Using these five types of questions will help you create more focus, more courage and more resilience, helping your team members do their best work:

1. The Intro Question

Allow your direct report to open up at the start of a coaching conversation. The first question to ask is “What’s on your mind?” or “How’s everything going?”. Remember to ask the question with warmth and enthusiasm – this will help the other person feel more comfortable opening up to you. This is an opportunity to show interest and listen to someone else’s goals, vision or thoughts.

2. Centring Question

You now want to get to the core of the discussion. As a result of the intro question, you are discovering their strengths, weaknesses and/or goals. Questions like “What do you want to achieve from this?” or “What’s the greatest challenge here for you?” are effective ways to get them talking about their broader ambitions. By probing their goals and values, you can support them in developing a plan for where they want to go.

3. Tradeoff Question

The previous questions (centring questions) establish where someone wants to go. In tradeoff questions, we help construct a plan for how to get there. The question is primarily: “What are you going to have to sacrifice to achieve your goal?” The purpose of this question is to help people figure out their priorities and focus on tasks that matter. Almost every decision requires a tradeoff of some sort – “If you are saying yes to this, what are you saying no to?” – so these questions help adopt a more objective and long-term perspective.

4. Probing Question

When you feel like you have exhausted your direct report’s explanation, try asking them if there is anything else that they want to talk about. Someone’s first response is rarely the most accurate or most truthful, and they often need to be gently pushed to sort through their thoughts. Your aim here, when asking “And what else?” is to get them to open up, so remember in doing so, you should continue to be as supportive and positive as possible.

5. Reflection Question

Lastly, ask them what they feel they have learned from your conversation. This can be phrased as “What was most useful for you?” or “What stuck with you?” and also “What lesson can you draw from this?” Give them a moment to reflect on what they have said, and if it has shed any light on any improvement or areas for growth. The whole purpose of coaching is to help the other person progress in ways that they might not be able to do on their own.

Once you have finished the questioning process, it’s time to ask how you can help. Michael Bungay Stanier, author of The Coaching Habit, refers to this question as the lazy question “How can I help?” or more directly “What do you want from me?”

These questions will help you gain the insight necessary to guide your direct reports or team members to success and put you in a position to lead with greater meaning and confidence.

Karl Grech coaches his clients to enhance how they connect, influence, and inspire others. Karl is an Associate Certified Coach (ACC) with the International Coaching Federation (ICF). He can be reached at coaching@karlgrech.com or visit www.karlgrech.com  to learn more.

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