How to make “standard” coaching questions “dance in the moment”

Most coaching approaches know “scaling questions” in different variations. Solution Focused Coaching uses them in order to help the client describe small differences on their way to their preferred future. These can be about signs of the preferred future already happening in the past or about signs of the preferred future that would tell the client they are moving forward. Scaling questions aren’t about measuring or about assessing or about identifying “steps” — in Solution Focus, they are about observation and description. They sound something like this:

  • Client: “… describes their preferred future…”
  • Coach: “On a scale of zero to ten, where ten is the morning after the miracle, the time when your life is like you would like it to be and zero is the opposite, where are you now?”
  • Client: “At a 3, I think”
  • Coach: “Ah, not 0 then – what tells you that you are not at zero?”
  • Client: “….. hopefully long monologue about signs of progress already happening…”
  • Coach: “What else?”
  • Client: “…. some more descriptions…”
  • Coach: “What else?”
  • Client: “Naw, I think that’s it.”
  • Coach: “Would you like to think now about what one step in the direction of ten would look like?”
  • Client: “Sure”
  • Coach: “Which next step are you going to notice?”
  • Client: “I’ll know when I am at 4.”
  • Coach: “What will tell you that you are at 4?”
  • Client: “… long description of concrete signs of progress”

As you can see, the questions are really helpful and act like a skeleton key – a key that fits all locks. The client can apply them easily to their unique situation. However, in ICF performance evaluations these types of questions are often labelled “standard” and “unresponsive to the client”. They can sound like the coach has their structure and format in their head and they are basically running through a script rather than listening and responding to the client, “dancing in the moment”

There is an easy fix for all standard questions.

  1. Think about what the question’s intention is. In scaling it is about describing signs of the preferred future.
  2. Listen to the client and listen for openings to ask about this intention. In the case of scaling, it may be that the client is using a metaphor like: “I would be super clear, no more fog!”
  3. Replace the “standard question” with material from the client’s language. In the case of scaling this could be: “So how is the fog today? Ah, already some houses visible? What in your life tells you that the fog is no longer so thick that you can’t see? If it cleared up a bit more, what would you be noticing in your life?”

Try this with other “standard” questions and see how this works. If you would like to discuss and experiment, why not join one of our free coaching meetups and exchanges:

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