Box of Crayons Blog


Essential Coaching Skills for Managers #3: 7 Core Coaching Questions (1)

The Essential Coaching Skills series is first posted on the excellent Make Work Meaningful blog.
The Essential Coaching Skills series continues here every Wednesday.

The seven questions that count

In this Essential Coaching Skills tip, we are going to look at the first of seven key coaching questions

But before we do, a bit of background. When I started my own coach training, I watched my instructors to try and understand what they did so well that made their coaching get to the point so efficiently.

Pretty quickly I understood this key coaching “secret sauce” – great coaches have some core questions that they rely on time and time and time (and time) again.

I think there are seven coaching questions that managers, supervisors and executives should have in their back pocket. These are the questions you want to start memorizing, having my computer, written on the back of your hand.

Here is the first one, and it’s a beauty.

Core Coaching Question #1: What’s the real challenge for you?

Managers spend so much of their time in organizations and beyond, directing time and energy and passion and emotion and anxiety and effort to solving the wrong problems.

Because so many of us are geared up to give advice and provide solutions – the training ground of the typical manager – that we often skip this first vital question, which is probing to find out what the real challenge is.

The “for you” bit in the end is important too. If you leave it off, you run the danger of your coachee talking about the general challenge, or the high-level challenge or the theoretical challenge – without ever getting to what the challenge is for them.

Your coaching action

Start noticing your strong tendency to lead to problem-solving. That’s not all bad – sometimes it’s exactly the right thing to do. But as often, you’re better of spending time figuring out what the real challenge is first.

Almost certainly, the initial challenge the person you’re coaching isn’t actually the real challenge. (Sometimes it is. But rarely.) Stay hungry. Stay curious. Ask them, “What’s the real challenge here for you?” and see what happens.

Additional reading

Making Questions Work by Dorothy Strachan [aff link0. A fantastic resource for facilitators, coaches and the rest of us. Not just a long list of questions, but a thoughtfully structured book that takes you through key elements of any coaching or facilitation engagement.

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