Powerful Questions?

I had the privilege of watching John Maxwell speak when I had just started my working career in early 2000, and the most striking moments during the session when he posed questions to the audience that made them think. I remember sitting the hall at PWTC, Kuala Lumpur, in total complete awe, as if he had some form of super power, and saying to myself, how can I ask such questions that hit the nail right on its head?

Firstly, what do questions do to an individual? The psychology behind asking questions is about rapport, trust, control, discovery, credibility and the innate intelligence of human nature for completion. Questions are a tool to engage, align mental capabilities, and to penetrate filters and beliefs. For example, when a coach asks the question, “What is success to you?” to the client / coachee, the client feels at the centre of the conversation, that the coach is neutral / non-judgemental, an equal and by answering, the client divulges his / her entire being and philosophies.

Secondly, powerful questions guide clients to connect with their deeper self, what they want, and find solutions that are right for them. I would say, powerful questions help to shake things up. It moves the mind, spirit and body to look deeper to what matters for transformation to happen. It throws the locus of control to the client to hold themselves accountable for next steps.

Lastly, asking questions and for that matter, asking powerful, curious and impactful questions needs practice, practice, practice. And practise makes progress. Especially in Asia, where questioning is not appreciated since young, we tend to put questions aside, with hopes and prayers that the answer will reveal itself in due time. The very act of asking questions can be seen somewhat rebellious and disobedience for example, in Malaysia, terms like “Kay-Poh” or “Sibuk” implying nosiness of the person upon asking questions.

In the last version of the ICF Core Competencies (prior to November 2019) – Powerful Questioning was a dedicated core competency in itself, defined as the ability to ask questions that reveal the information needed for maximum benefit to the coaching relationship and the client.

In which, the sub-competencies were described as below:

  1. Asks questions that reflect active listening and an understanding of the client’s perspective.
  2. Asks questions that evoke discovery, insight, commitment or action (e.g., those that challenge the client’s assumptions).
  3. Asks open-ended questions that create greater clarity, possibility or new learning.
  4. Asks questions that move the client toward what they desire, not questions that ask for the client to justify or look backward.

In the new 2019 ICF Core Competencies – powerful questioning falls as part of Core Competency no. 7 – Evokes Awareness with the definition : Facilitates client insight and learning by using tools and techniques such as powerful questioning, silence, metaphor or analogy.

I find that positioning this skill as part of a bigger process, and steering it to the bigger purpose of evoking awareness, insights and deeper, crucial conversation between the coach and the client.

Source credit: Coach Mel Leow, CCC Module

As described by Coach Mel Leow, powerful questioning / questions helps the client to move forward, expand their perspectives, and enables them to identify deeper insights. He also shares a different approach to the types of questions to use with the client. This is one of my key insights from this module. Questions that expand or provide breadth for the clients, and questions that dive into insights or explore depths for the clients. Breadth and depth questions allow for either a panaromic view or a microscopic point to the client’s situation. This in particular can guide the client out of their usual comfort point of view. For example, there will be some clients that are always talking about the bigger picture, visions, mountainous viewpoints. A depth question can bring a turnabout for this client to put down some practical, meaningful insights closer to home.

If we use the example of Ms Focus (from a couple of blogs ago), who was looking to work on her Focus (which is 100,000 ft goal). Her coach will at some point put forth questions such as what would you do on a daily basis to make that a reality? or which of the areas that you are keen to build, would be a priority in 1 year? This will help Ms Focus to find some grounding in her insights and actions.

I’ve also reflected on some of the questions that I like to ask to my clients / coachees. Some definitely need to be powered up for the ooomph! Here’s how I will rephrase some of my questions in future.

Question: What shall we discuss today?

Power Question: What’s keeping you excited these days?

Question: How is that working out for you?

Power Question: On a scale of 1 – 10, how would you rate that working out for you?

Question: What is stopping you?

Power Question: What is it costing you for not taking action?

Question: When are you planning to start?

Power Question: What will it feel like when you start?

Question: Why do you believe that?

Power Question: Tell me more about that…

Question: Is there anything else that you can….

Power Question: What else?

As a coach, powerful questioning will help us add-value to the client, that they might not be able to for themselves, by drawing out the answers already within, bring forth what is hidden into the surface.

“Good questions inform; great questions transform.” – John Maxwell

Credit source: https://medium.com/@iamcesarromero/my-favorite-quotes-from-john-maxwell-s-book-good-leaders-ask-great-questions-2ae8c59bcf65

Published by Shereen Kaur

Coach, Consultant, Wellness Advocate, Artist, Mom

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