Coaching by nudges

A recent post on this blog about “what coaching is“, as usual prompted further questions and requests for more information on what coaching entails.  Clearly there remain misunderstandings about the role of coaching within businesses and organisations, with some people still associating it with a form of remedial ‘treatment’. Having said that, I do see far greater awareness and understanding today, than even a few short years ago. Not so long ago, you might have heard a reaction from a colleague that went something like this.

“Oh you are getting ‘coaching’.  Why?  What’s wrong?  Did your annual appraisal go badly?”

The implication (and misunderstanding) of course being that coaching was being used as a tool to ‘fix’ something that had clearly gone wrong.  Perhaps to raise someone’s poor performance to a more acceptable level.

Now, I find you are much more likely to hear something like the following.

“Oh you are getting ‘coaching’. Amazing!! They must think a lot of you and see massive potential.  I wish I could get coaching through my company.”

This shift in mindset, also reflects a much more accurate understanding of what coaching is; an approach that helps people fulfil their potential.  Not a tool for rehabilitation or rectification, but a vehicle that allows people to explore their values and beliefs, their vision and their purpose. It is much more sought after, and is now seen as one of the ‘perks’ of the job. Career changers, especially those in middle management and executive positions, are more and more looking for coaching as an incentive, and benefit provision, when choosing between companies, reflecting the increasing value being placed upon it.

Coaching enables people to gain greater self-awareness and insight, allowing them to make informed choices and decisions, to be more conscious of how they react in given situations, and to develop life-strategies that will serve them more effectively.  Coaching, quite simply, helps people get more of what they want, be more fulfilled, and enable more success.

One of the dilemmas Continue reading

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What’s your favourite Question?

“If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.”  (Albert Einstein)

Have you ever thought about the power of questions?  We ask questions all the time but we probably don’t think much about doing it, or what impact our questions are having. There’s more to questions than simply choosing whether to use What, Where, Who, When, Which, How or Why?  Good questions are what drives creativity, discovery and progress.  But, I have a concern that our business culture and organisations do not encourage and reward behaviour that promotes good questions. Instead, our leaders and managers are expected to have ‘answers’ rather than questions and are expected to make decisions and fix problems.  This drives our management cultures toward adopting an ‘advocacy’ rather than an ‘enquiry’ philosophy, reinforcing the expectations of the workforce and of the leaders themselves.

More than ever, we need ‘new thinking’, fresh paradigms, and questions that challenge the ‘way things have always been done’.  Unfortunately, we don’t train people in the skill of constructing powerful questions, perhaps reinforced by the age-old ‘dogma’ that we pay people to come up with answers and solutions, not ask more questions.  Of course this is short-sighted thinking, and it is time to value the power of questions and to invest in the development of this most important of skills.

So, what makes a question ‘powerful’?  Here is a list proposed by Eric E. Vogt, Juanita Brown, and David Isaacs, 2003, in “The art of powerful questions”.

Powerful questions……

  • generate curiosity in the listener
  • stimulate reflective conversation
  • are thought-provoking
  • surface underlying assumptions
  •  invite creativity and new possibilities
  • generate energy and forward movement
  • channel attention and focus inquiry
  • stay with participants
  • touch a deep meaning
  • evokes more questions

A powerful question will also spread across networks of conversation, pervade organizations and communities, and are more often than not the catalyst for large-scale and transformational change.

Here are some examples of the types of questions that I believe have the power to shift thinking, tap in to people’s creativity, and open up possibilities that ‘more conventional’ ways of tackling issues may never discover. Continue reading