Situations in coaching can very a lot from helping coachee to draft an execution plan for a particular topic to searching the inner values and beliefs of a coachee. This book gives tools how to approach the different situations as well as practical exercises.
I found this book helpful for me. I learned a lot and believe I will learn more in the future by doing the exercise of the book with my coaching buddy. I also think that other coaches can learn by reading the book and doing the exercises. I can suggest reading this book if you are a coach who has already some knowledge and experience from coaching. For those who are just starting to explore the miracle world of coaching I say, save this book for the future.
The book introduces ten most common asking mistakes, a huge pile of different tools for versatile situations and enormous amount of excellent coaching questions. In this book review, I will discuss three tools that resonated with me most, when I read the book. These tools are “why questions”, “Actions steps”, and “Decision making”. I discuss these tools by explaining what Stoltzfus writes in his book and then add some of my own thinking on top of.
A couple of words also of the Author. Tony Stoltzfus is an experience coach who has been coaching, training coaches and author of a Leadership Coaching. His background is in Christian coaching and he has done his career doing ministry coaching. With the book Coaching Questions author wants to provide tools and techniques for beginner coaches as well as brush up tools for advanced coaches. Beginners can use tools Tony presented in the book to learn new techniques and help them start their coaching journey. For the advanced coaches, tools work as a check list, which you can go through before coaching session. Most of all he wants to introduce more than 1000 good coaching questions to a reader. Tony thinks that reading the questions and letting them incubate in mind helps coach to ask good questions in the moment.
Content of the book
In nut shell, the book is about to teach reader how to ask questions, what kind of questions to ask and how to avoid typical questions asking mistakes. It is also intended to be used as a practice guide. It has a numerous topic and under each topic there is plenty of good questions.
Because there are plenty of different topics in the book I will introduce three that resonate most with me. For me the most interesting ones were ‘Why questions’, ‘Actions steps’ and ‘Decision making’. Discussing these three topics will give understanding for reader how things are presented in the book and what were my conclusions and thoughts around this particular topic.
Why Questions, was a separate sub-chapter written under ‘Top Ten Asking Mistakes’. Why questions, are powerful questions when coach helps client to understand her inner values and beliefs. The challenge of ‘why questions’ is that they can make people to clam up, because they challenge people’s motives. If coach asks from coachee “Why did you do that?” coach is asking coachee to defend and justify. Coachee can take these kind of questions as an attack and become defensive. This then might lead to dead end in the discussion.
Author proposes ‘what’ as a solution to the challenge. He presents a way to change ‘why questions’ to ‘what’ questions. Here are couple of examples
- *Why did you turn down the job?” -> “What factors led you to turn down the job?”
- “Why can’t you talk to him about that?” -> “What do you need to talk with him about that?”
I found this technique helpful when coaching. I could avoid asking the ‘why questions’ in the coaching sessions. However, I have been thinking when to ask ‘why questions’ and when to replace them with ‘what questions. For example, using why questions to make coachee understand her goals, beliefs and values could be a good thing, because why has the power. On the other hand, it might be too powerful. My current thinking related to ‘why questions’ is to translate them in to ‘what questions’ with coachees I don’t know well. When I know the person, and think using ‘why questions’ are suitable then use them when exploring coachee’s goals, beliefs and values, but newer with actions.
Actions Steps, are the core of the coaching. Almost all coaching literature says that if coachee doesn’t have action steps after coaching session then it was not a coaching session. Coaching Questions doesn’t do exception in that. I also buy this idea that there need to be actions after coaching session. However, it is of course an ideal situation where coachee and coach aims.
Author introduces could do, want do, will do model. The idea of the model is to start asking open could do questions, which means that coachee doesn’t have to make any commitment. When coachee has options clear then coach can ask what of these options you want do, narrowing the options. When understanding the things client wants to do is time to ask for commitment using will do questions.
Stoltzfus offers check list for good action:
- Clarity: know exactly what I’m doing
- Datebook: Item can be scheduled
- Commitment: I know I will do this
- Deadline: I’ve set a date for completion
Another crucial point related to action steps is that action steps that don’t get done are worse than no steps at all. The reason for this is that they sap confidence and energy and make it less likely that the future steps will succeed. To tackle this problem Stoltzfus introduces ‘insurance questions. Here are a couple of examples.
- ” Are there any obstacles to getting this done that we need to address?”
- “ Do you need any accountability here?”
- “ On a scale one to ten, how confident you are that you’ll complete the step by the deadline?”
Equivocations can reveal if client is not yet fully committed to take the actions. Characteristics of equivocal language are “I could…”, “I might….”, “I’m thinking of…”, “Maybe I should …”, I ought to …”, “I’d like to …”, “if …”, “someday …”, and “one possibility”. If coach hears coachee to use these expressions then coach needs to react and find more commitment from coachee.
