Coach, Are you asking enough questions?
Not that there’s a quota or anything, but I’m curious about how many questions you’re asking in your coaching. I ask, you see, because I’ve recently listened to some coaching and noticed that there were lots of statements and just a few questions. If coaching is an inquiry approach, what’s happened to all of your questions?
What am I hearing in place of questions?
One thing that I hear is restating what the client said, without adding much to it. This is often introduced with “Client, what I heard you say is …” followed by the same words that the client used. Often, the client responds with “Yes, that’s right.” and then continues their story.
You might think that this is a demonstration of “active listening”, and it’s true that the definition of the ICF Active Listening competency includes restating. But this competency asks you to do more than just restate what you hear, including
- Sharing what you hear about the client’s goals, concerns, values and beliefs, which are often not expressed directly in their word
- Sharing the essence or “bottom lining” the client’s communication that breaks them out of their long, descriptive story
The PCC Markers go a step further and ask you to “notice and inquire about” the client’s language, emotions, behaviors, and the clues that hide in their voice such as changes in tone, inflection or pace.
This might sound like “Client, I heard you start talking more passionately and stridently as you described that situation. What emotion are you noticing are you tell that story?” or “Client, I heard you use the words “she’s driving me crazy”. What does that that mean for you in this situation?”
If restating, word for word, what you hear the client say is taking up time and space that could be used for questioning, you might be missing out on opportunities to create new awareness that comes from inquiring about and exploring what your client is saying, not just listening to them speak.
I invite you to notice how many questions you’re asking, and challenge you to shift the balance to more questions and fewer declarative statements.