The art and science of coaching inquiry.
Questions are definitely one of the most powerful tools within the coaching process. It is through this ability to skillfully inquire about the nuances of the client’s story that the coach is able to create the fertile ground for awareness to surface. Coaches are always working on polishing their questioning skills so they can be even better equipped to support their coachee in this process of exploration and discovery.
But what is the secret? How can a coach create these masterful statements that will serve as an open the door for the client to deepen their awareness of their situation?
One thing I’ll tell you right off of the bat: powerful questions do not come from a book or a list of questions. While it can be informative to go through these collections, it is important to remember that these individual questions are placed out of context. They are not associated with a specific setting and a real client situation. Therefore, if we use them randomly, they will most likely fall flat and not be able to serve the moment.
Another myth about powerful questions is the belief that there is this transformative, magical, sometimes even miraculous question that will be the apex of the coaching conversation, transforming the client’s lives – this question that seems to exist in the Elysian Fields of coaching that we all aspire to have access to. While I myself have experienced countless moments of true shift happening within my clients, I do not believe there is such a thing as the “Holy Grail” of questioning that we must discover or manifest somehow. There is no such a thing as this dreamlike question, and to stay preoccupied with constructing this enchanted statement will only blind us even further to the true moment the client is in.
Bottom line, powerful questions come from two main sources – presence and listening.
It is when a coach has the courage to trust the process and position themselves in a true connection with their clients, moment by moment by moment, listening with a depth of curiosity and sincere interest in who the client is that the most relevant questions come to the surface.
And relevant is an important word here. Powerful questions are those that are closely connected to where the client is in that particular instance. Powerful questions come from a place of complete synchronicity with where the client is and only presence can provide us with it.
Powerful questions do not live in the past or the future. They can only exist in the present. Even if we are able to craft that perfect statement, if the client moves on, that question is most likely not applicable anymore. The moment has past and so must we. On the other hand, saving a question, waiting for the client to arrive at a certain place in time is just a waste of energy and prevents us from being in the now and doing what we can do here.
Powerful questions come when we are able to listen beyond the story and connect with the essence of our client and the client’s situation. It is when we see the human being in front of us, accepting all their complexities and intricacies, daring to open our minds and heart to this individual that questions begin to flow.
Three technical points a coach must keep in mind…
But aside from the technical points, remember, coaching is human-to-human experience. It is when we dare to go to the core of this human connection that we will easily find our questions. This is a muscle to develop, but a part that already lives in all of us. We are built for connection and it is when we learn how to surrender to it that we will notice the instinctive ways of supporting the other through our curiosity and objective empathy.
As a mentor coach, I am always giving feedback to my students and mentees helping them develop their coaching skills and prepare for their certification with the ICF. ForCoaches is a place where I can publicly share some of my insights and experiences. What does it mean to be a truly effective coach?