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Register for the 2018 Continuous Improvement Conference by February 23 to receive a free copy of 
The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More 
& Change the Way You Lead Forever!
The Key to Coaching? Knowing How to Ask Questions

Daniel Goleman, who popularized the concept of emotional intelligence, has identified six leadership styles. Of the six, coaching was shown to have a marked positive impact on performance but was the least used. So, while "coaching" is a popular term in business circles today, the actual practice of coaching seems to be rare. 

In Michael Bungay Stanier's best-selling book The Coaching Habit, he argues that managers need to develop the habit of curiosity—offering less advice and asking more questions. He offers seven essential questions that need to be part of every manager's daily repertoire. Used regularly these questions (and their variants) will cause managers to work smarter, have less stress, and empower the people around them. 

The Kickstart question for a coaching conversation:
What's on your mind? This is an almost fail-safe way to get people to tell you what's truly important to them.
The AWE question:
And what else? The first answer to the kickstart question is almost never the only answer, and often not the most important answer.
The Focus question:
What's the real challenge here for you? This helps coaches find the real problem and provide support to a team member, rather than jumping to their own conclusion.
The Foundation question:
What do you want? Empowering people means giving them a certain amount of freedom. This question reinforces that freedom and the need for team members to take responsibility.
The Lazy question:
How can I help? This forces colleagues to make a direct request and prevents managers from thinking that they know how best to help.
The Strategic question: If you're saying YES to this, what are you saying NO to?
When team members are taking on new projects or responsibilities, there's great benefit in making them articulate what they're committing to, and what they need to change to be successful.
The Learning question:
What was most useful to you? This is a terrific tactic to help both parties learn from a coaching session. It causes employees to be reflective and underscores the value of the coach/team member relationship.

Asking questions may seem simple but it takes courage to change behavior and practice to master the skill of using questions when coaching. Among the things to keep in mind:
  • Don't beat around the bush, just ask the question. Be straightforward.
  • Don't ask rhetorical questions, which are nothing more than advice thinly disguised as questions.
  • Ask one question at a time and listen carefully. 
  • Ask questions starting with "what." They're less likely than "why" to put people on the defensive and lead to prematurely providing advice.
  • Get comfortable with silence. Don't be desperate to fill the void after asking a question.
Bungay Stanier's book is full of specific advice on how leaders can use these questions wisely and break out of the habit of being the go-to problem solver. If you want to improve your coaching ability, get a copy and read it.  
Want a free copy of the book? Register for the 2018 Continuous Improvement Conference by February 23 to receive a FREE copy of The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever.  For more information about the conference, visit
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