When coaching, finding the right question at the most appropriate time is both a skill, as well as an art. Even with the daily pressures and tight schedules, there are still some baseline facts you always need to know in any situation to ensure the guidance and advice you offer is relevant and valuable. Here are 10 questions you can use in practically every conversation.
After coaching thousands of managers and salespeople worldwide, I’m overly sensitive to ensuring the final transformation into a coaching guru is to coach from your heart, not from your head.
However, just like learning anything new, such as how to swing a golf club, you’re initially focused on doing it right; and that requires developing the best practices, the mechanics of your swing, each movement, step by step. It is only after consistent repetition of the same movement, does it become a habit and you make your swing your own. You stop thinking about the mechanics, your instincts kick in and you just do it. You feel confident that you can honor your unique skills to create your own style, since it’s been created on a strong foundation; the basics and core competencies everyone needs to learn.
The Baseline of Best
I find sales leaders and managers go through a similar transformation when learning how to ask the right coaching questions. Granted, there’s a multitude of different questions you can use in any coaching conversation. However, when you have the most effective questions in front of you to ensure consistent use, the conversation becomes magical and both the coach and coachee walk away from that experience feeling great about the new possibility that was co-created. Value was delivered, a new solution created, a new growth opportunity emerged.
That’s when this transformation starts to happen; the manager starts recognizing positive results from coaching and subsequently, their confidence increases. They begin to trust their intuition, their gut, their coaching abilities and their instincts more and more.
The byproduct? The right questions start to show up naturally and organically within each conversation.
Whether it’s sports, music or coaching people, you still need to start with a baseline of best practices to ensure you have a solid foundation to build from before you can make it your own and leverage your own style, strengths and personality into your coaching.
We Resist What We Hear but Believe What We Say
With the right questions, the coachee creates the solution or solves their own problem. Now, it’s theirs, so they now have ownership of the outcome, not the coach. And if the coachee created the solution, they’re more apt to act on it, rather than being told what to do.
I have found certain questions to work in practically every conversation. (Actually, I’ve provided you with more than ten questions but condensed a few questions together, as there are several ways to ask the same question, depending upon your own style of coaching and communicating.)
These questions are sure to make your coaching more efficient, effective and intentional, now that you have a path of chronological coaching questions to follow that will support the development of your people, while challenging them to bring out their best. In addition, this leads to greater accountability and an amplified level of self-awareness.
When you give people the space to share ideas and more important, be heard and acknowledged, it strengthens people’s confidence, along with the level of trust that’s essential for great coaching to occur.
Of course, depending upon the conversation, you may not need to leverage every single question. However, as you use them throughout your coaching efforts, you’ll start recognizing the questions that work best for you.
Keep in mind, this is just one of many ways to facilitate an effective coaching conversation. And if you don’t have a great manager or a coach in your corner, you can also leverage some of these questions for self-coaching! (Just don’t argue with yourself over the responses you hear! ;- )
10 Coaching Questions That Work In Any Conversation
- What is the outcome you’re looking to achieve here?
- Can you share the specifics of what’s going on?
- What have you tried so far?
- How have you handled something like this before? (What was the outcome?)
- Why do you think this is happening? (What’s another way to look at this/respond? What else can also be possible/true? What assumptions could you be making here?)
- What’s your opinion on how to handle this? (EVERYONE has an opinion. Seek to understand theirs first.) If I wasn’t here, what would you do to achieve/resolve this? If we were to switch roles, how would you handle this? What ideas do you have? What’s another approach that may work (which you haven’t tried yet?)
- What’s the first thing you need to do to (resolve/achieve this)? (What would that conversation sound like when you talk with……? TIP FROM THE COACH: Coach The Message! The Big Miss for managers is stepping over the myriad of opportunities to coach your people on their message, their ‘languaging,’ their communication.)
- What resources do you need? (Who else do you think needs to be involved in this? How else can I support you around your efforts to complete this?)
- What are you willing to commit to doing/trying/changing (by when)? If you couldn’t use that excuse anymore, how would you move forward?
- When would it make sense for us reconnect to ensure you have achieved the result you want?
