There are various techniques used by professional coaches to support employees to reach their performance potential and enable wellness. Some of the most common techniques are related to rapport building, active listening, and giving timely feedback, however some of the most impactful techniques relate to powerful questioning, scaling, reframing, and goal setting. This article walks through a few of the techniques you can expect to see from your coach, however as with anything, the beauty is in knowing how and when to use them well!
Questioning may sound like a simple technique but any coach will show you that it's actually very hard to get right. We talk about powerful questioning in coaching in particular, because in a relationship where the coach might do 20-30% of the speaking in a time-limited meeting, every word needs to be effective in enabling the coachee to expand their learning.
Powerful questions are typically open-ended, and they are short and timely, uniquely positioned in the context of the coaching discussion. These questions can sound innocuous when you hear them out-of-context but they are designed and delivered to make a coachee stop, think, reflect, and take insights from their development experience. Some examples of powerful questions might include: “what’s stopping you?”, “what’s the assumption underlying that statement?” or “how do you feel when you hear yourself say that?”.
Questioning is one of the most beautiful arts of coaching, and a truly powerful question will stop the coachee in their tracks, and have them reflecting for days to come. It comes from a place of curiosity and challenge in the coach, which ensures they deliver the right amount of tension to support real breakthrough thinking for the coachee.
Scaling is a method of asking a coachee to rate something in their development discussion on a scale of 1-10. For example, their likelihood of hitting their goal within the next 2 weeks. Because the experience of coaching is subjective for each individual, scaling is a way of creating benchmarks unique to the coachee, which can be checked and rechecked over time, and give personalised context to the progress of the discussion (for example: “you say you’re a 6/10 on communication skills, what would a 7 look like?”). So we might not know what a 6 means to Jimmy versus a 6 for Jessie, but we know that week on week Jimmy has moved from a 6 to a 7/10, which gives a sense of the progress he sees.
Rating is just one simple technique, but it’s used by coaches at all levels for its simplicity and utility in the subjective skills development journey.
This is the coaches ability to help a coachee look at a situation, a thought, a feeling or a relationship from another perspective. It takes empathy, quick thinking, and the ability to gently introduce new ideas to the coachee (without making them ‘wrong’ in their thinking!). This might sound like: “I have so much workload at the moment, because the organisation is sending me on a leadership development programme and this coaching, and I can’t get on top of it all”.... To which the coach might respond: “It sounds like the organisation is really investing in your future. They must see your potential”. Taking a ‘negative’ or limiting narrative that the coachee has, and deftly helping them see it from another, more positive perspective, frees up the coachee to see more options and possibilities in their work life. As the coach demonstrates this reframe, they’re in fact role modeling for the coachee how they too can ‘think differently’ and create emotional capacity for themselves.
Goal setting, in combination with powerful questioning, is undoubtedly one of the most important tools a coach has in their toolkit. A coach needs to be masterful in how they support the coachee to define and deliver on their goals, as all coaching should be goal-focused and have outcomes for performance. But the goals need to be led by the motivations of the coachee - the coach is there to guide and probe, co-creating the ideal goals with the coachee based on their knowledge of goal theory, but the coachee has the most to gain (or not) through the process, and the ultimate ownership rests with them. Coaches should be deft at spotting different types of goals, such as approach and avoidance goals, and performance and mastery goals. They will also be reviewing the goals based on their anchor to intrinsic or extrinsic motivations for the coachee. In all instances, the coach will be working with some version of a SMART goal, and will work closely with the coachee to make sure the goals are connected back to something the coachee values.
These are but a few of the techniques a coach will use, but there’s so many that can’t be listed! The power of coaching is about the co-creation of meaning and insight between the coach and coachee, so there’s a lot to be said for rapport, sometimes even above technique. Reach out to discuss how we can match the most skilled coaches for your needs: email@example.com