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What Makes a Powerful Coaching Question?

Updated: Nov 8, 2021

What makes a Powerful COACHING Question?

A #powerfulquestion can lead to positive interventions and evoke awareness that were not there before the question.

Here a mindset challenge for most leaders:


Like the way biases emerge when our brain connects assumptions to reserve effort and gain speed, our automatic habit for the sense of urgency delivers questions that are transactional rather than an intervention that lifts thinking to the next level.

Interventive questions aim to Evoke Awareness and Trigger Growth.

It demands from the leader:

1) Competency to know when to coach and when to direct.

For a leader, both skills are necessary. Knowing when to use which skill is key.

A Suggested Exercise:

A good exercise for self-awareness is to look closely at which do you use more of - a direct or coaching style?

Chances are your answer is probably your dominant style. A leadership style that you find comfortable and is an unconscious competency that you have already built.

You may even justify the need to use that style predominantly. For example, "This is a new team and they are not ready to be coached. "

Next, examine the reasoning - when is that statement always true? When is it not?

With this awareness, try to consciously use the other leadership style - If you notice you are more directive, try coaching. If you notice that you are a natural coach, find opportunities to incorporate other leadership styles into your repertoire.

2) Choice of the leader to first listen with empathy.

It is natural to see and hear from our own point of view - first.

"What's wrong with that?" a leader may ask. Perhaps, a missed opportunity of connection. And the connection is key to the heart of the matter. It is a choice a leader makes consciously or unconsciously.

There is humility, and power, in Anaïs Nin's famous quote:

"We don't see things as they are. We see things as we are." - Anaïs Nin

A Suggested Exercise:

When listening to someone, ask yourself "Where is the other person coming from?"

Take a moment to make that choice - to see it from their point of view. You will first need to be present and catch the moment. When I first started to exercise this muscle, I realized the many opportunities that have passed me by without me even realizing it!

It was fun, and it helped me "wake up" a little more from the trance of my own thoughts. It widens perspective. I hope you too will have fun with this exercise.

"The prelude to Choice is Presence."

3) Curiosity rather than expertise from the leader to broaden perspective.

For a powerful question to emerge, it's normally not from what is known. Yes, on the surface, that feels counter-intuitive. Yet, again and again, I notice that there is power in a mindset that embraces the unknown. The unknown is where the potential resides. Exploring them together using both our minds and creativity, leads to new discoveries.

When we ask a question that we think we know an answer to, we are just trying to lead the other person towards our point of view. There is a sense of superiority when we take that route - and the other person will sense it.

When a leader asks a question out of genuine curiosity, (s)he is supporting the coachee in their own process, on their terms, to unlock their own potential. Big difference.

I hope you find these thoughts helpful and please share what does a powerful question means to you in the comments below.

If you‘ve enjoyed this article, please do two things to help others find it: Like it and Share it 👏 IN SUPPORT OF LEADERS Reach out to me if you would like to brainstorm pro-active ways to support your leaders in these challenging times. Happy to help! ******************

I am #CoachWendyWong, passionate about helping talents optimize potential by building leadership skills creatively through coaching and training in Asia. Here's more about what I do:

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