Power questions for coaches

Managers are hearing a lot about coaching these days. Modern management has moved away from the military command and control model, to one of two-way communication. In short, there is less telling and more asking; less directing and more discussing. While there is still a critical need for the leader to set a clear direction and rank priorities, how the employee gets there is much more of a collaboration, in order to get the best ideas and results.
I’ve developed a coaching model that has worked well for me, as I work with executives and managers who are developing their talents and buffing their weaker spots. It includes four elements, which don’t have to be executed in perfect sequence.
The best coaches are great questioners. They know how to unlock the other person’s motivation, discover the person’s goal and help him or her change behaviors, in order to get what they want. Unfortunately, many managers do too much talking and jump to conclusions. They solve the problems for people, instead of helping them figure it out for themselves. Worse, they sometimes criticize after the work is done, instead of coaching along the way.
The following questions are built around the four parts of the model:
  • Be a 3-way Mirror of the person’s behavior.
  • Mine for their Goal.
  • Probe for the Perception/Intentions Gap
  • Splice in New Behaviors
As a leader, I think you’ll find these questions to be useful whenever you are approached for advice, want to change someone’s behavior, want to help someone develop, or in any meaningful exchange.
3-Way Mirror
Can you play back to me what you said and did, so we can analyze it together?
How do you think it looked from the other persons’ vantage point?
If I were asking your direct reports about this what do you think their perspective would be?
Have you asked others how they interpreted it?
Mine for their Goal
What are you trying to accomplish?
What is motivating you to do that?
What overall objective were you trying to achieve?
What actions were you taking to reach your desired outcome?
Probe for the Intention/Perception Gap
How were you hoping she would respond?
What are you worried will happen now?
What’s the worst thing that could happen? The best thing?
What part of this issue is your responsibility?
What were you planning to do next?
What part of this can you control?
Does this situation make you feel vulnerable? Why?
What exactly is getting in the way of your goal?
What would it look like if it turned out well for you?
Are you open to trying a different approach?
Splice in New Behaviors
If you “ruled the world” what would you do?
What does your ‘gut’ feel is the right thing to do?
If you took personalities out of it, what would be the right course of action?
Six months from now, what part of this will matter?
Who else can help you with advice or experience?
If this happened to someone else, what advice would you give them?
The best leaders are the best listeners. Try these questions—I think you’ll see a change, for the better, in the way you lead.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616, mailto:info@joanlloyd.com, or www.JoanLloyd.com 
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