Last note from Stoltzfus to actions steps is the progress report. Stoltzfus advices to have a written or verbal progress report from coachee. Same basic idea with progress report as in general in coaching. Ask from client for example “give me a brief progress report on your actions steps.” And then let the coachee do the talking. Here Stoltzfus’s tips for progress reporting.
- Do it first thing in your appointment, so you don’t run out of time and omit it (3 to 5 mins.)
- Use the client’s action step list, not yours
- Ask the client to touch on all action steps. Come back later to ones that need follow-up.
- Be brief: use three to five minutes, so you don’t use up the whole session with reporting.
Decision making, the key in decision making is to help coachee to make the decision. Stoltzfus has five points in this chapter: help people to understand how they make decision, using a couple of decision making strategies brings value to process, multiple perspectives help to understand the problem better, help leaders exploit around a topic if It is good to say yes for the opportunity and understanding how decision and process affects client can be very powerful.
Understanding client’s decision making process gives tools for coach to bring in the new strategies. Coach can exploit decision making process by asking questions like “what is your decision making process?”, “How do you usually make decision?” etc. Understanding coachee’s decision making process could work as first step in coaching before getting more deeply into the problem. Stoltzfus also mentions that understanding how the process and decision influences coachee. This can be powerful help to make the decision later on.
After the process is discussed then coach can broaden the discussion by bringing in additional decision making strategies. Stoltzfus lists 13 common decision making strategies. I found the list of strategies interesting, because using the strategies quickly can pull out the factors where coachee can base her decision. Going through a couple of strategies in a session can bring a lot of value when actually making the decision.
Stoltzfus decision making strategies:
- Rational “What are the pros and cons for each option? Which is most advantageous?”
- Intuitive “What is your gut saying? What feels right to you?”
- Relational “How will this course of action affect the people around you? Who will benefit, who will be hurt?”
- Principled “How do the key principles and priorities you live by apply to this decision?”
- Alignment “How well does this decision align with your passions, values and calling?”
- Decisive “What approach would most quickly lead you to a decision?”
- Adaptive “What things could be left open to allow for new information or options that don’t appear today? What things must be decided now, that you cannot put off for later?”
- Counsel “What does your spouse think? How about some key friends or advisors?”
- Team “What do your team members think? What would happen if you decided as a team?”
- Spiritual “What decision would best align with your faith? What is God saying to you on this?”
- Negative Drivers “What fears or inner drives are influencing your response? How could you remove those things from the equation so you can make a better decision?”
- Cost “What would it cost in terms of time and resources to do this? What would it cost you if you don’t do this? What’s the cost if you don’t decide or let circumstances overtake you?”
- Risk/Reward “What is the payoff for each option? The risk? Can you live with the worst-case outcome? What steps will minimize risk and maximize the chance of success?”
When coach sees that client understand how she does the decision, coach can take the discussion forward by introducing different perspectives. The basic idea that Stoltzfus introduces when discussing perspective is that if several people are doing the decision, then there would naturally be multiple perspectives covered. In coaching coach can help client to see the problem from different perspectives. Here are couple of example questions from Stoltzfus’s book how coach and coachee can explore new perspectives.
- “Take two people you know well and walk me through how they would make this decision?”
- “Take a few minutes and walk me through the perspectives of the people this decision will affect. How does this change their lives?”
Decision making chapter included also topic related to leaders and decision making. Stoltzfus discuss that leaders are busy people and they see all the time opportunities. When coaching leaders coach can help leaders to understand what opportunities are worth of pursuing. Here is one example questions how coach can help a leader to discover opportunity ”What’s exciting about this new opportunity? What makes this worth of pursuing?”. This part of the decision making was interesting. However, a little unconnected to other parts of the decision making topics.
When reading the book, I tried to keep in mind the question “What makes this book good?”. I set three factors where to base my judgment. First, did I learn something by reading the book. I think I learned something already just by reading and this thing was the “Why questions”. After reading the book I unconsciously started transforming my “Why questions” to “What questions”. So, definitely this stuck already just my reading. Second, can others learn from the book. Knowing other coaches who ponder the same questions as I’m, I’m sure that they will also learn from this book. Third, is this book easy to read. I have to say that for me this book was tiring to read because it has just lot of tools listed one after the other. So, in this sense it is wasn’t so great. However, one can always questions would it make any sense to write the book in more story telling way. It might be also just waste of paper. In the end two out of three was definitely yes. As a conclusion I can say that reading the book was worth of resources it took.
After digesting the book for a couple of days and writing this book review I can say that all coaches can benefit from the book. It works best as a reminder how to avoid the asking mistakes and how to approach certain kind of topics, for example decision making. Also, the exercises of the book are useful tools to practice coaching in different situations.
I think that the book is for coaches how are really into coaching and want to get better in their job. For beginners, it might feel difficult to read and technics hard to apply. However, for experienced coaches who are familiar with the coaching theory and know the basics it can add more.
I enjoyed reading the book and If you find this book review interesting the book might be also worth of reading. As always all the comments are very welcome!
Have a great year 2018!