Communication /Voice Leadership Management

Four Questioning Techniques for Coaching Conversations

“Human resources are like natural resources; they’re often buried deep. You have to go looking for them, they’re not just lying around on the surface. You have to create the circumstances where they show themselves.” – Sir Ken Robinson

Coaching conversations allow managers to create circumstances where talents of team members, often buried deep, are discovered.

Managers aspiring to have more coaching-based rather than review-based conversations, can use these four questioning approaches:

1.     Ask vs. tell

Often when we’re in management mode, it’s natural to transfer information from a place of seniority and greater expertise. While there is value in sharing of experiences, coaching conversations tend to “ask” rather than “tell”.

For example, instead of telling your team member what the options are in a given situation, you would ask, “What are your options?”

Coaching conversations seek to empower rather than manage. Participatory conversations about change bring about greater commitment to a call for action.

2.      Forward- vs. backward-looking

When faced with an issue, it’s easy to get caught up in details without appreciating the overall goal. Coaching conversations are spear-headed by a vision. 

For example, instead of asking “What happened?” you may ask, “What are you hoping to achieve in this area?”

Embrace the big picture rather than grapple with details right away. 

3.     Solution-oriented vs. blame/problem-focused

Coaching conversations seek to orient us towards solutions rather than problems. Focusing on problems often spirals into a finger-pointing exercise. 

For example, instead of discussing what went wrong, you may ask, “What are some alternatives to move forward?” 

Exploring options can indirectly address underlying causes. 

4.     Positively- vs negatively-framed

Re-framing can turn a performance conversation from a dreaded experience to an inspiring one.

For example, instead of asking “What is stopping you from taking action?” you may ask, “What would help you get started?”

The focus could be on resources and support rather than obstacles.

Effective coaching is an essential skillset in your leadership toolbox. Often, a manager needs to facilitate insights instead of direct behaviour. More conversations along these lines foster interpersonal relationships across levels rather than reinforce the manager-report hierarchy. 

Often, commitment to employee experience automatically improves client experience. Employees transfer their positive engagement with management to client interactions. Responsibility, accountability and commitment have to be mined to translate into performance and service excellence. 

Leave a Reply