The 4 stupidest coaching questions

Do I detect a little bit of “Schadenfreude” in your face as you clicked on this link? Well, I am experiencing some as it it always fun to think of “what NOT to do” (and more fun to then ask “what instead”). See me typing this with a little air of superiority and a slight smile on my face 🙂 because OF COURSE, I would NEVER ask stupid questions *ha* (ok, not true, but I am sure I fooled you for a bit).

The idea for this blogpost came from a great discussion in one of our “free coaching meetup and exchanges” (book here: Kerstin asked about client’s “AHA” moments and how we can cultivate awareness and growth in our coaching conversations. I thought — well, it’s easy when you take it from the opposite end. What are the questions that are probably NOT going to lead to a difference in viewing or doing things for the client?

Here is a small collection from my experience:

Questions about irrelevant information

  • What shoes were you wearing when you had this problem?
  • When did you start working for this company?
  • Was this last year or this year?
  • (of course… sometimes this information might be relevant, but you know what I mean)

Questions about explanations of the problem

People do experience an “AHA!” sometimes when they discover an alternate explanation for the problem: “AHA, I have never explained the problem THIS way”. However, this usually does not help them move forward. Question might be:

  • How did your family handle this?
  • When did you first discover that you are too shy to present?
  • Who told you that you cannot …?

Questions that ask the client to defend themselves

  • Why have you not done your field work?
  • I think you are hiding behind this wall of resentment — what is REALLY happening?
  • What is getting in your way and why are you letting it get in your way?
  • But you just said you were ready — what keeps you from starting?

Questions that imply that the coach knows and the client doesn’t

  • AHA — this is finally the REAL issue. What do you want to do with it?
  • Client is talking about wanting to be more assertive. Coach: So you want more self-confidence? (without the client having mentioned the word)
  • Close your eyes. Now tell me exactly… (without having asked the client for permission to go into a visualization exercise)

So – what instead:

  • Ask questions that you do not know the answer to
  • Ask questions that work with the language material that your client brings
  • When you change direction or introduce new language: partner with your client
  • Assume that the client has good reasons for doing or not doing things
  • Ask questions about future growth and past resources (progress not explanations)
  • Assume that the client knows the details and will give you the relevant ones — you usually don’t need more than the client supplies

Do come and join us for more discussions in our free meetups – they are open for everybody!

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