Questioning skills for managers and coaches

Questioning is one of the three Principal Instruments of Coaching (that include listening and silence). Questions are used in coaching to: 

  • Provide more information for both coach and coachee
  • Assist the coachee to explore available realities

Questioning can be approached such that the coachee explores their issue and reaches motivated targets without the coach having to understand anything about the situation. For example, the people involved and the time or place to which the issue relates. This type of questioning is sometimes called context-free questioning/coaching (more later).

Questioning supports coaching in many ways. Here are just some examples:

  • Developing understanding of the issue and its context
  • Exploring historical situations with positive outcomes
  • Defining what is in the control and what is out of control of the coachee
  • Redefining the target(s) and the time-scales to success
  • Encouraging new perceptions
  • Helping the coachee to fully associate (experience) their situation/state
  • Helping the coachee to disassociate from their situation and be more objective
  • Re-evaluating value-judgments
  • Revisiting limiting beliefs
  • Recognition of patterns
  • Evaluating behaviors in the context of the coachee’s identity and values
  • Defining the level of certainty the coachee has about their success (motivation)

Questions can help define the boundaries of the coachee’s world-view. Questions can also assist them to re-evaluate those boundaries and extend what is possible.

for more on open and closed questions and context-free questions

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