A good coaching manager is focused on helping their team solve their own challenges, assisting them to become more capable, resourceful and motivated.

Here is a good sequence of 10 generic questions and a bonus question that coaching managers can use to help their team members think through their challenge, find their own solutions and take ownership for addressing them.

  1. What is your challenge?
  2. What is the impact on you?
  3. How would you like it to be different in the future?
  4. What needs to change to make this happen?
  5. What will you need to do differently to enable that?
  6. How important is this to you?
  7. What would you like to do about it?
  8. What is your first step?
  9. When will you do this?
  10. How can I support you?

Bonus Question: and at some suitable follow-up point: What have you learned from this?

Some comments to the questions:

Question 2: What is the impact on you? This question explores the impact the challenge has personally on the individual in front of you. Recognising this will be a more powerful emotional driver for change than some rational impact on the business.

Question 5: What will you need to do differently to enable that? This encourages the individual to recognise that if they need something to change around them, they need to do something differently themselves. This is about taking responsibility.

Question 6: How important is this to you? This question tests the motivation of the team member to do something about the challenge and will be linked to the response to question 2.

Questions 7 to 9 are fundamentally about starting to take positive action. You will note that question 8 is just about the first step. Depending on the challenge and the individual you may help them work out a bigger set of activities and explore risks, but committing to the first step is the most important step towards change.

Question 10: How can I support you? This is phrased carefully to indicate that as the manager you are there to support them, but not to do their work.

Question 11 is a bonus question, but very important. You will pose this question at some point when change is underway or has been completed. The question encourages the team member to reflect on what they learned from the process. It will give them a sense of achievement and they can explore how they can apply what they learned in other settings.

This list does come with a word of caution: don’t follow it slavishly. Listen to the answers that your team member gives you and respond appropriately to show that you are really listening. I would expect that you will be exploring some of the areas in more depth with additional questions before moving on to the next question.

This is just one example of a sequence of coaching questions that helps team members take ownership for addressing their own challenges.

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