You’ve heard the expression, “give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day; but give a man a net, and he’ll be able to feed his family for a lifetime”? The same principle applies when coaching clients.
If you give your client the answers (providing you have them, of course), they won’t benefit from the value of the lesson. The solution will be a one-time deal. However, if you empower your client to identify causes, analyse behaviours, and create solutions for themselves, not only will they continue to go from strength to strength, but they will keep coming back to you time and again, knowing you were the magic that made everything better.
How do you put this power into your clients’ hands? The key is in the questions.
Knowing the right questions to ask is essential to the success of your coaching practice. Of course, there are many questions you could ask; but once you master the six most important questions, you can adapt them for pretty-much any scenario.
“What would be your most valued outcome as a result of this session?”
This question hones your session in on a specific result. Without an end game, your session might meander aimlessly and end up going nowhere. However, by focusing on an ideal scenario (not for the bigger picture, but just for that particular session) you are helping your client out of a crippling sense of overwhelm, encouraging the kinds of baby steps that make problem-solving much easier to tackle. Establishing where they will arrive progress-wise by the end of the hour will enforce the value of your services too.
“Which do you think are the key areas to discuss today?”
Asking this question aligns the session to the opinions of the client, rather than your own. Though it might be tempting to advise them based on your assessment of the situation, your opinion on what should be done is irrelevant. No one knows the challenges they face better than the client, so let them dictate the direction of the session from the outset. This will also give you an opportunity to learn the most you can about the client’s own thoughts about their issue(s).
“What insights have you had so far?”
Once you have conducted some active enquiry into the current state of business affairs with the client, ask this question to stimulate the discussion further and help them develop their take on things. Also, listen carefully for indications of the progress made so far.
“What would you like to talk about next?”
This question helps to refocus the conversation. It reminds the client to come back to the key areas of discussion they listed at the start of the session. This will do wonders for their confidence and add value to their experience.
“What steps can you take right away to achieve your goal?”
This is an important one. Establishing actionable items to use as a to-do list will illustrate to the client exactly what needs to be done to get the ball rolling. It makes the task less daunting if they know they can tackle it a little at a time and still affect the wider outcome. Also, it will motivate the client to take immediate action as a direct result of the session.
“What, for you, has been the most important thing to come out of this session?”
This final question will highlight the time you’ve spent together as a value-added service. You may realize that you’ve achieved all that the client set out to achieve at the start of the session. They may have gotten something else entirely out of it. Either way, check that they’re happy with everything discussed. If they’re not, schedule a future session in which unresolved areas of discussion will be addressed.
In summary, Putting the session in the client’s control makes them accountable to set things in motion. Allowing them to speak and to lead the session gives them ownership of their predicament and the fixing of it – further encouraging them to act. Most importantly, these questions maintain a sense of positive reinforcement, rather than focussing on any negativity stemming from ‘what if’ mentality.
Train their eyes on the prize, get them to identify everything in their power that can be done, and guide them there one step at a time. Do that, and both coach and client will see the true value that can come of these critical questions.
Andrew Neitlich is the founder and director of the Center for Executive Coaching, a leading coach training organization based in Central Florida. Neitlich is author of five books and received his MBA from Harvard Business School.
Andrew and WBECS partnered to create Coach Master Toolkit – the ultimate package of frameworks for professional coaches. To find out more about CMT, visit http://www.wbecs.com/cmt/program today!
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