How to Grow Your "Coaching Questions" Muscle in Team & Group Coaching | By Jennifer Britton

Questions can focus, expand, slow down and accelerate the coaching conversation. As coaches, questions are often all we need to engage in masterful coaching conversations with our clients.

How we use coaching questions in groups or teams:

In group or team coaching we may use questions to provide a pause point for team members to notice their own patterns, to enhance clarity around goals, to deepen awareness around an issue or to surface what is taboo for a team. In group coaching, questions can support group members in becoming more aware of their mindsets - their values, perspective and assumptions or facilitate action.

"Questions are the backbone of any group or team coaching conversation" Jennifer Britton in From One to Many: Best Practices for Team and Group Coaching.

Questions create the frame we use to look at issues.

As coaches we may include questions as:

  • Pre-work to help individual group coaching members identify what they would like to focus on in their upcoming conversation.
  • Journaling prompts.
  • A support to breakouts and smaller group discussion.
  • Providing peer groups a question or two to start the conversation flowing.

Growing our muscle as team and group coaches around questioning can involve:

  1. Co-facilitating. Partnering with others can provide a really positive way to be exposed to different coaching questions and approaches. It's good to get out of what can become a "rut" in our own style.
  2. Becoming aware of the types of questions you are asking.

And just as in individual coaching, some of the rules thumb with respect to questions include:

  • Keep questions short, concise and to the point. Often the most powerful questions are often only 5-6 words in length.
  • Adjust your questions according to the styles and preferences of the person involved.
  • Provide an opportunity to focus, identify options and possibilities, to expand awareness, or to facilitate action.
  • Notice any biases in our questions. Where are your questions focusing? Are they typically at the 30,000 foot view, in the weeds, around action or around awareness?
  • Use the language of the client, and watch for "coach-ese" or coaching jargon.

4 important things to consider when using questions in team and group coaching:

  1. What level are you coaching at? Something to be asking yourself throughout group and team coaching is, "Is the focus on the individual or collective level in this work?". In team coaching you will likely be supporting the team through questioning at the collective level. Whereas for groups, you may be using questions to first support reflection by the individual client, and then enhanced understanding collectively across the group.
  2. Vary your questions by individual learning styles. You can use different learning styles to influence how you ask questions and increase rapport with a wider ranger of people. For example "What does that look like?" will have resonance and impact for someone with a visual learning style. "What does that feel like?" will resonate with someone with a kinaesthetic learning style, and "What does that sound like?" will build rapport with someone who has an auditory learning style.
  3. Allow for different processing times. Not everyone in a group or team will have the same experience with questions. As such it can be important to consider how long you're giving people to pause, write things down or reflect before they speak.
  4. Support group and team members to ask more strategic and powerful questions. Throughout group and team coaching we may be leveraging questions in a number of contexts – in team and group breakout discussions, as well as pre-work and post-work.

I'll leave you with this question: How will you build your question muscle going forward?

Contributing author: Jennifer Britton is well known for her work in the group and team coaching arenas and is passionate about helping others excel in their work with teams and groups. Jennifer is the author of Effective Group Coaching (Wiley, 2009) and From One to Many: Best Practices for Team and Group Coaching (Jossey-Bass, 2014). In addition to offering ICF approved Continuing Coach Education, she also is the creator of the Conversation Sparker Cards™.  Jennifer is a Prism Award Winner for her work in developing a coaching culture within the healthcare sector, of which questions were a big part. Join Jenn for an upcoming Mentor Coaching Group for ACC/PCC.

 

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