The One Question that Creates Clarity

So, what makes a great coach great?

This week we are looking at the idea of self-coaching and then teaching others to self-coach themselves.  According to Dr. Daniel Friedland, author of Leading Well from Within, it begins with asking inspiring questions.

What is the desired outcome?  What am I here to learn?  How can I best serve? 

Learning to ask ourselves questions is at the heart of self-coaching. Doing so elevates our mindset.

It starts with us. We are “client zero” (H/T Brian Johnson). Then, we teach others.  

Being an effective coach is not about becoming indispensable. It’s about coaching others to coach themselves. The goal is to elevate the leadership capacity across the organization. 

Quick caveat. Asking questions is the key. But, Danny tells us, first we listen. If the person is experiencing a challenge, begin by listening. With empathy and compassion.  And affirmation: I can appreciate how hard this is for you.  In his book, Danny connects Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to brain science.  

It starts with safety.  That’s why we start with listening.  When we or someone else doesn’t feel safe, we get stuck.  Stress occurs when the demands outstrip our resources.  By telling our story, by putting it into words, we gain elevation.  We rise up.  “Name it to tame it,” Danny calls it.

So, as coaches, we begin by listening.  Next comes creating a sense of belonging.  Once the story has been told, Danny asks: “Have you felt me being compassionate with you?”  Yes…  “How do you know?”

We might think this is a weird question.  But the reason Danny asks this question is to model and have us explicitly recognize what compassion looks like, such as the warmth of his tone and the affirming words he expresses. This enables us to internalize this expression of compassion as self-compassion so we can engage in a similar dialogue within ourselves, much in the same way we’d express this kindness with a best friend who was struggling too.    

Only when we have claimed safety and then belonging can we move to significance.  Which is when questions become powerful.  

And, one of the most powerful questions we can learn to ask ourselves is: What is the desired outcome?  What is it we want to happen? 

Because this question moves us from victim to creator.  

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Reflection As a leader, how much time am I spending coaching those on my team?  

Action:  Ask myself: What is the desired outcome?

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