The discipline of asking questions is one of the keys for a coach. Asking questions instead of dispensing answers is a tangible way of honoring a person’s capacity to run their own life. It’s saying, “God gave you the gift of your life, and I believe you can steward it well.” Coaches ask because they expect you to be able to arrive at a great answer—probably a better answer than the coach could give. Asking questions is an unmistakable way of saying, “I believe in your capacity and your ability!”
By contrast, when I “tell” instead of asking, the message I am sending is, “You aren’t an adult. You aren’t capable of living your life without my help.” As it goes in the classic song, “You need someone older and wiser telling you what to do.” Often in our eagerness to help we end up actually sapping people’s confidence by sending the message that they aren’t capable of doing the job. When we treat people as less than what God made them to be, they tend to live down to our low expectations.
The more I ask the more convinced I am of the power of asking. When I discipline myself to ask, I embolden my clients and honor their abilities. As their confidence grows, their ability and their performance grows with it. At a recent speaking engagement, one of the leaders in the congregation I was addressing shared his own coaching experience with his church. He stated, “I have grown more in the last year and a half than in my previous 14 years combined, I believe in large part due to my involvement in [coaching].” He felt that what was most transformational for him was reflecting on the questions he was asked.
I’ve never gotten those kinds of results by giving advice! The more I develope the discipline of asking, the more I see the potential and the destiny I’ve believed in become reality—and the more I grow in my capacity to believe in people.
Tony Stoltzfus is a best-selling author, leadership coach and master coach trainer, and director of the Leadership Metaformation Institute. Additional information on the role of questions in the coaching relationship can be found in Tony’s book, Leadership Coaching.