One of your most important tasks as a CEO is getting work done through others. When you are the leader, it’s easy for others to look to you for the answers. As you coach others, you may fall into the trap of telling and giving instructions. After all, you have valuable experience and expertise to offer.
Telling others what to do only goes so far. It works well when the question is straightforward and the answer is obvious. More often, the situation is complex, and there is often more than one right answer. Your job is to help your coachee think, rather than think for your coachee.
The good news here is that you don’t have to have all the answers. Great coaches inquire,asking powerful questions to uncover what’s really important, and enable others to tap into their own knowledge and expertise.
What is a powerful question? It is NOT a “statement disguised as a question,” like this one: “Have you tried working from home one day per week do give yourself more time for strategic thinking?” Notice that this is a closed, yes-or-no question, and the questioner probably has a “right” answer in mind. It’s a suggestion, not a question. It’s perfectly fine to make a suggestion; just don’t mistake it for a powerful question.
Powerful questions are open-ended, and asked with genuine curiosity. The next time you feel compelled to jump in with ideas and suggestions, consider getting curious instead, and help someone develop their own insight. Here are some powerful questions to get you going.
The next time you feel compelled to quickly jump in with ideas and suggestions, first get truly curious. Ask questions without attachments to the answers. Here are some powerful questions to get you going.
Ask these to understand what is important to someone else.
Ask these to shift focus from what’s wrong to what’s possible.
Ask these to generate ideas.
Ask these to help someone figure out what to do next.
Coaches can and should offer observations, feedback, guidance, and advice based on what they know and have seen before. When you take the time to ask powerful questions, you may need to offer less than you think.