Coaching Questions that Help Individuals Move Forward

We regularly hear that managers and leaders should coach their teams, but being “coach-like” has a variety of interpretations. Ask any number of leaders and you’ll hear answers that range from teaching and skills training to giving advice, giving answers or suggestions, learning from a coach’s experience, and thought-partnership to generate new perspectives, challenge assumptions, and create new possibilities.

As you’re driving for business results, knowing what distinguishes coaching from other tactics can help make sure you’re deploying the right approach at the right moment with the right person, to achieve the right outcomes.

One way that coaching stands out from other types of performance focused conversations is its inherent perspective on who has the answers. So, if you’re tired from “coaching” your employees, maybe it’s because you’re working too hard giving answers instead of asking questions that elicit the solutions from employees’ unique experience.

Take a look at the scenarios below and the corresponding list of questions. Sometimes there isn’t one clear or right way ahead. These might be exactly the moments when a coaching conversation will be most helpful.

Employee scenario 1: I know I don’t have the skills to do my job, and I’m not sure my organization will get me the training I need any time soon. In the meantime, I’m falling short on my performance metrics and losing confidence along the way. What else can I do if I’m not going to be sent to training?

  • What do you believe is at risk if you don’t get a handle on this?
  • How much do you care about getting the skills you need?
  • What would it look like to take your professional development into your own hands?
  • Who are your allies?
  • What options can you create?
  • What are 2 immediate actions you can take that will change your situation?
  • What are you putting off?
  • In what area of your life can you create some quick wins?

Employee Scenario 2: Things are running along smoothly but I feel like this is the calm before the storm. I want to spend this time getting ahead, but am not sure where to start.

  • What is driving you?
  • What is the big picture perspective on this?
  • What are your priorities?
  • Where can you better align with the organization’s mission?
  • What conditions help you (your team) be at your best?
  • What message do you want to send?
  • What does “getting ahead” look like?
  • What haven’t you explored?
  • What are your assumptions?
  • What is needed now?

The questions above are certainly not exhaustive, and any one question, depending on the person, context and timing, is not a sure-fire game changer. That said, coaching conversations are a complement, not a replacement, to the variety of other conversations you will have with your employees.

Take time with some of the questions above that stand out to you.

Look for moments when you don’t have to hold the one “right” answer, and get comfortable asking big, open-ended questions that truly allow your employees to generate their most motivating next steps.

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