Let’s begin with a bad question: “What are the ingredients of a good question?” What’s bad about that? Actually, the second question is slightly better than the first because it focuses on specifics. The first question is just too wide (and too boring) to elicit any meaningful answers.
It’s possible to get answers from any question, but as Roffey Park coaching expert Ana Karakusevic perspicuously notes, “not every answer makes the question worth asking.” Let’s focus on the context: what kinds of questions are worth asking in the context of coaching?
Our questions are improving step by step: the last one was more precise, focusing specifically on coaching and excising verbal baggage (garrulous questions, like garrulous speakers, can be thought of as gas bags – they fill the available space without adding anything of value to it).
One of the few occasions that unpreparedness is of value is in coaching (though the psychoanalyst Wilfred Bion once urged therapists to “eschew memory and desire” when they approached a therapy session). That means steering clear of those “top coaching questions” you’ll find posted on LinkedIn groups: few things are more off-putting to a client than a coach who is mechanically wading through a well-rehearsed tick-box list. The client can probably tell very quickly that, if you adopt this approach, you’re not fully present.
Spontaneity can’t be commanded or prepared for. However, some of the best coaching questions are spontaneously crafted “in the moment”, often before the coach has had time to examine it from all sides before uttering it. Recycled questions will rarely have anything like the same effect.
Don’t let your own curiosity in on the act. Clients can usually sense if you’re asking questions you don’t need to know. You’re trying to unlock something different in a client, not feed your personal inquisitiveness – as Karakusevic puts it: “Coaching questions aren’t gossiping.”
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