Are you convinced you have the answers?

I was teaching coaching skills to leaders last week and they openly admitted that they have developed some pretty ingrained patterns of being the “fixers”, and providing quick solutions when someone comes to them asking for help. I get it, these are long-held patterns of behaviour for both the person seeking the help, and the person providing the fix.

Coaching takes a different stance. In coaching, we hold the belief that the person is capable of coming up with their own solution; the answer that works best for them. If they are coming to you asking for information or a resource they don’t have, then by all means share it with them. If however, they are coming to you looking for advice on something dynamic that has multiple options depending on the person, (for example how to approach a difficult conversation, or a way to approach a project) then I would encourage you to stop for a second and try a coach- approach.

Advice or Great Question InsteadLet’s bring this to life with an example: Your colleague comes to you looking for advice on how to ask their boss for a raise. If you are a fixer, then you would tell them how you would do it, and that would feel very helpful. The reality is, your advice may or may not resonate with your colleague and the likelihood of them taking your advice is pretty slim. They aren’t bought into the idea because they are still processing the situation through their own perspective. You’ve given them advice, but you haven’t changed their thinking or perspective about the situation.

Instead, if your colleague asks you for advice on how to ask for a raise, stop yourself for a second and step into “coach-mode” asking them a few powerful questions instead.

“I am curious about what makes this conversation challenging for you?”
“What are the facts at play in this situation?”
“What assumptions are you making?”
“What other perspectives will inform the outcome?”

These questions are open and powerful to support your colleague to think through his or her situation so that they can come up with a conversation approach that works best for them. The power of questioning is that it opens up new neuropathways in our brains, which gives us access to thoughts and ideas that we didn’t know we had. It is an incredibly empowering feeling to stretch our thinking and discover something new after someone asks us a few good questions!

This approach will challenge you to redefine your beliefs around “being helpful”, and replace it with “helping them think” which is the role of a coach. I have been witness to many powerful “ah-ha” moments in coaching conversations because my client has discovered their own solution, and they are absolutely committed to taking action on their own ideas!

The flip side of this is that you don’t have to carry the weight of having all the answers all the time – now that is a good thing!

Take your questions for a spin and see what happens.