The essence of executive coaching is to raise awareness and deepen one’s sense of response-ability. Quite often we become preoccupied with the issues right in front of us – the tree instead of the forest (which is how we sometimes find ourselves “barking up the wrong tree”, even if it’s just in our own head), and we lose awareness of other important factors.
The following questions are used by executive coaches to help a person step around the tree, either to see another side of it, or to see the thing behind it. Before you read the questions, bring to mind a real-time issue or opportunity for which you would like some coaching input. Then, as you read the questions, imagine them being asked of you by someone willing to wait with you while you generate a considered answer.
1 – “Imagine what we are discussing is a symptom. What is the underlying cause?”
With this question, it helps to play the movie backwards. Reflect on what happened that brought about the current scenario…or did not happen…or was said…or not said…was decided…or not decided…communicated…or not, etc.
2 – “What advice would you give a friend or family member in your situation?”
This one gets you out of your own way. Sometimes that means getting out of your head. Sometimes it helps you step out of the emotional “stuff” that powers up those ever-ready shields.
3 – “Imagine having a dialogue with the wisest person you know or can think of. What would they say to you right now?”
You might astound yourself with the answer that comes to mind. Quite often, this one generates an internal, emotional response or resonation. At times profound.
4 – “What did you feel when you heard yourself give that answer?”
It is important to sit with feelings that questions and answers generate. Emotions are intended to prompt us to consider, “What is so important to me in this that I just felt what I felt?” (You just received a bonus question!)
5 – “If you had full permission to act on this as you see fit, what would the desired outcome be?”
This is a “begin with the end in mind” question. Sometimes you need to prime the pump before the water flows freely, thus the first four questions. Eventually, you want to view (imagine) the end of the movie. We rarely watch a movie with the intention of leaving it just before the plot resolves.
5 1/2 – “What would you commit to 100% to move toward that outcome?”
Here’s where we shift from awareness-raising to response-ability and resolve. It’s where the hero, after facing external obstacles and internal doubts, commits to action…and takes it.
There you have it. Well, at least some of it. Self-coaching with these questions can be effective. The benefit of a coaching relationship with another person committed to being with you as you consider such questions is: They will offer you a nonjudgmental follow-up question. So you don’t have to take on that response-ability.
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