Whitmore, John Coaching for Performance Nicholas Brealey Publishing 2009
Questions Tool for Coaching
(text of video)
Fulfilling potential requires that people work because of intrinsic motivation—when they come to a task because they have enthusiasm for it, because it is important to them, and not out of compliance with someone else’s direction. Intrinsic motivation is also facilitated by bringing one’s own ideas to a situation.
The heart of coaching
This is why the heart of coaching is asking questions—an astonishingly simple but very powerful method. After all, only through asking questions can we know what is important to others and what ideas they have for taking action.
This very simple approach is incredibly difficult to pull off regularly and effectively due to stress and complexity of work. These factors quite often narrow range of thinking and diminish creativity and curiosity in everyone. This leads to a strong tendency to just want to get to the answers or just give direction. Also, our diminished creative powers can make it feel that any benefits from the type of exploration that is part of coaching will require a lot of time.
In fact, any time you take to ask people questions instead of giving direction—even for five or ten minutes—will raise the chances for increased motivation and engagement.
Tips for when there is No Time
Here are tips to keep in mind when you feel there is No Time and your impulse is to provide answers.
- Create a habit prior to meetings of checking on your sense of pressure. Remind yourself of your desire to maximize other’s potential.
- Keep in mind a simple series of steps to guide rather than direct problem solving through asking questions. My steps are to:
(b) ask about the desired state or goals;
(c) ask about options for action—expanding beyond one option to 3 or 4 helps with creativity;
(d) and I close by asking what option will be chosen for action.
The emphasis with others is on their goals, their ideas, and their choices of action.
When time is limited, you can focus on just one part of the problem solving approach. For example, just ask questions about the current state and then ask the person to come back later with thoughts on their goals and a couple of options.
I also keep in mind a few questions about intrinsic motivation that can facilitate engagement in problem solving. For example, when exploring the desired state or goals, I might ask “What would you be most enthusiastic about accomplishing here?” See above for a link to a tool to help with this coaching process along with questions to facilitate motivation.
Of course, there are times you have to provide direction instead of coaching but there are different ways to do that which can facilitate or inhibit future efforts at coaching. This will be the subject of next month's article and video.
Enable creativity to emerge
The good news here is that the time pressures and stress of work tend to have such a strong negative impact on creative thinking that just taking time to ask a few questions can be surprisingly effective in helping others to bring forth their best thinking.