Deep listening, bold questions, and action steps are the cores skills that function as the building blocks of effective coaching. Bold questions is in the middle of this list for a reason.
The holy grail of being a coach is asking that question that causes the client to think. It’s a moment that can’t be undervalued, in impact for the client, and truthfully, enjoyment for the coach. Think back to your recent coaching sessions: there was a moment where you asked a question and the client was quiet. You could almost feel their brain moving, thinking through all the options your question caused, and beginning to prepare an answer that would be forming as they were saying it.
Moments like those, are why coaching is so powerful. Drawing out of another person exactly what they’re thinking, and what’s most important to them–well, there’s nothing better in a coaching relationship.
But how can you improve your question-asking skills so that these moments happen more often? I want to suggest forming your questions around a core set of ideas I call BAM! will take you there. BAM! questions are called that partly because the pieces of a given situation seem to all of a sudden BAM! together and make sense. But the acronym B-A-M also focuses the areas where BAM! questions have the most chance of making an impact.
- Behavior—The first focus for a BAM! question is behavior, meaning things you can actually do differently. Sometimes these are simple changes, but other times they require multiple action steps–or even multiple coaching conversations–to get to the point where what you’re doing actually changes. Examples of behavior questions are: “What are you going to do differently this month?”, “What might be the related outcomes that this behavior might cause?” and “What results can you anticipate from doing this particular thing?”
- Attitude–The “A” in BAM! stands for attitude. These questions focus on the mindset behind the behavior. Examples are questions like: “How is your previous experience or relationships affecting your thoughts about this issue?”, “What is your outlook about this particular situation/task?” or “How might your ideas be conflicting with your big picture vision?” An attitude question seeks to dig deep, focusing on existing thougths that might be behind a particular behavior. Attitude questions can also challenge clients to think more deeply about what circumstances might affect their actions. As a coach you have an opportunity to help a client instill new thought patterns, beginning with attitude.
- Motivation–Motivation questions work on an even deeper level–closely connecting core values or key beliefs in a client to what they’re doing on a day-in/day-out basis. Without deep clarity about what’s important to the client, motivation questions often fall flat. The coach has to understand the relationship, and the client has to have a fairly high level of self-awareness for these questions to be most effective. Many coaches say they don’t ask motivation questions until well into a coaching relationship because they require a more solid relationship. Examples of this kind of question include “How does this action help you live out your values?”, “What makes this so important to you, and what you’re trying to accomplish? “, And “where might be the best option for you to actually move toward your vision? “
There are other kinds of questions as well, each designed to accomplish a different purpose. Some other examples include: Commitment (probing what risk the client is willing to take), Situation (helping the client understand current circumstances) and Assessment (gathering data about a given situation).
Start listening to the questions you asking your coaching conversations… I suspect you’ll find plenty of opportunities to focus on in these three key areas.