The Art of Asking Facilitative Questions – 12 Tips for Novice Coaches

 In Coaching Skills, Effective Leadership, Executive coaching, scaleYOU

When I started my coaching practice, my eagerness to make a meaningful impact often outpaced my technical skills. In hindsight, my early clients may not have been fully aware of these shortcomings—a double-edged sword, as it both shielded me from immediate criticism and delayed my progress as an effective coach.

The aim of this blog is to spare you that learning curve. If you’re a fledgling coach still honing your craft, consider this a shortcut to acquiring vital facilitative questioning techniques that will elevate your practice from the get-go.

Unlike directive questions that aim to guide the conversation toward a specific outcome, facilitative questions empower your clients to explore their thoughts, feelings, and options. Mastering this skill is imperative for long-term success.

Why Facilitative Questions Matter

Facilitative questions stimulate critical thinking, foster self-awareness, and encourage clients to arrive at their own conclusions. This makes the coaching experience more client-centered, which is key for effective coaching.

Key Principles of Effective Facilitative Questions

  1. Open-Ended Questions

Avoid questions that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.” Open-ended questions encourage clients to delve deeper into their thoughts and feelings, providing a richer context for the coaching process.

Example: Instead of asking, “Did you meet your targets?”, try “What obstacles did you encounter in meeting your targets?”

  1. Future-Oriented

Ask questions that help clients focus on future actions rather than past mistakes or shortcomings.

Example: “What will you do differently next time?”

  1. Non-Leading

A facilitative question should be unbiased and not guide the client toward a specific answer.

Example: Instead of “Don’t you think you should do X?”, ask “What are your thoughts on doing X?”

  1. Reframing

To help a coachee reframe their self-description in a more constructive manner, you could employ temporal framing questions.

Example: Instead of taking the statement, “I’m a lousy networker,” at face value, you could inquire, “How might you rephrase that to reflect your past experiences, opening the door for new self-beliefs?”

  1. Clarity is Key

Jargon and complex language can confuse the client. Stick to clear, straightforward phrasing.

  1. Be Specific

While openness is good, specificity can often help a client think more deeply about an issue.

Example: Instead of asking “Why?”, say “Can you elaborate on that?”

  1. Follow the Energy

If your client is passionate or interested in a specific topic, delve deeper into it.

Example: “You seem excited about this project. What’s the driving force behind your enthusiasm?”

  1. Reflective Questions

These questions invite clients to consider various perspectives.

Example: “How would your team feel about this approach?”

  1. Pause

Allow the client time to think and answer. This can often lead to more thoughtful responses.

  1. Validate Before You Ask

Validating a client’s statement before asking the next question can enhance the conversation.

Example: “That’s a good point. How does that fit into your overall strategy?”

  1. Use Silence

Sometimes, the most powerful question is the one you don’t ask. Allow for moments of silence to give your client space to think.

  1. Avoid “Why”

The term can be confrontational and may put clients on the defensive.

Example: Instead of “Why did you choose that?”, ask “What influenced your choice?”

Final Thoughts

Mastering the art of asking facilitative questions is a journey that requires practice, active listening, and a keen understanding of human psychology. As you grow in your coaching career, these questions will become an invaluable tool in your arsenal to empower your clients to find their own path to success.

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