The one question that will give you more time and develop your team.
When speaking with a University recently about a Coaching Conversations program, they asked me how I help leaders apply coaching skills when they’re struggling with seeing how they can integrate them into their real workplace. Their question got me thinking about many of the leaders I’ve worked with over the years whether it be through one on one coaching or in workshops do exactly that. Learning coaching skills isn’t useful if you’re not able to find a way to integrate them into your everyday work as a leader and it’s not about scheduling long coaching conversations with your team.
I often find myself talking with clients about having more coach like conversations or looking for strategies to be a more effective delegator, reduce the lineup outside their office door, or helping their team members think more critically. Many of them have learned a coaching approach for leaders before and some are learning the first time. The biggest barrier I have found in leaders actually applying these skills in trying to do it all.
A coach approach for a leader is very different than a session with a professional coach. While a leader can spend an hour coaching one of their direct reports or even a peer, it’s the non-stop flood of “hey do you have a minute” conversations that are the best opportunity to take a coaching approach, yet it seems not to happen because it’s too hard to fit in yet another task or meeting. I’m hoping to give you a new perspective on how to make it happen and in the end save you more time and develop your team at the same time.
Can Coaching Happen in Five Minutes?
If you have only five minutes with someone to help them resolve a problem, can you ask one question along the way? Just one. Not 12, not following a whole coaching model framework. Can you just ask one question? Yup, I thought so. This is where a coach approach begins.
What is Coaching Anyway?
Coaching is about helping another person think critically about their problem, issue, or situation. Asking one question can help them do that. Its ok to solve the problem for them along the way if you need to and let’s be honest, there are times that you truly need to solve the problem and it’s not a sign of being an ineffective leader.
How Can One Question Help?
By asking one question you can be sure you are answering the root issue and saving time with long explanations in areas your team member doesn’t require. You can find the gaps in their thinking. Or, you can ensure they are walking away will full understanding after you’ve walked them through the best decision and next steps to check with any gaps in their understanding of the plan.
Ask any coaching question. Just one. Doesn’t have to be a whole conversation that is focused on coaching. If you just begin with asking one question every time you’ll help the other person take ownership, become more accountable, begin solving their own problems and think critically.
What Are Some Examples?
To Get Focused:
- What do you want to take away from our conversation?
- Can you walk me through how you got to this point?
To Explore Options:
- What have you tried already?
- What are your options?
- What are the options you’re considering?
- What do you think?
- What’s your first step?
- What will you do and by when?
- What might get in the way of the plan?
To Get Commitment:
- Can you recap the plan?
Remember, the idea isn’t to ask all of these questions, start with just one and see what happens. I’m a fan of practical coaching in the workplace. Breaking it down so you can eventually stop handing out answers to problems and begin developing people who can solve problems as well or better than you can. This frees you up to do your strategic work and planning that you might not otherwise get to.