When it comes to coaching, questions are the engine that drives deeper exploration and rich conversations. When you ask a question and the reply is “Good question!”, or “THAT is the question!” BINGO! Together you have probably just identified the real issue, goal or barrier. I so often see “Good question!” create such a fine moment, that both coach and coachee revel in that moment and then forget to actually answer the question. The opportunity slips away like sand through the fingers. Truly good questions can be difficult or painful to answer, and postponing that process can be attractive to our coachees.
When the “Good question!” moment happens, I say, STOP! We coaches can make the most of it by:
- Repeating the question
- Saying “Great – so what’s the answer?”.
- Asking “How can you find the answer to this question?”
- Simply saying nothing!
I remember coaching someone who had explained in our first session that she wanted me to be ‘challenging’ with her. A few sessions later we were discussing a behavior of hers that others were reacting negatively to. So I asked her: “How do you think people might feel when you?” She said “Good question!” Then her first answer had nothing to do with feelings, so I said, “Ok, but how do you think people might be feeling?”. Her second answer went in a very different direction, also nothing to do with feelings. So I asked “Ok, but still, how might people be feeling when you do this?” The third answer went in a third, still non-feeling, direction.
My opportunity to be challenging had arrived. I looked at her directly and said, “For the fourth time, how do you think they might feel!?” There was a long pause, and after some pretty direct eye contact, she slowly said, “OK!” After more silence, she shared one possible feeling that others might have. Then another and another. She ended up generating around six to eight very insightful ideas about how receivers of this behavior of hers might feel.
When you hear “Good question!” stay there! You’re on to something.
Julie Johnson, CSA accredited supervisor