Pleasure or Pain – Choose
If you sense any resistance to change or a lack of ownership around the issue, goal or problem, you can weave in one of these questions that either help the person better visualize what success means to them or articulate the implications or consequences by not changing.
What would it mean to you if you could (achieve this, resolve this, etc….)? This question helps the person visualize what’s in it for them – and it’s the thing that they want rather than the manager trying to tell or ‘sell’ them on what the benefit is. [/list_item]
How would this impact/affect you (your team, career, etc.) if this (continues, doesn’t change, doesn’t get resolved)? This question enables the person to see/articulate the measurable cost of not changing rather than being told the negative consequence. Remember, if they say it, then they own it. And if they own it, they act on it. When people feel threatened or hear less than favorable news, quite often it leads to resistance and they in turn shut down.
Great questions stretch the coach and the coachee beyond the typical, superficial, result driven, fire fighting conversation and instead, enable you to create richer, more engaging conversations with superior outcomes.
That is true,. As an author and business man, I can relate to how you said, “if you don’t have a great manager or a coach in your corner, you can also leverage some of these questions for self-coaching!”. I hope more people discover your blog because you really know what you’re talking about. Can’t wait to read more from you!
“No Time To Coach? You Can’t Afford Not To.”
This heading says it, Keith. I firmly believe one of the main roles of the sales manager is to coach, and yet it’s one the main things that continually gets stuffed to the bottom of the pile and quickly forgotten. The problem is that managers have not been given the tools to become good coaches — many times being promoted from sales rep to manager — and they don’t know how to make heads or tails of it. These questions are a great resource to them.
Unfortunately, Jose, you are correct. This is a global epidemic. The
primary role of any manager is to make their people more valuable and
that can only be achieved through effective and consistent coaching.
Unfortunately, until a company and their senior leadership team is
willing to address the limiting and ineffective evolutionary process
from salesperson to sales manager that continues to permeate throughout
organizations, and provide their managers with the training and ongoing
support that’s necessary to become an effective coach, managers are
often left on their own to try and figure out the secret to effective
I find that managers
divert back to being the Chief Problem Solver, rather than coach; not because they often
want to (and many still do!) but because that’s all they know; it’s
their safe zone, regardless of whether or not it’s effective! And let’s
face it, as human beings we avoid doing things that are uncomfortable,
unpredictable and unproven and instead, are more inclined to doing
what’s safe, predictable and comfortable; even if it doesn’t serve us
best. The unfortunate truth is, it’s always safer to say in the realm of
they know (like any human being), rather than take the risk of trying
something that hasn’t been proven yet.
If managers just take a step back and look at these questions, they would realize that these questions are critical to gather the information they need to uncover in every conversation anyway! If they’re not asking these questions, then they wind up making the costly mistake of filling in the facts with assumptions! Thanks!
What you’ve described is not materially different than the questions a great sales person asks a customer during the qualification stages of an opportunity. “What would it mean to you if…, What are you goals regarding X, Are you willing to commit the time and resources to fix X?”
In a sense, you’re spot on Stacie. Actually, when it comes to professional selling and delivering effective coaching, there are in fact many parallels. However, as much as world class selling and coaching have in common, there are many factors that clearly make them distinct. For example, when selling, you want to close your customers, or at least have the customer close themselves. When coaching, the coach/manager needs to fully detach from the outcome, suspend their own agenda and make the coaching process 100% about the coachee so that they can create a new possibility, solution, outcome or way of thinking. While you can say this is also true for sales, the big difference is, when coaching, the coachee creates the new possibility. When selling, the salesperson still has an end objective and an agenda in mind. And when coaching, you certainly don’t want to close the person you’re coaching. If so, then you wind up coaching in your own image and driving your agenda and expectations in the conversation. Thanks for your comment!
Keith Rosen you have written this with Amazing insights. Coaching Conversations if done properly create amazing results.
Just found this wonderful post of yours with your key questions to ask. I’m grateful for your blog post from 2011 and the comment thread you’ve kept going with your thoughtful responses.
I’m coaching people here in Seattle and love finding people like you who are making profound contributions toward creating a learning organization.
Keep growing. If you are ever in Seattle let me know.