The power of inquiry is one of the most vital skills you can grow and develop as a leader and as someone who is coaching others. According to the article What Is Inquiry-Based Learning: 7 Benefits & Strategies You Need to Know, “When a concept sparks curiosity, there is increased activity in the hippocampus – the region of the brain responsible for memory creation.” When you utilize questions in your coaching, you ignite curiosity in the other person whereby they “retain essential information gleaned.”
The article further shares when speaking about student based learning that “the process of asking open questions, solving them through original strategies empowers students to take ownership of their learning.” According to the Psychology of Curiosity, when people are curious, they delve into what they don’t know or an “information gap.” “The information-gap theory views curiosity as arising when attention becomes focused on a gap in one’s knowledge. Such information gaps produce the feeling of deprivation labeled curiosity. The curious individual is motivated to obtain the missing information to reduce or eliminate the feeling of deprivation.”
Your role as a leader who is a coach is to lean into curiosity through inquiry. This is a way to guide the person, utilizing their answers to the questions (NOT your answers), to achieve awareness and results. You are essentially creating a “gap” in knowledge for the other person by using questions to dive into their perspectives, beliefs, knowing, etc.
For example, I was coaching a woman who had a strained relationship with her boss. While they got along well, she was not properly representing the team and their work and advocating for them appropriately. As we discussed the relationship with her boss, one way in could have simply been discussing what she was doing or not doing that created this strain. However when digging deeper and asking what I call “High Velocity Questions,” she discovered that she was in fact enabling her bosses behavior and taking on the role of “savior” for the team. She also realized that she was disappointed because she thought her boss would be a role model and mentor for her which proved not to be the case. Once she came to these powerful awarenesses she could take different actions which could potentially lead to different results.
“High Velocity Questions” are those which facilitate more profound conversations and allow you as the coach to push the conversation further and explore in much more depth. They assist you to delve into the true meaning of the message being conveyed. This type of questioning allows both speaker and listener to deeply examine issues, sentiments, and the truth behind the words being spoken.
The below are examples, and are not a “script” to follow. Each question won’t be suitable for each person or for each session, because much of coaching is about being in the moment, listening to the person being coached, and moving in the direction they are moving. It’s helpful, however, to have ideas in mind, and reference to draw on—especially when you are new to coaching or when you are focusing on developing your own curiosity. Use these as a catalyst for exploration and even add to this list when you find powerful questions that work for you.
Getting to the heart of the issue:
- What are you assuming about the situation?
- What could an alternate explanation be?
- What facts support this?
- What can you control in the situation?
- What can’t you control in the situation?
- What have you tried to do to solve this problem for yourself?
- What makes this issue important to you?
- What prevents you from…?
- Why do you believe that to be true?
Looking into the future:
- What is your ideal outcome?
- What would happen if you raised your expectations?
- What would it look like if…?
- What would success look like?
- What would be the first signs that things are getting back on track?
Taking it further:
- And then what?
- How did you decide that?
- How is this significant?
- What else could be true here?
- What led you to that conclusion?
- Why is this a problem?
Moving into action:
- What are you committed to doing?
- What do you think the next step should be?
- Would you be willing to…?
- What would you need in order to move forward?
- What is one small step you could take this week that you know you could do successfully to move you forward?
You can even use these High Velocity Questions with yourself possibly in your daily journaling to dive deeply into an issue or something you want to solve. Pick a situation or issue, ask yourself five or more of the above questions, and jot down your answers. Did you see anything new that you hadn’t seen before?
Think about a person you are coaching, and a situation they are experiencing. How can you utilize these high velocity questions in your next session with them?
High Velocity Questions are designed intentionally to propel you into learning more about yourself and another. These facilitate the information gap and ignites curiosity which will indeed lead to greater action.
Esther Weinberg is the Chief Leadership Development Officer and Founder of The Ready Zone. To dive deeper into the ideas and strategies offered in this article, complete our Needs Assessment and we’ll schedule time to connect.
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