Coaches love questions. And here’s a secret: so does everyone else.
We all love questions because they invite exploration, get us started (or keep us going) on a quest, and give us a chance to be heard. Questions are great!
So what are the most helpful questions you can ask another person? Of course the best questions fit the moment and what the other person just said, but some questions are kind of “go to” questions that often make a powerful impact. Maybe you have your list of favorites.
I don’t know about you, but I find these five questions to be super helpful (whether I am asking or being asked):
- What was that like? Sometimes life happens and we barely notice or we assume nobody cares. This question invites the person take time to notice.
- Where does this path lead? Stephen Covey told his readers to be sure to “begin with the end in mind” and this question helps us think way ahead before we take too many steps in the wrong (or right) direction.
- What makes this is really important to you? Simon Sinek reminds leaders to “start with why” (book/TED Talk), and it’s important for each of us to tap into the most compelling aspect of a relationship, job, hobby or anything else.
- What’s your story? I ask this question of every new coaching client, but I also ask it of many people when I meet them for the first time. Humans are storied animals and our lives make so much more sense when we understand them in terms of story.
- What’s next? The future is created through words and actions. This question invites the words that lead to action.
What about you? What questions do you consider to be super helpful? We’re starting a list, so please post your most helpful questions in the comment section.
Our family took a week and half vacation recently to Cooperstown, NY. It was a fun getaway that involved a lot of baseball in that wonderful part of the world. As we made the long drive home, each family member talked about how good it would be to get home, sleep in our own bed, and see our dog Jack, who stayed with my parents while we were gone.
Since we picked up Jack, he hasn’t been himself. Almost a week after vacation, he’s still moping around the house, barely eating, and he just seems kind of lethargic. He’s not rushing to the door when we get home and instead of joining me for breakfast in the mornings, he just lays on the sofa.
I mentioned Jack’s behavior to a friend who’s a vet and learned that our dog is depressed. Now that I think of it, doesn’t he look kind of sad in that picture?
Doggie depression (yes, that’s a term) happens for some of the same reasons that cause us upright mammals to get down. One of the biggest contributors is change, which makes us feel out of step and perhaps out of control. People and pets alike like rhythm, routine, and stability. Sure, too much of the same thing can sometimes make us feel like we’re in a rut, but change upsets our demeanor and can downgrade our mood. Even a good change such as a vacation can have a depressing effect. We higher life forms struggle with depression in ways very similar to man’s best friend.
So what can we do when the fun is over and our return to the real world gets us down? If you’re suffering from post-vacation blues, try these three tips that I’ve learned from some of my coaching psychologist friends and coaching clients:
Stories bring a tremendous lift to my spirit.
For Easter dinner, we drove out to my Aunt Lynn’s house which is about 5 miles south of the population 1,200 town I grew up in. After lunch, my Aunt Toni began to reminisce that by this time of day fifty years ago, they would have already saddled up the horses and gone on a ride for the rest of the day. I could see on both of my aunt’s faces that they wished it was fifty years ago.
Aunt Lynn’s husband Tim offered to saddle up old Diesel for her. Tim and Lynn have a few horses in their pasture, but Diesel, despite his strong name, wasn’t a legitimate offer.
Diesel is a miniature pony. My Aunt Toni is fairly short, but even her feet would drag the ground on Diesel. Aunt Lynn didn’t care for her husband’s offer. She defended Aunt Toni (who had married into the family), “No, she could ride.”
Looking over the table at the opposite wall, I saw a wall hanging that read, “If heaven doesn’t have horses, I ain’t going.” An amateur theologian could easily tear that theology apart, but a good coach would hear a valuable nugget in my aunt’s life story. To adapt a quote from Chariots of Fire, she feels God’s joy when she is involved with horses.
A great coach isn’t one who can help a client design action steps. A great coach is one who can ensure the client takes their action steps. Rooting actions into the story of the client is a key to building powerful accountability. The client doesn’t take the planned action out of willpower, but out of destiny.
There are at least three characteristic a coach can tease out of a client’s story to create momentum in all of the client’s desired actions.