Coaching is a powerful leadership tool and an asset to any organization. The key is to manage to incorporate it into the corporate culture rather than using it as a purely conceptual thing that looks great in presentations but is regarded as a time-consuming nuisance in everyday work life.
Effective coaching does not have to eat up a lot of time or drain large amounts of energy. However, building a coaching culture requires it to become a habit for all the members of the organization.
I have already discussed the steps to be taken in order for this practice to be not only accepted but also embraced by all employees, regardless of level. The conclusion was that instead of using fixed models, being flexible and adaptable brings much better results.
7 questions for making coaching a habit in your organization
In this article, I will summarize the seven questions that Michael Bungay Stanier talks about in his book The Coaching Habit.
The kick start question
What’s on your mind?
This has the role of offering the coachee the possibility of stating what they feel needs to be addressed. Stating the reason for the coaching session right off the bat could feel presumptuous and make the other person feel like they are being evaluated or judged. If the answer to this question is very far from the targeted subject, it should still be discussed and then circled back to the original issue.
The A.W.E question
And what else?
According to the author, this is ‘the best coaching question in the world’ because it has the power to bring a lot more depth to any worthy of having a conversation. Since the first answer usually is a very general one, this follow-up question will help get to the heart of the matter with the other person’s accord. It’s a small self-restraint exercise, very useful especially for team leaders and managers who feel the urge to jump in with advice and fixes as soon as they spot an issue.
The focus question
What is the real challenge for you?
This question does not only help narrow down the issue, but the use of ‘for you’ in the end makes everything a lot more personal. In coaching, it’s important that people feel they get something out of it for themselves, that the process genuinely helps make something better or easier for them. This question signals that the discussion is aimed at development, not at appraisal.
The foundation question
What do you want?
This is not one very easily answered. Just like with the kick-start question, the initial response can be a very broad one, but if the previous answers have managed to get to the core of the issue, this one will hold tremendous power. This works a bit like a self-coaching question, as enough introspection can provide a person with quite a few relevant answers and solutions for moving forward.
The lazy question
How can I help? / What can I do for you?
This is called ‘lazy’ mainly for attention and remembering purposes, as offering help is never something idle. However, it works wonderfully because instead of going through a lengthy trial-and-error string of possible solutions or courses of action one gives ownership to the person being coached. It is both empowering and effective.
The strategic question
If you say yes to this now, what must you say no to?
Relevant choices often come with a price, and this entails giving up some habit that is not helpful but highly comfortable. Complaining about things is one example. At this point, the person who is being coached has to once more make a personal assessment of behaviors that are detrimental and give them up in exchange for a more positive approach.
The learning question
What was most useful or most valuable in this discussion for you?
This final reflective question aims to help the person benefiting from coaching to form a clear idea about the positive takeaways of the conversation. It is also a good way of getting feedback about the whole process and tips on improving in the future. Coaching is a two-way road and both parties involved benefit from the trip.
I have talked in the past about how the most frequent downfall of coaching is the insistence to implement it in the organization in the form of very rigid models. It does not work because industries, situations, individuals, and corporate cultures are very different and require a great dose of adaptability.
Even though these questions are numbered, they do not need to be asked in this order, nor does one need to go through all of them every time they coach somebody. Their value is undeniable, but it’s the skill of the coach that will ultimately have a say in how well they work and bring added value.
Raluca Cristescu is a Faculty of Letters graduate with over ten years of experience in corporate training, focused mainly on soft skills for customer service and direct sales.