Of all the skills that managers use when coaching, there is none more important than the skill, Sparking Insight. Changing behavior and moving toward transformation requires that one must first gain a deep awareness of what is most important. Once leader coaches have built a trusting relationship, asking coaching questions that create awareness can support goal clarification, prioritization, identification of what’s working well, what’s not working, and insight on self-limiting beliefs that are getting in the way of one’s success. Many have epiphanies without the benefit of a coach. For example, I was recently facilitating a strategic planning session where a participant shared a personal ah-ha moment with the group. I was immediately struck with an intense realization that his truth was like a mirror that reflected back an important truth for me. I tucked away its meaning and pulled it out for further reflection in the weeks that followed. My own insight followed several months of mental angst about my personal struggle with routine and structure, and what it’s costing me. But in the midst of this planning session I realized that I had bundled routine and structure, together with consistency. I’m now in the process of coming to terms with the fact that I will likely not succeed through routine and structure. My attempts to find ways to create more routine and structure are destined to fail. But if I’m laser focused on the end game, and I consistently apply the right activity toward that end, success is attainable. This view has dramatically changed my attitude, and level of confidence that there is an approach that can work for my personal work style. While I worked independently to increase my own awareness, spending time with a coach can accelerate the process of deepening one’s self-awareness and intentional action. Below are examples of coaching questions that create awareness in others. Coaching Questions that Create Awareness:
- What do you most want to accomplish?
- How important is that?
- On a scale of 1-10, with 1 representing what you want most, how does that rank?
- Tell me about a recent success?
- Where are you struggling?
- Describe what happened?
- What behaviors most contributed to your success?
- What if you could hit the rewind button, what would you change?
- How confident are you in your ability to succeed?
While the questions above are open-ended and include examples that are both reflective and forward thinking, coaching questions that create awareness take root in safe environments and within trusting relationships. Questions that create awareness are often asked at exactly the right moment as a way to excavate what is present and most important. For coaching questions to hold the possibility of transformation, insight comes before moving others toward action, as emotional commitment and choice drive the success of what will be done. This ever so slight nuance is the fulcrum of coaching that matters: Coaches do not ask questions to gain permission or buy-in, but rather to ignite engagement and enthusiasm for the road ahead. Each person has their own unique bundle of talent and passion that they bring to work and the coach who asks coaching questions that create awareness stands the best chance of unleashing potential and creating a win-win for both the individual and the organization. If you have questions about how to develop a transformational coaching culture, contact me at 303-238-9733, or email me at [email protected]. Deb Siverson is an author and president of Xponents, Inc. Her book, “The Cycle of Transformation: Igniting Organizational Change through the Leader Coach”, encourages transparent and emotionally-connected conversations at work. Her company’s focus is to bring out the best in people by recognizing the unique talent, values, and purpose inherent in all.