Monday 1 March 2010

Powerful Questions.......



I'm currently Coaching in an organisation where they're learning how to Coach and Mentor their Sales Teams. This is a great piece of work. We just started to work with the magic of 'Powerful Questions'. This is a key Coaching competency and I thought I'd share a context and a few examples with you. This is a life skill and one that's essential if you want to increase your Influence and powers of Persuasion both inside and outside of work!

There are many models available if you want to learn how to Coach. You can Google them; GROW/ CLEAR etc. Coaching is an excellent way of channelling a conversation from the broad and vague to the narrow and specific. This helps you understand the cause of an issue. It becomes CLEAR allowing you explore some new options. Finally there should be a commitment to actions.....Powerful questions can happen at any stage during a Coaching session, often times at the early stages of the discussion. The role of powerful questions is really 2 fold:
  1. To raise new awareness in the Coachee around something (Aha moment, insight etc)

  2. To cause the Coachee to stop in their tracks and be reflective about the question.

The 'power' of the question raises awareness and is a gateway to a 'shift' for the person being Coached. The Coachee usually goes quiet and is often thinking and being deeply impacted by something that's deeply meaningful to them. They see the issue differently, often more clearly. There is both beauty and magic in these moments. This helps people 'access that which they already know' or their own latent wisdom. It proves what we claim in Coaching...the Coachee has all the answers. A good Coach therefore MUST excel at powerful questions........If not, they are probably Consulting or Mentoring or giving advice....Without questions, it's very difficult to 'Ask', you're more likely to 'Tell'............Coaching is about asking!

So I hear you ask, give us some examples of 'Powerful Questions'........Take for example a father, worried about his son's approach to a major exam.

- "I'm really worried about my son, he doesn't seem to be taking his exams seriously"........

"Is that real or imaginary.......?" Is a Powerful Question. It invites the person being Coached to reflect on this situation. It may be that at their age, this is how they behaved and are worried for their son. Their son may have a different work pattern and be doing fine...also they may not. So it helps objectify if the concern is genuine.....If it is..........

Here's another question............"How do you address this with your son....?" The key then is to WAIT (allow space). A range of answers can be; (a) I suffer silently, (b) we argue (c) I get some articles on doing well in school and leave them in his room etc.......A follow-on Powerful Question could be; "Knowing your son as you do, what could or should you do...?" What tends to happen a lot is people say "What I'm beginning to realise is............ " then their own wisdom is revealed. The energy unleashed from this is where Coaching's real benefit lies. This fresh insight often removes a 'blockage/barrier' and the simplicity of the next required action provides a momentum all of it's own.........CHANGE has ALREADY taken place. A good Coach will then check for Accountability, Follow-Up and clarity of action and purpose............Viola, excellent Coaching! The Coach has never met the son and all that's happened is Coaching has provided the channel for this work to take place. Powerful Questions are enablers that allow this to take place with the person who came in with the problem doing most of the work!

It is possible to use other approaches to help people, silence, reflecting back, summarising etc. A properly framed question often brings an issue into sharp focus. CLARITY follows and very quickly so too does ACTION.........I'm amazed at how much can be achieved even in 15 minutes when Coach and Coachee meet in an uncluttered space.

Where to start...? How about next time you feel like telling it like it is or giving people the benefit of your own wisdom, take a step back, think about a suitable question that allows them take ownership of their own problem...? That will help them even more. What in fact you're doing at a more subtle level is honouring and investing in this relationship. By respecting the person enough to allow them feel they know what to do themselves if properly supported and given a safe space to explore an issue, this builds a level of trust that's rooted in pure love. That builds a special bond. Think about what that could do for your key relationships at home and at work....?Anyway enough philosophising for now!

This vital life skill can be honed very effectively over time to great effect.

Let me know how you get on............Slings, arrows and successes all very welcome!

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