Coaching questions: How to transform a headache into a hurrah moment

Last week, I was speaking to my friend Anna about how my increasing client workload was both a beautiful thing and a complete stress bomb.

“How am I going to fit it all in?!” I exclaimed rather dramatically, hand on forehead.

Anna, who happens to be an awesome executive coach, reminded me that my enthusiasm for

a) Rad new projects

b) Shiny new things

c) An inability to say no, and

d) A tendency to take on way too much in an effort to prove something I’m not yet able to put my finger on…

might just be a contributing factor to ‘said’ quandary.

She listened very intently to my anxious musings and then did something really cool. Chardonnay in hand, she eyeballed me across the table and, with her usual frankness, asked:

“So what’s the real challenge here for you, Suzi?”

She then followed up with another equally effective question.

“What do you want?”

Both of these questions are deceptively simple. But they were right on the money.

She didn’t try to fix my situation or tell me what to do.

She didn’t offer me advice.

She gave me the gift of active listening and her full presence.

She asked me a couple of powerful questions.

And she merely gave me the space to think, reflect and come up with solutions devised by me – that would work for me.

A great coaching question (just like these two) can transform a headache into a ‘hoorah’ moment.  Add to that a decent dose of listening, and you can pass go and collect the Coach of the Year award.

“Well that’s all very well and good”, I hear you say. “But what exactly ARE these amazing coaching questions you speak of?”

Well that’s where I’ve got you covered, my friend.

Here’s a downloadable PDF with some of my favourite coaching questions. You can also get access to them via my app on your phone for the next time you have that monthly one-on-one with your direct report, or when they knock on your door and say, “You got a minute boss? We’ve got a problem.”

The brilliance of coaching questions is that they can be used in a variety of situations to help a variety of people. Handy.

Thanks to Anna and her Chardonnay-wielding magic coaching prowess, I became clear again on what success looks like for me in my situation and how to navigate the next month’s workload successfully.

For more information about coaching questions, have a read of Michael Bungay Stainer’s fantastic book, The Coaching Habit – Say Less, Ask More and Change the Way you Lead Forever, which I have reviewed here.

Have a go at using these coaching questions in your own situation and share your experience – I’d love to hear them.

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Suzi McAlpine

Suzi McAlpine is a Leadership Development Specialist and author of the award-winning leadership blog, The Leader’s Digest. She writes and teaches about accomplished leadership, what magic emerges when it’s present, and how to ignite better leadership in individuals, teams and organisations. Suzi has been a leader and senior executive herself, working alongside CEOs and executive teams in a variety of roles. Her experience has included being a head-hunter, an executive coach, and a practice leader for a division at the world’s largest HR consulting firm. Suzi provides a range of services as a Leadership Development Specialist, including executive coaching, leadership workshops and development programmes for CEOs, leadership teams and organisations throughout New Zealand.

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