We all have ideas. There’s a saying, “Ideas are like small children. Other people’s are nice, but we always like our own the best.” This holds true with coaches too. We like our ideas. They make sense to us, and we think they will be helpful to the coachee.
Even as we use questions, we may still be sharing our ideas. Take a look at these questions:
• Are you planning to borrow money to do that?
• Could Susan help you?
• How about asking for a new computer?
• Do you learn from reading books or talking with people?
I call this type of question a my-idea question. My-idea questions are a vehicle for our own ideas or suggestions. This type of question is the easiest to ask because it is basically giving advice in the form of a question. My-idea questions flow directly from our own perspective toward the solutions or the next steps that we see.
My-idea questions limit the coachee’s reflection because the coachee must answer yes or no to the coach’s idea. In the case of “or” questions, there are two ideas the coachee can choose from—but both are from the coach. Powerful questions are those that provoke reflection in the other person. My-idea questions do not generate this type of creative, deep reflection.
An alternative is to ask open questions. The response to an open question can go in a hundred different directions. Asking open questions requires the coach to give up control of the conversation and be willing to go where the Holy Spirit and the coachee leads. That lack of control can be scary for a coach.
Opening Up Questions
Your ideas are not going to go away, so use them. Instead of forming your ideas into my-idea questions, use them to create open questions. Asking open questions will help you move from being an idea-giver to an idea-explorer.
The technique of creating open questions involves taking your idea and broadening it to its root topic or category. By asking about the broader category, you encourage the coachee to reflect and find their own answer.
Here are more examples:
- My-idea question: I have a helpful book on managing teams, would you like to read it? Open question: How could you learn more about managing teams?
- My-idea question: Have you thought about firing him? Open question: What options do you see in working with him?
- My-idea question: Is casting vision the next step for the team? Open question: What are possible next steps for the team?
- My-idea question: Could someone on your team help? Open question: Who might be able to help?
- My-idea question: Do you learn from reading books or talking with people? Open question: How do you prefer to learn new things?
Both my-idea questions and open questions follow a pattern. Typically, my-idea questions begin with the words would, could, are, is, and does, while open questions begin with what or how.
Note from Bob: Which ideas are they most likely to own and act on – yours or theirs?
Dr. Keith E. Webb is an engaging speaker, consultant and Professional Certified Coach. Keith blogs at KeithWebb.com He is the president of Active Results LLC, a global consultancy and training organization. He is also the founder and CEO of Creative Results Management, which serves Christian non-profit organizations. As a speaker and workshop trainer, Keith is noted for his humor, interactivity, and practicality. For 20 years he lived in Japan, Indonesia, and Singapore, and now lives near Seattle. Other COACH Model™ products are available Here!