By MICHAEL HEAH
There is a saying that questioning and listening are like the fragrant coconut rice and the sambal in a nasi lemak dish. You cannot have one without the other!
When you listen well, you automatically ask questions.
As a coach or a leader, it is fundamental that you have to be very good at asking questions, otherwise, it spells failure to coaching.
In fact, we can pick a good leader from a not-so-good one by the questions they ask!
What is the importance and power of questioning and what can they do to change the circumstances of a person’s situation and move them forward?
We will also understand why it pays for a coach or leader to be good at asking powerful questions, rather than telling people what to do.
What are powerful questions?
Powerful questions stretch people to think harder and more creatively.
The trick to powerful questions is that it causes people to pause for a while before they can come up with an answer.
This triggers the ‘beacon light’ in the brain to search for the solution or idea.
Powerful questions also evoke or challenge people to think of ways that they have not thought of before.
How can people ask powerful questions?
The key factor lies in our deep listening.
When we listen deeply, we automatically become curious and intuitive.
Questions thus come out spontaneously and intuitively, and are directly related to what needs to be asked at the very moment.
Keeping a tight conversation helps to deepen our listening.
By this, it means that we follow every response that is made and then convert part of the response into a question.
An example is: The person says, “I’m feeling very down.” The coach asks, “What makes you so down?”
While we can pre-plan our questions in order to be good at it, listening well is still the most effective way.
Why are questions so important?
Even if you say ‘no comment’ to a question someone asks you, it is still a response that you are making.
Questions trigger our minds to say something; more so when the questions are powerful, they can do so many wonderful things.
It can stimulate your thinking (What do you think?). It can persuade you to act (What will make you do it?).
It can challenge you (What is one small step that you can still take?).
It helps you to focus on priorities (Out of the five, which is the best?).
It puts you in control (Can I ask you a question?) and so on.
So, when a coach or leader uses questions well, they move people forward, make them innovative, get them out of their comfort zones and can even empower them to act!
What are the types of questions and when is one better than the other?
There are basically five types of questions in the question bag of a coach or leader.
The most common and perhaps the easiest is the closed question where only a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer is evoked.
It is best used when the purpose is to firmly establish a position in the mind of the person. For instance, “Are you committed in getting it done?”
It should not be used when we want people to express themselves.
Another type is the open question.
This one enables people to speak up.
For instance, “Can you tell me more about it?” Be careful when using open questions as they can lead us to get too much details especially when the person is long-winded!
The third type of question is a leading question. This one contains the ‘subject matter’ or the answer in it.
One example is, “Have you told him that you dislike the way he talks to you?”
This is not encouraged as it forces the person to answer along certain lines. Sometimes people can feel manipulated as well.
However, leading questions are good when used in teaching or mentoring as the respondent is made to focus on areas that are important.
The fourth type is the probing question, where more details are asked from the person.
For instance, “Why is it important for you to be fair?”
While it is good to get more details of the issue, they should be kept to the minimum in order not to be ‘drowned’ in them.
The last one is the challenging question. It stretches the person to move forward. For instance, “What else can you try?”
However, it should not be asked too soon lest the person may feel intimated or being confronted.
A good coach or leader will know what type of questions to ask at the right time to get the best result for the person.
How much did you learn from here?
- Why is asking questions more powerful than providing answers to the person?
- What are the many uses of questions? Give an example for each one of them.
- What are the types of questions, and when should they be used and not used?
- What helps people ask powerful questions?
- What will you do from now onwards to make asking questions (instead of giving answers) a way of life?
Prefer an e-mag reading experience? This article is also available in our 20th October, 2018 digital issue. Access our digital issues here.
Michael is an ICF master certified coach with Corporate Coach Academy and a faculty trainer with Leaderonomics.