Effective Listening & Questioning Skills in Coaching

Dr. Purushothaman
October 1, 2013

A good coach will have many skills to call upon during a session, but listening (as opposed to just hearing) and questioning are the two main skills that a coach will need. You'll notice that I put listening first as I believe that it is THE major skill for a coach to have, as what the client says, how they say it and what they mean by it should guide a coach and determine the questions they ask.

It's often said that we have two ears and one mouth and we should use them in that order. And not to just listen but listen effectively so that we are aware of the client's response and can frame the follow up questions based on that response rather than read from a prepared script of questions which will only meet the coach's needs but not necessarily the client's.

In coaching terms there are three levels of listening:

Peripheral listening - this is almost at a sub-conscious level. You are aware of the gist of a conversation without being part of it.

Apparent listening - an appearance of listening without being fully engaged in the conversation. The external signs are one of a listener but your thoughts might be elsewhere.

Active or effective listening - where not only the words are heard but the meaning behind them. This is the state of listening to which a coach aspires and will need, to become an effective and successful coach.

Questioning is the partner of listening and it's been stated above that questions asked of a client need to be determined by what you hear them saying but how the question is framed is also very important. The coach must be mindful to use open-ended as opposed to closed questions. Open-ended questions are those which require the client to think before answering and usually start with who, what, when, why and how. Closed questions which need only a yes or no answer fail to raise awareness in the client and do not move the session forward.

Effective questioning is also the key to raising awareness and responsibility and the use of open and not closed questions is essential to facilitate this process.

The coach will also use questions to keep the client focused, especially on what their goal is, why it's important to them and the progress they are making towards it.



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