I still remember the first time I had to do a coaching session with one of my team members during a design thinking project. I felt super insecure and was afraid to say or ask the wrong things: "who was I, at 26 years old, with only a little bit of professional experience to start coaching others?" Yes, I was suffering from the imposter syndrom! Over the years, I met other coaches, learned that they also sometimes doubted themselves and that in the end it was all about finding your own way of coaching, and trusting your instincts and gut feeling. Little by little, through a lot of exercising and research, I found my own identity as a coach and saw that I had nothing to be insecure about. What worked and still works greatly for me is staying curious, using my empathy skills, and also using the right questions! Because, in the end, I strongly believe that every person has the answer to their questions or problems within them. They sometimes just need a little push in the right direction.
Today we would like to share some coaching questions that we love to use during development sessions with our teams or team leaders. They will allow to find focus, assess current situations, look at what's holding someone back, open up possibilities, and define what is needed to achieve success.
Try them out and let us know what you think!
1. What's on your mind?
This question is perfect as an opening question. During development sessions with one of your team members, it is important not to force any subjects on them. Every person knows best what is holding them back and what they would like to work on. A great first question to ask is "what's on your mind?," This will allow space for the coachee to tell you what he or she feels comfortable talking about in that session. It opens the way to talk about the thing that matter most to them.
2. What’s the real challenge here for you?
Often the first problem we express is not the one that needs solving the most. This question will help you find the real problem that needs the coachee's attention the most and makes it personal. If the coachee tells you about different challenges, try asking following question: "if you had to pick up one of these to focus on, which one would be the real challenge for you?”
3. What do you need most right now?
Many times, people fail to look at what is most important first. Asking the question, "What do you need most right now?" is powerful because it helps the person to prioritize what is most important and needs immediate attention. We all have limited time, so being forced to focus on the most pressing needs as well as delineate the order of less important needs is critical.
4. How can I help?
To quote Brené Brown on this: "we don't have to do all of it alone. We were never meant to." show your coachee that it is okay to ask for the help that he or she needs. Besides, it forces your coachee to make a direct and clear request on how you can help and in what format, putting the accountability with them. For those among us that love to solve problems (myself included), it might help you to stop thinking of how you can best help, leaping into action, without first asking for your coachee's input. Or as Edgar Schein puts it in his book “Helping”: "when you offer to help someone, you “one up” yourself, you raise your status and you lower theirs, whether you mean it or not." Something we all want to avoid in a safe team environment.
5. What was most useful for you?
People don’t really learn when you tell them something – they don’t really learn when they do something. They start learning, start creating neural pathways only when they have a chance to recall and reflect on what just happened. Chris Argyris coined the term “double loop learning” – in the first loop, you are trying to fix a problem and the second loop is about creating a learning moment about the issue at hand. It is in the second loop where people pull back and find the insight which will help on the path of growth. Asking this question will stimulate that second loop. On top of that, this will also help you grow as a coach. It helps me to learn on what to do more of next time and it reassured me a lot in the beginning that I was being useful as a coach, even when just asking questions!
Some tips when using these questions
We noticed that there are two different conversations a team leader has with their team: day-to-day work and performance, and development. Make sure to frame the coaching session as a development session and not just a F2F. By framing the conversation as development, you will not fall in the trap of discussing day-to-day issues.
Stay curious, practive active listening, and ask follow-up questions to get to the root of the problem. This will increase trust with your team member and that person will feel heard more. Examples:
Can you tell me more?
And what else?
Why do you think that is?
These questions and tips will help you building your coaching habit as a team leader, resulting in a more self-sufficient team that is more focused and reconnected to the work that has impact as well as meaning. And, most importantly, you are helping others unlocking their potential! Don't hesitate to share other insights or coaching questions that you love to use in the comments!