‘Dr Livingstone, I presume.’
David Livingstone was one of Britain’s most popular national heroes of the late 19th century – missionary, ‘rags to riches’ anti-slavery crusader and explorer.
All very well, but what has he got to do with coaching?
Well, as coaches we should help our coachees explore – their issues, thoughts, feelings and much more.
Often (we think) we know the best way forward for the individual and we don’t have much time. But rather than falling into the trap of just telling the individual what to do, we decide to be subtle and ask a question:
‘Have you tried talking to him?’
‘Shouldn’t you go to the meeting?’
But these are leading questions – they have our solution embedded in them. They close down the area of exploration. (In fact, ‘Dr Livingstone, I presume’, could be a leading question.)
We should slow down and help to open up the territory. Open is the key word because we should use simple open questions:
‘Tell me about…….’
‘What have you tried?’
‘What do you want to happen?’
Of course we will need to probe appropriately – ‘Tell me more about…’.
So, let’s not hurry to close things down – let’s go with the flow and ask more open questions. After all, what a coachee starts talking about often is not their real issue.
So, to build on what we covered before:
Ask a simple open question – ‘tell me about….’
If in doubt, say nowt – zip it and hold the silence
If you must say owt, summarise – ‘this is what I’ve heard’