I was five
minutes from a client meeting and my phone rang. It was an old friend calling. She asked if I could help her think through a
dilemma and I explained that I had only a few minutes. She said she would describe the problem and
we could talk it through later in the day.
The dilemma was how to create a work schedule wedging in a new position with
workdays falling during the week and over the weekend. She had flexibility but was unsure how to find
the right balance. With two minutes to
go, I asked, “What’s more important, creating a block of time for your personal
life or maximizing work opportunity?” Without hesitating she answered “Personal
life.” My next question was “Is this decision
unalterable?” She said, “Wow, it didn’t even occur to me that this was not a
permanent decision. I can change the schedule in a few months. This is really
simple, now. I know the answer. Thanks!” I wasn’t late for my meeting.
The entire conversation
lasted about four minutes after we got through the up-front hellos and is
probably the fastest “coaching” session I’ve ever participated in. It comprised a problem about work-life
balance and two relatively simple, though pointed, questions.
are the most powerful tool in a life coach’s toolbox. A life coach does not typically answer
questions but focuses on posing questions that encourage clients to connect
with their values or examine a prevailing perspective. A good coaching question encourages people to
look within themselves. This exploration
should be revealing. It can reveal values
that can drive decisions. It can also reveal the freedom to choose a more
empowering perspective. Recognizing choice is the first step toward making one.
The process sparks action.
question I asked my friend enabled her to identify values that simplified the
dilemma. She knew what she wanted in her
life and the schedule choices were narrowed quickly. The second question shifted her perspective.
It allowed her to choose a perspective permitting her to see the problem as one
with no dire, unchangeable outcome. Pressure gone, options clearer. At this point, she answered the question
herself in no time. No need for a follow-up conversation!
This simple, true example illustrates
the role a life coach plays in asking questions that enable clients to bring
their values to the forefront and choose a resonant perspective from which to
approach topics in their lives. A good
question can be worth a lot more than a good answer. (Other Thoughts and Essays)