Most articles that you come across about Agile Coaching say, as an Agile Coach one must ask “POWERFUL QUESTIONS”. Let’s look at what exactly are powerful questions and dive deeper into how and when to use them. Most Coaches and Facilitators ask powerful questions when engaging with team members or larger groups. Powerful questions are not just “good questions” but an overall simple and easy to use an empowering technique to use.

Here is a scenario:

Your team has come across a blocker / impediment, and they go to the SM or Team lead and ask “What should they do?”

Here are few scenarios of how the conversation can go:

a)      The SM/TL says” go ask XYZ person (SE) to help you”

b)      I’ll take care of it and fix it

c)      I don’t know, why are you coming to me?

d)      What do you think you should do next?

In many cases, a lot of leaders go down the path of saying either a, b or c. However many with leadership skills might look at option d and the process of question-asking overall.

As leaders what we don’t realize is that when we are giving out the answers/ solutions, we are hampering the team from learning and working as a team to fix the hurdles. At the same time, we are also reducing the ability of theirs to take ownership, learn from the wisdom of the team and self-confidence.

Powerful questions are open ended and allow individuals to respond to the direction they choose to take, Asking powerful questions allows new possibilities and encourage the individual to dive deeper and discover newer insights and options. It helps everyday leadership to empower teams, unlock their potential, uplift team performance and business results.

Examples of some powerful questions which you can use at any given point are:

  • What do you mean?
  • Can you tell me more?
  • What have you tried so far?
  • What are your other options?
  • What are the possibilities
  • What are your next steps?

These focus on getting various points of view and new learnings from all parties involved. Whether with co-workers or clients, the level of self-awareness increases here with the right questions and reframe objectives accordingly.

There are different models which one can use whilst having a conversation and using powerful questions. The GROW model is one which is simple to use when thinking of how to ask questions.

  • G: Goal (What do you want)
  • R: Reality (Where are you now?)
  • O: Options (What could you do?)
  • W: Will/ way forward (What will you do?)

Let’s dive a little deeper into the GROW Model with examples of few questions:

Goal:

The GOAL is addressed at the beginning of the coaching conversation and can be referred to time and again to keep focus moving forward particularly if the coachee is stuck. Identifying the Goal of the conversation sets a path to the conversation and provides clarity on what the coachee wants to achieve since last time.  Some of the questions to use here are:

  • What do you want to achieve from this coaching session?
  • What goal do you want to achieve?
  • What do you want to change?
  • What would you like to happen with ______?
  • What do you really want?
  • What would you like to accomplish?
  • What result are you trying to achieve?

Reality:

In this area, it is the exploration of what the coachee experience is. It is advisable to spend more time exploring the reality phase as it gives more clarity about what is happening and how it affects the coachee and the people around the coachee. It also allows them to look at it in a different perspective. Some questions that can be used are:

  • What is happening now? What is the effect or result of this?
  • What steps have you already taken towards your goal?
  • Where are you now in relation to your goal?
  • What is working well right now?
  • What is required of you?
  • What do you think is stopping you?
  • What did you learn from _____?
  • What have you already tried?
  • How could you turn this around?

High angle view of businesswomen discussing in office

Options:

As the reality becomes clearer, you move towards the options. Explore what are the different options they can try. This allows them to think deeper and out of the box and explore ideas they might have not thought of or were hesitant to even think about. Some simple questions that can be asked here are:

  • What are your options?
  • What do you think you need to do next?
  • Who else might be able to help?
  • What would happen if you did nothing?
  • What has worked for you? How could you do more of that?
  • What would happen if you did that?
  • What would you gain/lose by doing/saying that?
  • What’s the best/worst thing about that option?
  • What could you do differently?
  • If anything was possible, what would you do?

Will / Way forward

Once you have explored the various options, look at what is the way forward to reducing biases, hesitance and competencies overall. Encourage the coachee to come up with some actions that they can take and can commit to. It is important for them to come up with the actions as ultimately it is them who have to implement / action it. Even if it is one action, that’s alright. Ultimately this conversation is all about the coachee’s agenda and not yours as a coach. Some questions that you can ask in this area are:

  • How are you going to go about it?
  • What do you think you need to do right now?
  • What will one small step you take now?
  • What are three actions you can take that would make sense this week?
  • When are you going to start?
  • What support do you need to get that done?
  • What obstacles are getting in the way of success?
  • What will happen (or, what is the cost) of you NOT doing this?

It is important to remember that using this model does not mean you have to follow the order to the T. An effective conversation starts with the Goal and Reality and then moves between all 4 elements. It can explore practical tools and open-ended questions as not everything can be answered immediately.

There are many more questions that you can explore and use. If you would like to practice your coaching skills with someone, you can write to Leadership Tribe and we are happy to get on call with you and discuss the best way to join our high performing Coaching Practice sessions.

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