Before I started my training as a career coach, I recall fondly imagining future appointments in which I doled out wisdom to my clients, sharing my life experience and expertise to guide them toward a more fulfilling life.
What’s wrong with that, you ask? Yes, it is a picture of what happens in the coaching space, but it’s a very incomplete one.
I quickly learned that while a sprinkle of shared wisdom and a dollop of expertise are important factors in coaching, far and away the most powerful tool for client growth is a carefully timed and precisely worded question.
- What would you like MORE of in your career?
- What would you like LESS of in your career?
- What is keeping you from moving toward your career goals? And how is that serving you?
- What are you putting up with at work? And how would it feel to be free of that?
- What happens if you continue on the present path? What DOESN’T happen?
These are just a few questions that can prompt the kind of deep thinking and introspection crucial to a client’s forward motion, bringing the hidden into view.
I’ve had the privilege to witness surprising breakthroughs in the quiet, non-judging space I share with my clients, sometimes within 10 minutes of an initial meeting. And nearly all of them have come not from my shared stories or advice, but from my client feeling safe enough to face with honesty and openness a difficult or painful question.
A coach who focuses on directing and advice-giving is cheating her client out of the most valuable gift the process has to offer — self-knowledge and the resulting empowerment to direct one’s own destiny.