Questions Drive Coaching Conversations

By Beth Armknecht Miller  ::  Leader Development

Executive coach and guest velocity guru Beth Armknecht Miller offers advice on increasing the productivity of your regular 1on1 meetings with the GROW method.

Now that you are committed to having monthly one-on-one’s with your team members, you need to understand how to spend the time in a way that is productive for both you and your coachee. The easy part is the coaching process while the more difficult is the art of questioning, challenging, and encouraging your coachee.

Let’s take a quick look at one of the more popular coaching processes: GROW. The GROW model was developed and made popular by John Whitmore, the author of Coaching for Performance. GROW stands for Goal setting, Reality checking of the current situation, Options available to move forward to the goal, and What, When, Who, a commitment to action.

Questions drive the coaching process

Since the first step in the GROW model is goal setting (G) start your coaching conversation with a question that will focus the person on his or her desired result.

Examples of opening questions include:

  • What do we need to focus on today?
  • At the end of the conversation, what do you want to resolve?
  • What do we need to talk about today?
  • Where do you stand with the challenges we have been discussing?
  • What are the issues you want to work on today?
  • What do you need from me today?
  • What are you committed to accomplishing today?

If you are unclear of the person’s answer, use some clarifying questions and/or statements. These are used to dig deeper into what a person has just said and should be used early and often to uncover more thoughts and ideas from the person being coached.

  • Tell me more about….
  • What else?
  • What other ideas/feelings/thoughts/opinions do you have about it?
  • What do you mean by that?
  • What do you really think?
  • And?
  • Please explain that…
  • I’m curious…

During the coaching conversation, it is your job to guide and the employee’s job is to do the heavy lifting. So there needs to be questions that empower the person to take action and make their own decisions. This requires that when asking questions of the person, focus on the pronoun “You”. Avoid “We” or “Us” as they don’t invoke ownership and create accountability by the person.

These questioning techniques will assist and guide the coachee to examine and self-reflect on his/her current situation and reality (R) and explored the options (O) open to him/her moving forward.

And finally before the close of our coaching conversation, you need to gain commitment to action by your team member. Here are some recommended questions to use:

  • What will you do first?
  • How much energy are you willing to put into that?
  • What do you commit to do in the next 24 hours?
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how motivated are you to achieving this goal?
  • What will it take to turn that 6 into a 9?
  • Who do you need to speak to about this goal?
  • How are you going to celebrate reaching your goal?
  • Whatever your first step is, can you think of anything that might stop you from doing it?

Practice using the GROW Coaching process with your future coaching conversations. Try out different questions and make note of which ones provide greater results with specific team members. The more you practice, the more natural it will feel for both you and your employee and the better results you will see.

About the author

Alicia Mandel

Beth Armknecht Miller

Senior Associate, Dynamic Results LLC

Beth Armknecht Miller is a Senior Associate at Dynamic Results LLC, a boutique firm offering strategy implementation, accountability and leadership development solutions. Beth is a trusted executive advisor, Vistage Chair, and committed volunteer. She is passionate about building sustainable leadership within small to midsize organizations, which will engage employees, increase performance, and build enterprise value. Her latest book is "Are You Talent Obsessed?: Unlocking the secrets to a workplace team of raving high-performers."

If you are new to coaching and/or experiencing specific coaching challenges, Beth's Coach the Coach program is designed to increase your success as a coach by focusing on your specific issues. You can check it out here.

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