How to Make Every Conversation a Coaching Conversation Using One Question

The biggest complaint I hear from managers is they don’t have time to coach, especially when they’re spending most of their time helping their team close more sales, resolve problems and handle customer issues. During these time-sensitive situations, compounded with the pressure to drive results, they feel they must be direct and tell people what they have to do, right? Not exactly.

Here’s a crazy thought. What if you can coach in 60 seconds or less?

That is, instead of acting as the Chief Problem Solver or recovering super-salesperson who takes over their team’s problems, what if you can empower people to resolve their own challenges and become their own Chief Problem Solvers, using just ONE question?

Intrigued? Here’s the scenario. Susanne, one of your employees contacts you in need of help. It seems one of the sales she was counting on to hit quota is now asking for a discount.

Here’s your defining moment. Are you going to solve their problem (and will do so for the rest of her career) and move on to the next burning issue, or instead, use this approach?

“I’m happy to share my opinion with you, Susanne. However, you’re much closer to this (client/situation) than I am, and I trust you and your judgment on this.”

“So, what’s your opinion on how to (resolve this, achieve your desired results, improve customer relationships, etc.)?”

That’s it!

Notice what you’ve accomplished. And in under 60 seconds!

First, you acknowledge that you’ve heard them and will give them what they’re asking for; your opinion. However, in the spirit of coaching, seek to understand and respect the other person’s point of view FIRST, before you share yours.

Then, you’re acknowledging the fact that they are closer to the situation.

Third, telling people you trust them and their judgment builds confidence and trust.

Finally, you’re not asking for a solution, answer, or strategy, as those can be right or wrong. Instead, you’re asking for their opinion.

Opinions are not to be judged. They are not right or wrong but that person’s truth.

Since everyone has an opinion, you will always get a response, avoiding the, “I don’t know boss,” conversation trap where managers then take the bait and provide a solution.

Consider this. In every conversation, when asking for their opinion, there will only be three types of gaps in the solutions they provide.

1. It’s a fully baked solution. If they share a solution that can work, then let them run with it! (And here’s a crazy thought. The solution they came up with was actually better than yours!)

2. They share a half-baked solution or one that, with the ingredients they used, you know is not going to achieve what they need. 

3. They provide a solution that’s not baked at all and you know the ideas they shared will not achieve their desired results.

If you find yourself in situations two and three, here’s how to respond so they feel safe and supported, avoid making them wrong, and continue a coaching dialogue.

Thanks for sharing your opinion, I really appreciate it. Let’s walk through your ideas and together, create the most effective solution that will achieve the results you want.”

Notice, you’re being collaborative, rather than directive.

You’re having a conversation, not conducting an interrogation.

And you’ve uncovered the Gap and Coaching Moment!

Now you know what they know and what they don’t or what was missed in activity, skill, assumptions, knowledge, and attitude. But before you share your ideas, get permission to do so in order for them to understand your positive intent.

Can I share some ideas that would help you achieve the results you want and make you more successful?

After collaborating on a final strategy, new insight, idea, or solution, here’s where you bring the conversation to its natural conclusion.

  1. What are you willing to commit to in activity and/or result? By when?
  2. How can I hold you accountable/be your accountability partner in an empowering way that will make you feel valued and supported, and not micromanaged?
  3. When should we reconnect to ensure you have achieved the results you want?
  4. How are you feeling about our conversation? What new possibility did we open up here?

Finally, determine the next steps, a follow-up time, the value they received from coaching, and request a debrief email to instill personal accountability and ensure alignment of commitments.

Now that you can no longer complain about not having time to coach, start using this strategy in your next conversation!

After all, if you have time to give an answer, you have the time to ask a question and coach.