Explaining expectations is the first positive habit of inspiring coaches. But explaining is only a one-way process. To continue to inspire winning results and relationships, ask questions to initiate two-way communication and engage your team.
Coaching is more about asking questions than it is about knowing the answers. Managers tell while coaches ask. Business schools don't teach courses on asking questions, so leaders rarely, if ever, study the art of questioning the way they would study financial reports. Additionally, most leadership training focuses on identifying problems and creating solutions, but inspiring coaches focus on asking the right questions to help their teams identify problems and create solutions. This skill better engages teams, and it also takes the pressure off the coach to know all the answers.
When it comes to coaching, questions are really the answer. Asking questions is a long-established practice to demonstrate respect, diffuse tense situations, obtain buy-in, and make employees feel valued in a way that financial rewards cannot. Your questions either expand or limit the solutions and creativity your team will generate.
A few summers ago, we enjoyed a family trip to Greece. It is a land of boundless beauty and tremendous thinkers. While touring the Acropolis, our guide mentioned that while scheduling its restoration, time was built into each worker's day to spend time thinking! Imagine that happening almost anywhere else in the world, but since Greece's history is built upon the minds of the world's greatest thinkers it makes sense.
One of those great thinkers is the Greek philosopher Socrates, who was born over 2,500 years ago. Today, Socrates is alive and well in any coach who inspires others to realize their potential. His Socratic method of questioning is a timely and time- less leadership tool for engaging teams and challenging thought processes.
Asking questions is both selfless and self-serving. It demonstrates interest in your team while providing you with insights into their motivations, passions, challenges, assumptions, and aspirations. The next time you are tempted to tell your team what to do, take a lesson from Socrates and ask what they think first.
By simply asking questions, your employees will reveal challenges and opportunities that could potentially take you months or even years to identify. Asking questions and then really listening demonstrates personal respect and a genuine desire to engage and develop your team. Listen for the entire message your employee is communicating with his or her words, tone, posture, eyes, energy, hesitations, fluency, etc.
Inspiring coaches listen at least 50 percent of the time. Andrew Levi, a client and excellent leader of numerous businesses, has done a tremendous amount of leading, presenting, pitching, directing, persuading, and explaining in his efforts to build winning cultures and businesses. When asked about the topic of listening, he directly replied, "He who talks the most loses."
Ask, be silent, and listen to engage your team.