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The killer question

So, what is it? Do you have one? A favourite coaching question? That may be a good thing because it may be tried and tested, it may have previously unlocked really good coaching conversations. Or it may be a bad thing. You may have heard me say before that if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got. You think because it worked before it will work again, but if we become creatures of habit in our coaching, it may be that we are playing to our interests, to our agenda.

As Maslow, he of the hierarchy of needs fame, is reported to have said:

If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail

Here’s a simple example:

As you probably know, I’m really interested in helping people to be more effective in their work, I love hearing about how people organise themselves and get work done. So for some time my killer question, as I thought of it, was ‘When do you do your best work?’ But it wasn’t always a killer question, it was sometimes a bad question. Why? Because I was trying to set the agenda, my agenda, and I was not necessarily focused on the needs of the person I was supposed to be coaching. In coaching circles, that is sometimes called strategising.

Is there a better question? There’s always a better question. The better question in this case might be, ‘When are you at your best?’ It’s less constraining. It doesn’t require the person to focus on work. It makes no assumptions about their work, it gives them free rein to take the conversation wherever they want.

When we coach others, questions are the key tool of our trade and as we grow in confidence and experience, we may come to rely on genuinely good questions. But the killer question? That’s the one that focuses on the needs of the person in front of us right now, the one that allows them to unlock a particular insight or enables them to achieve a particular breakthrough.

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