I was in California this week partly for a client meeting and partly for a Selenium Developer Meetup and had half a day to kill so figured What the heck, I’ll go hang out at Agilistry. And look! There is a workshop called Coaching with Questions. So much the better!. (I likely would have gone regardless.)
‘Coaching with Questions’ ended up being one of those ‘experiential’ workshops that the/us Agile kids like to have; in this case it was Dale Emery who was facilitating. And though I really dislike the ‘experience’ of them live, this one makes me think I should really participate in more. (Not sure if I’m quite ready for PSL yet though, but again, I’m pretty sure I should be signing myself for it based on not thinking I am ready for it.)
The first exercise we did ended up producing a list of reasons why someone might want to as a particular question, but end up asking a different one.
- New information
- Question was answered by previous question
- Something wasn’t clear
- Did not yet hear the current state of whatever is causing the questioning
- Inquire about the expectations for the questioning [in order to frame further questions]
- Separate the larger problem from the smaller, personal problem
- Alignment with the questioners model
- To confirm some conclusions that are being reached
The second exercise was done in small groups and was a conversation between two people but where the ‘coach’ could only ask questions. Its safe to say that section was incredibly useful to me as Elizabeth Hendrickson was my coach and my hand-wavey, nebulous question was nicely morphed into a big bundle of other questions (and fears that I had nicely put into boxes — aren’t that what boxes for?!!?) that I needed to be facing. (See, told you I both needing PSL and am consciously avoiding it.) Had I been paired with someone else I’m not sure how much I would have gotten from it, but she has some situational background knowledge and I trust her so it worked fantastic (I think — and its my blog post). On reflection I think I even forgot there was an ‘observer’ who was watching the conversation.
After each debrief was discussion in which I wrote done the/my key items.
- Part of coaching is inviting the client to think
- Don’t assume you understand the concerns of the person answering your questions
- Businesses tend to do things for three reasons: to increase revenue, decrease cost or make a strategic change
- An important part of coaching is permission. And that permission is tentative and always up for renegotiation
- A useful question – Are my questions useful?
- A context-free one – What question haven’t I asked you?
- The biggest value a coach / consultant can bring to a situation is ignorance
- Coaching is about helping to put pieces together
- You can’t help but advise people with your questioning since the very act of asking a question has context and background around why you asked that particular question at the particular time
- Part of what we bring to a coaching assignment is out models of the universe
- If something is important, it will come up again
- A question I think I first heard Jerry Weinberg say (to Adam White) – If you did know the answer, what would it be?
- Possibility Boundaries
- It is best to ask for explicit permission if you are unsure whether you have it for a line of inquiry
- A shift (in tone of voice, energy of speaker, body language)usually means some something
Coaching with Questions felt kinda ‘5 whys’-ish at times, but its actually much more than that with the key word being ‘coaching’. I think ‘5 whys’ is more of a focusing tool for a specific issue than the sorts of things a well done thread of questioning can provide. I’d have no problem recommending this to other coaches / consultants — especially ones who are just starting out.
Oh, and Dale provided handouts at the end. I really need to start doing handouts.