Be Like A Coach: Ask These Questions In Everyday Conversations

What makes a conversation a coaching conversation? There could be many answers. And some common denominators are 

  • A trusted, safe place to untangle one’s thoughts
  • A wise, sounding board who is on your side
  • Thought-provoking, powerful questions, helping the client/coachee think through their challenges.

 The core premise of ICF coaching is, the client is whole, capable, creative, and resourceful. The coach’s job is to facilitate the process for the client so that the client can untangle their thoughts and get clarity to make progress towards a goal that is meaningful to them. Often the client doesn’t have a clear goal; they come to the coach with a pain point, and the coach helps them sort through it.

Coaching has become a leadership competency as it helps the leaders to empower their people to think for themselves. As an important byproduct, It frees up the leader’s time for more strategic

 Fig 1: 4 Types of Coaching Questions

work. Ideally, if a leader can go through an ICF approved coach training program that would be a great long-term investment. For the starters, I have created this simple model so that the leaders can get a sense of a coach-like approach and apply it in a 1:1 conversation with their teams. 

4 Types of Coaching Questions*

A coaching session is a container where the creative, thought-provoking conversations happen. There are four types of questions a coach asks, usually in this following order.

  1. Agreement -Topic, desired outcome, duration/time

Examples: What is the topic? What is the focus of the session? What is the desired outcome of this conversation?…

  1. Exploration of the topic

Examples: What does the ideal outcome look like? Where are you now? What does help you to be your best? What is the gap? What else is possible? What if …?…

  1. Integrate the learning

Examples: What have you learned so far? What is next? What are you taking away? …

  1. Accountability -A time-bound action to follow through the learning.

Examples: What will you act on? By when? What is your timeframe?…

 Fig 2: 4 Qualities of a Coaching Session[/caption]

4 Qualities of a Coaching Session

If you have been in a coaching session, you may have noticed that the questions seem very natural as if the coach was tracking your mind. How does that happen? To be attuned with the client, the coach has to bring themselves fully into the session. The qualities are:

1. Presence – Clear your mind, bring your focus to the person in front of you.
2. Listening – Listen to learn, hold off the urge to formulate your response.
3. Curiosity – Hold of judgment, tap into your curiosity.
4. Empathy – Remember a time you were in their shoes.

As I distilled my 11 years of understanding in this simple model, I hope that the leaders and managers use this tool in their 1:1 conversations to help the employees to think for themselves, find their own answers. It doesn’t replace the need for mentoring/advice-giving, direct feedback, and other management responsibilities, though. Giving our judgment-free attention to someone, being curious on their behalf, is a gift. It takes practice, reflection, and feedback from a mentor coach, but in the end, the reward is priceless!

*This model was presented at the Learnapalooza Innovation Jam 2020 Conference on September 11th.

Sharmin Banu (She/Her)