCE: To find eternal patience-live in the present. Patience lives in the present. Not the past or future. If you’re impatient – then you’re pushing for something to happen (future-based) instead of being in the moment. Your GPS for patience is in the NOW. You’ll always find your patience in the moment. So, be present, and you’ll never lose your patience again.

3. Are you focused on their agenda or yours?

Coaching is NEVER about the coach! And no, it’s not effective to split the, ‘one on one’ meetings you have with your people, where half of the meeting is their coaching agenda and half of it is yours. I’ve heard people interpret these meetings as, “Well, for the first 30 minutes my manager listens, and then for the next 30 minutes they just tell me what they want me to do.”

Avoid Management Schizophrenia by being a consistent leader. Otherwise, your people will never want to be coached by you, since they’ll never know which you to expect!

The coaching session needs to be treated as the coachee’s sacred time, and it needs to be positioned that way, unconditionally. People need to know that when you schedule a coaching session, it’s 100% about them and their agenda.

Now, conversely, what if you have an agenda, where you need people to change, try or adopt something? Or, what if you’ve observed something; some behavior, conversation, or outcome, that needs to change, where you need to approach someone to discuss this? Schedule a separate conversation and call it anything (a huddle, deal review, mindshare session, feedback conversation, shared accountability check in, etc.) but don’t call it a coaching session. All you’ll do is create confusion, sending conflicting messages as to what coaching is, and who it’s about.

4. Are you coaching in your own image?

Does your experience actually get in the way of strengthening and tapping into each person’s skills, talents and individuality? Do you find yourself saying things like, “Well, when I was in your position, here’s what I did when I was in a similar situation…”

If so, you’re building robots, “Mini-Me’s” or attempting to clone yourself. It’s one thing to know how you like to be managed, motivated, even held accountable. However, great managers suspend judgement, shoulds, and assumptions. Instead of managing others the way you like to be managed, ask the coachee the right questions to ensure you’re uncovering and supporting them the way they like to be coached, motivated, supported and held accountable; not how you do.

5. Are you consistently coaching each person on your team?

How do you know you’re coaching is effective? If you’re coaching everyone consistently, you’d recognize problems in its infancy, when you and your employees can do something about it in a responsive, rather than a reactive way. If you find yourself in reaction mode, having to jump in to put out fires and solve problems, then you’ve already missed the coaching opportunity due to a lack of effective, consistent, coaching and observation.

Bottom line, everyone gets coached and coached consistently. However, the cadence of coaching will vary from one person to another, based on their needs, performance, tenure, situation and individuality.

6. Are you asking questions that you do not know the answer to?

If so, you’re coaching! And in many cases, while you may think (even know) you have the answers to their challenges, you want the coachee to arrive at the solution on their own for one powerful, and empowering reason.

People resist what they hear, but believe what they say.

If they create it, they own it, rather than being told what to do. This builds critical thinking, critical questioning skills, confidence and accountability.

The best questions to ask are the ones you don’t know the answer to.

7. Do you have a difficult time holding back your opinion in a conversation?

Well, that’s rhetorical. In every conversation, begin by seeking to understand the other person’s point of view. So, don’t take the bait when you ask them a question and they say, “I don’t know! You tell me!”

If you ask someone for their opinion, rather than for an answer, strategy or solution, you’ll always get an answer. After all, while answers and solutions can be right or wrong, everyone has an opinion. This could sound like,

“You’re closer to this than I am, and I trust you and your judgment. What’s your opinion on how to achieve the results you want?”

If you have time to give an answer, then you have time to coach, and ask a question.

Remember, you’ll always have the opportunity to share your ideas and experiences. It’s just the order in which you do so. That is, AFTER you uncover what they know and see, and what they don’t. Then, your true value is, filling in their blind spots or the gaps in thinking, activity, skill or knowledge that they didn’t see on their own.

Tip From the Coach. Don’t take the, “I don’t know bait. Instead, ask, “Well, if you did know, what would you do to achieve the results you want?”

I promise, you’ll always get an answer!

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P.S. – I’m personally taking on 10 coaching clients for my private practice. (I’ll never top coaching leaders, whether in a coach training course or one on one. It’s too much fun and way to rewarding!) If you’re interested, make sure we’re connected, send me a note, and we’ll schedule a call to see if there’s a fit.