Questions that Inspire Change

Agile Coaching Questions that Inspire Change

What is a powerful question?
The power of good coaching is to get leaders and teams to explore their own ideas to move ahead. As a coach, my biggest goal is not to think for someone, but to get someone I coach to think for themselves. I do this by asking questions to leaders and teams that inspire new insights, changes in perspectives, and changes in behaviors. We call these types of questions “Powerful Questions”.

As a coach we ask powerful questions to steer the conversation to a more exploring/ curious/collaborative nature that allows new insights to form and helps leaders and teams get closer to achieving desired outcomes.

So what is a powerful question? Here’s a few things that helps strengthen the questions you ask…

  • Open-Ended – A powerful question cannot be answered by a simple “yes/no” answer. The answer requires more than just a one word answer – it requires some thought that is around an insight. Open ended questions can create greater clarity since it requires a bit of story telling and a more descriptive answer.
  • Exploratory – A powerful question explores possibilities – it does not have a correct/ incorrect answer. The response or answer to the question should cause someone to stop and think in a different way and want to explore and discover new ideas or options.
  • Forward Looking– A powerful question will move the leader/ team towards an outcome they are looking to achieve. Avoid looking backwards…
  • Inviting – A powerful question invites introspection and collaboration to help leaders and teams rethink possible solutions to the challenges they are facing. A powerful question invites diversity of thought and encourages multiple options or possibilities to explore.
  • Non-Judgemental – A powerful question does not lead to blame. Powerful questions avoid asking “Why?” or “Who?”. “Why?” questions, although powerful, can cause leaders and teams to have emotions triggered which then triggers emotional defense mechanisms. “Who?” questions will trigger emotional flight mechanisms in most people due to the appearance of “tattling” or “ratting someone out”. “What?” and “How/ How might we?” questions are questions that ask for a more descriptive response and avoid emotional responses.

Sample Powerful Questions
I am naturally curious and ask quite a few questions that can inspire change – change in perspective, change in behavior or a new insight that inspires a different solution… here are a few to get you started asking more powerful questions during your coaching sessions with leaders and teams…

Powerful Questions for Leaders

  • What does success look like to you?
  • What outcomes are you wanting?
  • How do you handle when a team fails?
  • How do you inspire continuous learning?
  • What is your greatest challenge you are facing right now? Why is this a challenge for you? What would it mean to you to overcome this?
  • Tell me more about…?
  • What approach can you take to solve your top challenges you are currently facing?
  • How might you remove an impediment X that is stopping you from overcoming your top challenge?
  • What are your strengths and how are you using your strengths to coach your teams?
  • What would you like to achieve in this coaching session today?
  • Which option do you prefer and why?
  • What else might work?

Powerful Questions for Teams

  • What values can the team improve upon? How might the team improve?
  • How should we handle failure?
  • How might we increase our velocity while ensuring quality?
  • What can we do to become more T-shaped?
  • What continuous improvement item can we do this sprint?
  • How might be become a team that continously learns?
  • What are our collective strengths as a team and how can we capitalize upon those strengths?
  • What is our weaknesses as a team and how can we turn that weakness into a strength?
  • What would it take to accomplish …?
  • Is there anything you haven’t tried?

A powerful question is one that helps leaders and teams move towards something that they desire and value. It makes them think about something in a way they haven’t before. It’s also well-timed and flows naturally during the conversation. It reflects careful listening and an understanding of the leader’s or team’s position.

Now that you understand what a powerful question is, begin to build your powerful question habit and muscle by simply asking the leader and team questions that inspire. Remember you do not have to have the answer (that’s not coaching)… you simply need to encourage thinking and collaboration.

Never stop exploring this world called “Agile”!