Probing questions in effective coaching

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Most coaches have a model that they adhere to. Perhaps the most common is GROW. The model provides a framework for the coaching conversation. It helps to keep it on track towards a positive outcome. Within a coaching model there is ample room for probing questions that take the quality of reflection and development to a new level.

Here are four top categories of probing questions.

1. Probe into emotions. If the responses have been technical, dry and devoid of emotional content, there is a good case for the coach to probe in order to drawn out an emotional link to the issues.
What's going on inside when you describe that situation?
Are there any emotions that this option generates?

2. Probe into patterns. Coaches can sometimes pick up that a pattern is emerging in the dialogue. Probing questions can help the person being coached to explore the insights that may come from recognising that pattern.
Can you describe any other times when you have had that reaction?
Have you experienced any similar outcomes?

3. Probe to get to specifics. It can be comfortable in the land of generalisations. A good coach recognises the need for positive challenge and probing to get to concrete aspects can be a key part of that constructive challenge.
What, exactly, was your reaction to that?
Can you give me a specific example of a situation like that?
Do you mean, literally, everyone?

4. Probe into the future. To prevent a coaching dialogue from being stuck in the past, and to move into the actions that will come from the coaching dialogue, it may be necessary to move the person being coached into considering the future with probing questions.
What's the best possible outcome from that option?
Where do you see that leading in the future?
Ideally, how would you like that to work out?

With a toolkit of probing questions at their disposal a coach can turn the dialogue from good into great, adding real value to the experience of the person being coached.

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