- Talent Management
At this point in the series on managers as coaches, it’s time to remind you how important this is. My first article in the series made the case for taking the coaching approach – it just works. Now you need to also understand that if you get this whole coaching thing right, you’ll be ahead of the curve. According to the Association for Talent Development (ATD), 46% of organizations don’t incorporate coaching at all or only to a small extent, 27% incorporate it to a moderate extent, and only 27% incorporate it heavily, which means you can help pave the way to a more successful company when you push for it.
The second major skill-set needed by managers to be coaches is asking great questions. Sounds easy enough, right? Wrong! By and large people are terrible at asking questions. There’s all kinds of reasons for this – we want to rush through things, we don’t want to look like we don’t know something, no one ever taught us how, and our entire educational system and most of our workplaces are designed around not asking questions but making sure you have the right answers.
A wise consultant I know from the Chicago area, Dr. Stephen A. DiBiase, has thought a lot about what goes into asking great questions. In his book, 10 Keys to Unlock Your Innovative Self, he gives the following great advice:
Great questions are empowering, selfless and supportive, insightful and challenging, and when asked effectively create learning and demand listening. Poor questions are often disempowering, clever in such a way as to deceive those involved, and often judgmental, destroying learning that comes from discovery. So how does one ask great questions? At their root, great questions have several common elements. They do the following:
There are several types of great questions, including the following:
There are two general classes of questions: Those that empowering and those that are disempowering. Empowering questions encourage those questioned to begin thinking constructively about solutions, building self-esteem, creating trust and inviting discovery. Honest questions, which don’t accuse the individuals involved, respect self-esteem.
Disempowering questions are judgmental, focusing on blame, closing off options and learning, and often damage self-esteem either directly or indirectly. These two kinds of questions differ in subtle ways. It takes practice and skill to ask empowering questions, especially when one is under pressure. A question can be empowering or disempowering depending on how it’s phrased. Below are the characteristics of both types of questions:
|Disempowering Questions||Empowering Questions|
|Either/or thinking||Both/and thinking|
|Defends assumptions||Questions assumptions|
|Win-lose outcomes||Win-win outcomes|
As you can see, what goes into asking great questions all makes a ton of sense, but there’s more to it than most people might think. But it’s a skill your managers need to get right if they’re going to take the coach approach with their direct reports.
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