“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” – George Bernard Shaw
The art of asking questions as it relates to professional coaching. A coach accompanies a client’s dialog, where the client focuses on desired outcomes. For the coach the desired goal is to create a space during the dialog within the client can grow. This is an emerging process. A dialog is when, through the words people speak, they structure the meaning. This is different than a discussion.
Coaches must consider that clients are experts in their own fields. In the coaching relationship, the client is thought to be the sole person capable of finding the answers to their objectives. It would be a fool’s game to think that a client has not exhausted all ideas and possible solutions and considered them, yet put them aside that any coach would think of or consider. This may be different when it comes to recovery coaching. In most cases the coach will be the expert on recovery and the client the expert on using. In some situations, the client may be the expert on both they may have decades of experience in both arenas.
Coaches must put their egos in check and remember this is not about them, it’s about the client. Clients aren’t fools! The coach should not ask questions from the head, from the ego, or pride. Coaches should not try to outsmart clients. Chances are that the client already tried to work things out on their own and failed. That’s why they called a coach.
A person who already feels hopeless, will feel like they’re at another dead end. They feel like there is no way to solve their problem. Their perception is where the problem sits; in their mind their goals and objectives are not reachable. The coach doesn’t want to use the same process that the client did. The coach’s job is to help the client to define the problem and/or the solution in a different way. Powerful coaching questions will accomplish this.
To understand direct communication and powerful questioning, you need to understand a little bit about human communication.
Words 7% of communication.
Tones and Inflections 38% of communication.
Body Language 55% of Communication
Needless to say, your tones, inflection, and body language are actually more important than the words you say. A true Master Coach must learn to be an expert here. It’s not only what the coach and client say, it’s what they don’t say as well. When there is conflict between words and body language, clients will always believe the coach’s body language first.
Why is the most powerful word; however, it is also complicated. When you start a question with the word why you can put clients on the defensive and can solicit a great deal of information. How and what are the most popular power words in powerful questioning. Good questions reflect active listening and an understanding of the client’s perspective, evoke discovery, insight, commitment or action. Ask open-ended questions that create greater clarity and that move the client toward their goal, not questions that ask for the client to justify or look backward. Questions should be clear, articulate and direct in sharing and providing feedback, using metaphor and analogy to help to illustrate a point or paint a verbal picture. Beware of rapid fire questions, negative interrogations, and closed questions.
“Words have power.” – Mira Grant
Coaches should empower clients; coaches need to remember to put the clients at the center of the process, focusing on achieving the client’s goals and ambitions. Coaches can accomplish this by formulating questions that suggest that clients take an active role in the relationship. Professional coaches regularly gain respect by asking their clients for permission before asking closed personal questions.
Are a prerequisite to knowledge, learning, and change.
Take us into the future.
Help us find solutions, goals, and objectives.
Challenge old thinking and assumptions.
Motivate change in thought.
Show us insight and information.
Get to the truth, past excuses and manipulations.
Let’s put it all together! Remember that coaching is client and goal driven; the client must always set the goal. You start a session where you and the client will not have any interruptions. You start the conversation; be the alpha! A great question to start a session with is, “What would you like to accomplish this session?” Then, depending on the client’s answer you go deeper from there. If the client has trouble setting a short-term goal, the coach can ask a question like, “What is the most important thing for you to achieve today, and what will happen if you don’t?” These are very powerful coaching questions. Active listening, paraphrasing, and the other core competencies, coaching skill sets, and tools will separate the masters from the novices here. The coach’s job is to help the client to reach solution; powerful questioning is one of the greatest tools the coach has to help the client reach victory!
“Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.” – Voltaire
Powerful questioning during direct communication as a core competency for Professional Coaches is a skill that takes a lifetime to master. Over time with more and more practice, I see coaches getting excellent skill sets and the wisdom that comes with experience. I have only touched on the tip of the iceberg here. If you would like to learn more about powerful questioning or the other core competencies, skills and tools of coaching, give us a call at The Addictions Academy at 800-706-0318. We are holding monthly webinars, self-study courses, and live classes all year round.
Dr. Cali Estes