While most people want to grow personally and develop in their careers, they are not used to being coached. And after years of being taught, trained, managed, educated, brow-beaten and doubted, many people have a hard time with the concept of coaching, let alone the most critical aspect of coaching – asking great questions. Most training is about teaching skills and the “right answers” to help people improve their work. Most managers answer questions and ask too few. Our parents, our teachers, our colleagues, friends and bosses have doubted us at critical times in our lives. Out of habit, we expect – and are expected by others – to have all the answers, so we are afraid to ask the right questions.
Great coaching focuses on asking questions. Following are a few reasons.
First, even when dissatisfied with our results, we tend to become so attached to our current thinking or methods that learning “another way” feels much like we have done something wrong. As a result, traditional training is perceived as judgmental lecturing or frivolous play and, frankly, much of the time this is true. But when we are given the opportunity to respond to thoughtful, open-ended questions, the judgement is missing and we feel more comfortable to treat issues seriously and earnestly respond.
Second, a common assumption in both corporate training and management practices is that confrontation motivates change. In fact, research shows that confrontation can actually increase unwanted behaviors.
Master influencers including bosses, parents, and effective coaches, replace judgment with empathy and replace lectures with questions.
Skillful use of non-directive questions helps people examine what is most important to them. Questions open us to the changes in our lives that might be necessary to live according to what we value most. When I listen instead of teach, my clients DISCOVER what they must do. They discover what is right and they make the necessary changes.
For example, I am currently coaching a vice president of sales who struggles to stay on track with his long-term goals that sometimes create short-term conflict. I ask him about his purpose and long-term goals, if those remain important priorities, and he gains clarity and renewed focus. I am also helping an organization develop a customer loyalty strategy. I ask lots of questions about what customers want most, what gets in the way, and what management and employees must change to create a service culture that keeps customers coming back for more.
I could teach them a lot, but there is much more they are discovering on their own by answering my tough questions.