Asking the Right Question

By |Published On: May 23, 2023|Categories: Coaching|3 min read|

My coaching sessions always start with me asking my client a question: what would you like to focus on today? What would you like to be different at the end of this session? How will you know when you’ve got there?

These questions aim to stimulate thinking and to challenge my client – in a safe and confidential space – to consider things in a different way, to change their perspective and generate new insights that lead to new ways of doing things.

Coaches can sometimes often overthink what the right question should be, the one that will truly unlock the client, and generate transformational insights. Too much focus on this can sometimes lead to the coach being distracted, rather than staying present and keeping things moving forward – and trusting the client to move themselves to where they need to be.

So, being a good coach is less about crafting and asking the right question of the client, it’s more about supporting the client to ask themselves the right question. This should be the key focus for a coaching session. And if a coaching engagement is successful, the client should be equipped to keep asking themselves the right questions outside of the coaching session. These might include:

  1. How often am I busy in a work context but somehow unproductive?
  2. Am I tackling the right problem? Can I reframe this challenge?
  3. Should I be focused on this, or do my stakeholders need me to focus on something else altogether?

In a previous leadership role, I found myself pulled into client service challenge after client service challenge.  I started to question why it always fell to me to resolve these issues. But then I asked myself a different question. What if I built capacity in my team so they could handle these challenges, what would I, as the company leader, be freed up to focus on?  Business growth? Team or systems development? By asking this different question, the right question, suddenly it was obvious. I’d been focused on the wrong thing.  If I’d been asking myself the right question, challenging myself to focus on the most strategically pressing issue, I would have freed myself up long ago, but instead, I stayed in this pattern. And if a manager or leader is focused on the wrong things, chances are so are the rest of the team.

So how can you make sure you’re asking yourself the right question

  • Line up some questions to keep yourself on track. For instance:
    • How is what I’m doing contributing to the business / team / division / stakeholders reaching its key goals for this year?
    • What am I spending my time on and is it the most important challenge that the business (or my team / division) is facing?
    • What is the difficult thing that I’m avoiding thinking about?
    • Am I busy but not feeling productive?
    • Am I the best person to be doing what I’m doing? Is there someone else who should be doing it?
    • Are my team members and stakeholders asking themselves the right questions?
  • Jump at opportunities to change your perspective and think about challenges differently. Listen to what others are saying or are focused on.
  • Don’t be afraid to change tack. If you ask the right questions, you might well find you need to change course.
  • If you’re focussed on the right things, the value of that for a business leader cannot be overstated.

If you’re asking yourself the right questions, you’ll be a more credible leader. And in turn, you’ll have earnt the right to ask the same of your team.

Are you ready to change your management growth trajectory?