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7 Great Coaching Questions

7 Great Coaching Questions
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I wanna share with you two tools, fabulous tools that I often use in my own coaching. And that have research evidence behind them for why they will help you as a team leader, or as a team member, help coach and grow the people that you’re working with. The first is a set of very specific questions that my colleague Paula Caproni, who works at the University of Michigan with me in our management area has developed, where these are specific questions that you can ask in your coaching conversation. And so I’ll share each of these with you.
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The first is, you can ask the coachee or the person that you are working with, what are the most important activities that you should be spending your time on right now? And how do these activities create value either for you, your team, or the business? In today’s world, there’s so much going on and what we find is that people are often distracted. And those distractions keep us from focusing on what’s mission critical. And this question that Paula has introduced here is a great way to reinforce to the people that you’re working with, that it’s critical that we focus on the most important activities that are gonna create the most value.
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And find ways to get rid of the activities that are either less important, or the activities that are not going to create value. The second question that we often ask is, what result do you want to create? And given the answer to that question, what result or what end-state do we wanna create, what should you do more of, less of to achieve that result? Oftentimes, people think about what they need to do, not what result they want to create. If you start with the result in mind, you’re able to more easily identify what are those mission critical actions that you need to take to make sure you achieve that result.
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But oftentimes we focus more on the action and less on the result and we want people to focus on the result first and let that drive the actions. Third, what does your team need from you to be successful? So whether or not you are a team leader, a team member, what does your team need from you to be successful? And how are you or how are you not meeting these needs today? And how might you better fulfill those needs tomorrow?
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Starting with that question of what does your team need from you, and how are you meeting those needs today, will unleash a conversation where the people that you are working with, your team members, and so on, will discover new ways that they can contribute, and add value to the team. The fourth question, what do you want your legacy to be? And how might you change your behavior to achieve this legacy? Very few people think systematically about their legacy before it’s too late. We often define our legacy and then think about what we would like that legacy to be.
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What we’re finding both in our research, our coaching, our executive development work is encouraging people to define, think about what that ideal or aspirational legacy is. We’ll often direct them to some very specific behaviors that they can adopt or implement, that will put them on a path to make that legacy more likely to come true. Very powerful question to spark a wonderful coaching conversation. Fifth, what inhibits you from doing more of the things you believe you should be doing? It’s often that people lament or complain about, I love to be doing x, y, or z but I can’t do that. Well, what exactly is holding you back?
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What is it about you as a person, what is it about the team, what is it about the situation? If we can identify those very specific barriers, then you can entertain the question, well what can we do to minimize those barriers? Oftentimes I find that the second question here, how might you minimize non-productive work, is one of those barriers. Again, it goes back to trying to do too many things all at once. What is the most productive, most valuable work and focusing there and then how do we minimize non productive, non value ad work? Very important question that you can ask anybody that you’re working with and coaching. Six, what are your greatest strengths?
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Now this will take us right back to the assessment conversation that we had. One of the things we want to assess. What are the strengths? But oftentimes, simply asking people what your greatest strengths, and how might you put yourself in a position to better leverage those strengths will identify opportunities for either new roles or new ways of acting. Or contributing to the team that will not only benefit the person, not only benefit you as a leader within that team, but also benefit the team and the organization as a whole. And then the seventh and last, and potentially most important question that you can ask for maintaining the relationship that you have with the person you are coaching is simple.
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How can I help? As a coach, and you may formally be called the coach, or this just may be a coaching relationship. But the power of the question, how might I help you achieve what you need to achieve, will unlock greater potential in that relationship and further reinforce and deepen the value of that relationship, both for you and the person that you are working with. So the first tool is, this list of seven wonderful, great coaching questions, that Paula has helped us develop, that you can use to help coach, grow, and develop your talent.
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The second tool is a simple framework that I often use with executives that has time on the y-axis and then a start-stop-continue framework on the y-axis. So I often like to have people think about short-term, medium-term, and long-term. So I often use one week, one month, one quarter or three years for the long term. And obviously you can adjust the time lines as you see fit but having people think about short term, medium term and long term. And then think about, okay, what are the specific goals that I have in mind? And here, I emphasize the value of focus. With learning and development, don’t try to focus on four, five, or ten goals.
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What you wanna do is create smaller wins and focus on one or two goals for personal change. Personal change is hard. Focus is key, so focus in on one or two goals that you have for personal improvement or personal change. And then ask yourself with respect to that goal, what could I start doing over the next week, over the next month, over the next quarter, over the next several years? What could I stop doing short term, medium term and long term? What would I need to continue doing, short term, medium term and long term? That will get you a set of actions.
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And then the fourth question, who can help me, right back to our board of director, board of advisor conversation. Who are the people in my life, personally or professionally, that can help me with information, mentorship, coaching, emotional, social support, to help me make sure and hold me accountable to actually starting, stopping and continuing these commitments that I’m making? This is a very powerful tool of framework that you can use, again both for yourself as well as for your team and the people you are coaching to help them identify specifically, what they want to work on and the actions they’re gonna take to work on those things.
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And who they’re going to involve in the process to both help and hold them accountable.
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