Leading Questions: Trying to subliminally give your client a solution or lead them in a direction through the form of a question. (read: exhausting, ineffective, and not really coaching…)
Solutions…we all have them and when we talk leading questions we are talking about thinking your solutions are best for your clients and trying to form your ideas in a question. Not so effective….’why?’ you ask…well because you are not your clients. What works for you won’t necessarily work for your client because your client doesn’t have the same background, values, beliefs, or principles as you do.
Solutions that work for you may or may not work for your client because we are all different. Heck, some of us like meatloaf and some of us don’t like meatloaf, right? Karen even hates the way the word sounds.
A common obstacle for coaches is to think of a solution for your client and then ask questions hoping that the question will lead a client towards that solution. (ppssttt…when we are trying to fix the situation it usually comes from a desire to add value…) Brilliant right! Not so fast Einstein. The downfall is that the client goes along with it because they think they should, or it’s the “right” thing to do however, if no real new behaviors come out through this process, no new coaching has occurred and no changes will take place because the client is doing what they’re doing for the wrong reasons (the dreaded shoulds). Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect $200.00….and you’re back at square one…well actually “Go”.
For coaching to be effective there has to be a shift in perspective and giving someone a solution is like putting a band-aid on a bullet hole.
Another way leading questions come into play is when the coach’s “intuition” comes into play and the coach wants to test the intuitive hit and instead of using the ICF Core Competency of Direct Communication in a truly empowering way – the coach instead asks questions to guide the client to their “intuitive” conclusion. (pssst….You’re leading.)
So let’s even think in a court setting….hang with us here our non-legal friends….How many times did you watch Law and Order and hear Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston) yell “Objection….Leading the witness!”? Leading questions are the same thing in coaching…minus the gavel.
Here’s what it can sound like in court…”So would you agree that you have been lying Professor Plum? You did kill Colonel Mustard in the Ballroom with the Lead Pipe.” Maybe that is a little extravagant and not exactly like “well, what if you just picked up the phone and called your mother…what would be better,” it’s the same concept. (The coach thinks the solution is for the client to call their mom.)
Now we can all put away our Perry Mason hats as we’re not cross-examining our clients to get them anywhere…..except where they want to be (remember that Setting the Coaching Agreement is an ICF Core Competencies). Leading questions show up in many ways – and if you are asking a leading question it’s about you. Some things to keep on your radar screen about leading questions…
- Leading questions are questions that only have one answer.
- Leading questions are often guiding. While they do not necessarily indicate an answer, they strong-arm undesirable alternatives and act as an escort service in bringing the person to a desired destination. (Clearing throat… again – your destination.)
- Leading questions are those questions that are formulated in such a way that suggests an obligatory answer within the question, in other words you are ‘putting words in the client’s mouth’. Your words — and quite frankly — sometimes those words taste like cod sperm (yes, it really is a food in Japan. We googled: Worst tasting foods and that is the result of that insightful search.)
Here’s a little test…ok – it’s not really a test – but all of these questions have leading elements to them. Pick out why the question might be leading.
- How would you describe that feeling: angry?” (Client did not use the word angry)
- Well Joe, we’ve spent the last 3 weeks talking about your relationship, isn’t it time you made a decision to leave her?
- What ways can you stay feeling good about staying with this company you’ve invested so much time and energy in?”
- It seems like this option would feel good today, but the other would give lasting satisfaction: which one do you want?”
- How valuable would it be if you told your team how much you appreciated them?
- What would it look like if you had compassion for your mom?
Here are some ways that solutions are disguised as leading questions….
- What would it take to (Insert your suggestion)
- How can you get them to (insert your suggestion)
- What could you do to (insert your suggestion)
- What would happen if you (insert your suggestion)
- Why don’t you (insert your suggestion)
- What if you (insert your suggestion)
Up next….we teach you some options on how to tweak your questions if you have a tendency to play Jack McCoy. Plus, we help you sort out what to do in the middle of a question if you catch yourself leading.