Have you ever left a conversation thinking, “Boy, that was one-sided. The whole conversation was about him.” My wife calls that “a lack of conversational generosity”. We all hate it when others can’t stop talking about their own thoughts and ideas—but we’re blind to how often we do it ourselves. The coaching approach forces your conversations to become less about your thoughts, your input, and how you can steer the dialogue around to the answer you think will work. Asking profound questions gets you to start listening—really listening—to the other person. You decrease what you say, so that they can increase. And that’s where the magic happens: the more you listen, the more you see how capable they are, how much they can do with a little encouragement, and what a wonderful individual they are. The more you ask questions, the more you love. To help you with this I listed five of my top reasons to adopt coaching questions in your conversations.
1. All the Information is with the Coachee
Nobody knows more about you than you. Since all the memories of it are stored in your head, you are the resident expert on your life. So if we’re, say, trying to improve your relationship with a co-worker, you can call up years of memories of working with that person, list what you’ve tried so far or what’s worked with others in the past, describe the organizational culture at work, etc. As the coach, you don’t know any of that (until you ask questions). So the coachee always knows far more about the situation than you do.
2. Asking Profound Questions Creates Buy-In
Coaching starts with the assumption that the key to change is not knowing what to do—its being motivated to do it. Research (and experience confirms) that people are more motivated to carry out their own ideas and solutions. What that means is that a less-optimal solution the coachee develops often produces better results than the “right” answer. Asking questions creates buy-in, and buy-in gets results.
3. Asking Profound Questions Empowers
I’ve made an interesting discovery as a coach. People often ask for coaching for a major decision. Probably 80% of the time, we realize that they already know what to do: they just don’t have the confidence to step out and do it. Self-confidence is a huge factor in change. When you ask people’s opinion and take it seriously, you are sending a powerful message: “You have great ideas. I believe in you. You can do this.” Just asking can empower people to do things they couldn’t do on their own.
4. Asking Profound Questions Develops Leadership Capacity
Leadership is the ability to take responsibility. A leader is someone who sees a problem, and says, “Hey—someone needs to do something about this! And I’m going to be that someone.” Simply asking, “What could you do about that?” moves people away from depending on you for answers, and toward taking leadership in the situation. Asking builds the responsibility muscle, and that develops leaders.
5. Asking Profound Questions Creates Authenticity
We all want to be known, and loved. There is no greater relational gift than to have someone see the real you and value you for it. The art of asking creates a bond between people, because simply by asking we honor and value them, and because taking the time to ask significant questions (and listen to the answers!) communicates that we really want to know them. The asking approach is the quickest way I know to build trust and transparency between people. And when we are talking about the things we really care about, we’re making changes that really transform us.
Tony Stoltzfus is a coach, author, master coach trainer and director of the Leadership Metaformation Institute.