As an executive coach, I frequently start coaching sessions with the same question, “What do we need to accomplish in this session to make this hour the best hour of your week”? Asking this question immediately helps me to hone into what is top of mind and a priority for my client. From there, our conversation becomes a series of powerful questions (from me as the coach) and answers (from my client) to provide insight into problems or issues the client is trying to solve.
The formal name of this strategy is appreciative inquiry. Appreciative inquiry at its core is the use of open-ended probing questions that helps to establish a rapport between those seeking to communicate and/or understand each other.
Imagine the power of a question in a setting where some members of the team are looking confused or shaking their heads in disagreement about a topic. Rather than challenging the presenter by saying that something won’t work, the team member could ask open-ended questions to seek clarity regarding the presenter’s information. For example, instead of saying “I don’t think your approach to scheduling clients will work”. The statement can be reframed to a question – “What steps will we need to take to make the new scheduling process successful”? The key is to avoid closed questions that lead to a yes or no response. Also avoid “why” questions. Although why is an open-ended question, the word can imply criticism or non-acceptance.
Here are a few starter questions you can practice using:
- What ideas do you have to…
- How can I help you to….
- Tell me about…. (and follow with open-ended question)
- Where we can make changes…
- How does this fit with our overall revenue strategy…
Take your communications to the next level by practicing appreciative inquiry in every verbal interaction. You will be astonished at how much the conversation will open up and invite participation! Need help applying this concept? Consider booking a free executive coaching consultation on our website.