Asking Solution Oriented Questions

solution oriented questionsWhen you first start coaching, it’s hard to sit back and allow the client time to explore. One sign that you’re pushing too hard is when you begin to ask Solution Oriented Questions (SOCs). Here are a few examples:

1. Could you find that information on the Internet?

2. How about if you took a class in that?

3. Would it work if you gave both options and let her choose?

Solution oriented questions are solutions developed by the coach and offered in the form of a question. We know we aren’t supposed to tell, so we cleverly pose our advice with a question mark on the end. Again, the way to change this habit is to work backwards: identify the problem that you originally solved in your head, and ask the client to solve it instead of giving the answer. Here are three questions that could replace the SOCs above:

1. Where could you find that information?

2. How could you educate yourself in that area?

3. What kind of process would lead to a decision that you both feel good about?

These questions are much bigger, and allow clients to find their own answers instead of being spoon-fed. Solutions developed by your clients have higher buy-in, increasing the likelihood that they’ll be implemented. They’ll also be more likely to work, since your clients’ own ideas are based on greater information about the situation and about their own capabilities.

Below are four ways to recognize if your question is solution-oriented:

  1. It is a closed question.
  2. It asks for agreement with a proposition—would you, could you, shouldn’t you, how about if you.
  3. You can subtract a few words from the front and get a statement.
  4. The coach is proposing a solution in the form of a question.

Tony Stoltzfus is a best-selling author, leadership coach, master coach trainer and director of the Leadership Metaformation Institute. Additional information on the role of questions in the coaching relationship can be found in Tony’s book,Leadership Coaching.