Throughout your executive coaching career, one of the skills you refine is the art of asking your client questions. This is a crucial element of your coaching approach, which is ultimately aimed at solving issues. The more thoughtful and probing your questions, the more you’ll reach potential solutions. For example:
- You ask certain questions to understand the client’s history: the events or thoughts from the past, their feelings about certain outcomes or mistakes, experiences with other people, etc. Answers to these questions help coaches frame the present state.
- Other questions are meant to have the leader reflect on principles: about right and wrong, wisdom and imprudence, the essence of leadership, beneficial and detrimental leadership styles, etc.
- Personal questions explore the client as a leader: their needs, thoughts, concerns, habits and challenges. This is how you learn the most about this person, revealing who they really are, how they think and make decisions, how they relate with people (or don’t). You want them to reflect on their tendencies, with the goal of helping them see what may need to change.
The Power of Why
You may provoke some awkward or tense moments. Your client may not like a question. Ask why. They may not know how to answer a question (or may not want to). Again, find out why. Experienced coaches aren’t bothered by silence. Ask how they’re feeling when it occurs.
Part of the skill behind asking tough questions is the style in which they’re asked. Sensitivity and respectfulness is balanced with intentionality or firmness. Above all, show your client they are valued. This solemn duty must be honored for coaching success.
What kind of experiences have you had in asking clients questions? What are your favorite kinds of questions to ask? Which ones have offered you the best responses? We’d love to hear from you; send us an email.