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Questions are the tools which Coaches most-often use to facilitate self-discovery and growth in the Leaders they are Coaching.  Here are five secrets I have learned about Powerful Questioning: 

  1. Intellectual Curiosity: Serving as a Coach requires a strong sense of “intellectual curiosity” that manifests itself most brightly in the formulation and delivery of the powerful, insightful, and transforming coaching questions you ask during your coaching sessions.   As your get ready for the session, your intellectual curiosity passionately drives your preparations.  As you Coach, your intellectual curiosity energizes you to continue actively listening – ever searching for the inevitable “whispers” that enter the dialogue – within the spoken sentences, between the lines of words, and even in the body language of the Leader.  And after the session, your intellectual curiosity will sustain both your active and passive reflections on how you might have coached even more powerfully.   
  1. Pregnant Pauses: Purposefully allowing silence in your coaching provides not only the Leader you are coaching the continued opportunity to think and resume speaking if they wish, but also provides you, the Coach, the opportunity to stop and think about your next powerful question.  During these purposeful “Pregnant Pauses,” you can ask yourself a few quick questions before you reengage such as – “What is My Next Potential Question?” and “Is That Question Relevant to My Leader’s Intent?” and “Will this Question Lead to Discovery or Growth?”  With this reflection complete, your Leader given ample time to also reflect, and the silence enjoyed, you can then ask yet another powerful question. 
  1. Trust & Safety: One of the ICF Core Competencies is to create Trust & Safety in our Coaching engagements.  The level of Trust & Safety you have mutually created between Leader and Coach directly impacts the power of the questions you can and should ask.  If the power of your questions gets ahead of the Trust & Safety you have created, you may notice the Leader you are coaching close down or even react negatively in either body language or spoken feedback.  Tread purposefully light with your questions until you are confident that Trust & Safety can support high-octane power. 
  1. MBS “What” Questions: In his groundbreaking book “The Coaching Habit” (Stanier, 2018), Michael Bungay Stanier introduces us to his seven powerful “What” questions that are open-ended and insightful: 
  • The Kickstart Question: “What’s on your mind?” 
  • The A.W.E. Question: “And What Else?” 
  • The Focus Question: “What’s the real challenge here for you?” 
  • The Foundation Question: “What do you want?” 
  • The Lazy Question: “What can I help you with?” 
  • The Strategy Question: “What must you stop doing to say yes to this?” 
  • The Learning Question: “What was most useful or valuable here for you?” 

5)   Heraclitus Questions:  For many reasons, my personal favorite ICF Core Competency is “Facilitates Client Growth.”  In fact, a big part of why I both coach and train coaches is that we can and often do play a significant role in the personal and professional transformation of the Leaders with whom we serve.  Toward that end, I use a set of questions I call the “Heraclitus Questions1 as they are meant to highlight and celebrate the Leader’s growth across our engagement: 

  • What progress have you made since our last chat? 
  • What challenges have you faced? 
  • What successes have you achieved?  
  • What have you learned? 
  • About yourself? 
  • Your leadership? 
  • Your team? 

Good luck to you and your Team!  If there is ANYTHING my team and I can do to assist you in realizing your goals, objectives, and key results, reach out to us at 2RL@FlatterInc.com.  If you find these Blogs valuable, please link to us at www.TwoRoadsLeadership.com so that others may absorb the same insights.  Likewise, please listen to our weekly Podcast, with distinguished guests from the Coaching world, published every Thursday at noon, Eastern Time (USA) at The Secrets of Leadership Coaching.  Finally, I am personally interested in hearing your feedback – so please send your thoughts directly to me at JR.Flatter@FlatterInc.com.

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