My Favorite Business Coaching Questions (2/2)

In last month’s Small Business Matters blog post, I shared five of my my favorite small business coaching questions. I hope that you put those questions to work with your team and found them useful. This month, I share five more effective coaching questions and look forward to your feedback.

6. What are you pretending not to know?
Sometimes, in making an important decision it is convenient to overlook or ignore that which we know to be true.

A recent example: one of my clients, an attorney, was trying to make a hiring decision. He had a behavioral assessment that suggested that this prospective hire was a troublemaker and a bad fit for his team. Yet the client was short-handed and needed another attorney in his office as soon as possible. He was willing to “pretend not to know” what the assessment was telling him for the sake of a quick fix. This rarely turns out well.

7. What are you fearful of?
There are times when working with a client, I will find myself wondering why the client seems stuck? Why has there not been movement on a particular initiative? What’s the hold-up?

And then I ask this question. The responses include the following:

“I am afraid of being wrong.”

“I am fearful of the magnitude of the situation.”

“I am terrified of making a mistake.”

Fear is the great immobilizer. Until the specific fear has been identified and verbalized it may sabotage even the best of decisions.

Fear is also a very natural emotion. It’s human nature to be fearful. It’s part of our DNA. I am actually more concerned when someone tells me that he or she has no fear. Having fear is perfectly okay. Allowing fear to paralyze our decision-making or make bad decisions can be catastrophic.

8. How have you contributed to this issue?
When I was young and my brother and I would fight I would usually end up in front of my dad blaming my older brother for whatever damage had occurred as a result of the tussle. My dad would then ask me a very tough question, “And what did you do to instigate this fight?” I always thought I was quite innocent up to this point, and then had to admit that I had pushed or taunted my brother in some way. I always had a hand in whatever had taken place.

The same is always true with employee performance issues. I will ask the client, “And how have you contributed to this performance issue?” After some contemplation the leader will always arrive at several examples of ways that he or she has advertently or inadvertently helped to make the situation what it is.

My dad would always say, “It takes two to tango.”

9. What would you tell your best friend to do in this situation?
This question comes from one of my favorite books on decision making, “Decisive” written by best-selling authors Chip and Dan Heath. For whatever reason, by putting yourself into someone else’s shoes, in this case your best friend, it provides you a different perspective on a decision.

I can have a client that is completely stuck on a tough decision, see it in a very different light just by suggesting that this is now your best friend’s decision and what would you tell he or she? Switching roles from the undecided to the best friend creates a different dynamic that seems to make the answer(s) seem much clearer.

10. How does this end?
I had a CEO client recently struggling with n key executive’s performance and I posed this question to him, “How will this end?” He immediately responded, “The situation will get worse and he will leave the company.” I then said, “Given that conclusion, how should you handle this current performance issue?” With that new found context, the CEO decided to part ways with the key executive.

Steven Covey famously stated in his best-selling book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, start with the end in mind. I think this is a good strategy in decision-making. How will this end? While we don’t always have perfect information, we do usually have a good sense of how certain events will turn out in the future based on past experience. Trust your instincts.

Do you have a favorite coaching question? I would love to hear it and share it with readers in the future. In the meantime, I hope that you will make good use of these business questions as you coach your team members to great performance.