It's really important to be asking the right questions, especially if you want to get the maximum benefit from coaching.
Coaching can easily drift into mentoring, especially when the coach has expertise in the subject matter of the coaching focus. The shift from coaching into mentoring is made more likely when the wrong questions are being asked.
Wrong questions stifle the dialogue, diminish options and create a panicked sense in the coach that they need to fill the gaps. The dialogue begins to dry up.
There are six key question errors that every coaching conversation needs to avoid if the session is to be a developmental and appreciative dialogue.
1. Don't ask closed questions. It's the most common error and one of the most easy to fall into. As soon as a closed question is asked it invites a closed response. Once the questions and answers are closed, so are minds.
2. Don't ask run on questions. A question that includes multiple parts confuses the listener. It becomes difficult to distinguish what the point of the question was and therefore what answer is actually appropriate.
3. Don't seek a crunch question. There is no killer question that opens everything up. Trying to frame one is an artificial exercise that says more about the coach than the person being coached.
4. Don't ask rhetorical questions. Just as with crunch questions, a rhetorical question is filled with presuppositions that take autonomy from the person being coached.
5. Don't ask leading questions. Even if the implications of a leading question are accurate they still lift responsibility from the person being coached and give it to the coach. If the implications are inaccurate they undermine the coaching relationship.
6. Don't ask questions that interpret the previous answer. Putting an interpretation into a question is the first step towards the coach asking and answering their own questions. At that point the person being coached will either seek to contradict the interpretation, which is potentially the start of a confrontation, or they will dry up.
Flip each of these don'ts into a do and the prospects look good for an outstanding coaching conversation.