Coaching starts with curiosity – as simple and as difficult as that. When I trained with the Coaches Training Institute back in 2002, they often used the analogy of a thinking like a toddler where every conversation starts with a ‘why’ or ‘how do you’ as they explore the world around them.
When my kids were small I loved being taken back into the world of curiosity when a walk down the end of the street could take hours as we studied the walls, the cracks in the pavement, watched ants walk across our path – all followed with an inevitable stream of questions. They always say that kids are our greatest teachers and from my experience from nursery to primary school, the depth and range of their curiosity is quite awe inspiring.
So how can all of us be reminded to think like a child and to just ask those simple, no-hidden agenda, in the moment, curious questions? It starts with your intention, having an intention to just explore, turn over, look behind or inside the situation – like picking up a pebble and turning it over in your hand. When we stay curious in a conversation and sleuth-like follow a question from the last response or spotting patterns in the narrative, we can avoid solution solving. That doesn’t mean to say that we avoid ‘suquestions’ – a suggestion disguised as a question. But with more and more awareness of our curiosity skills, we can soon spot when we are falling into the advice trap.
Self-managing your motive and reminding yourself that coaching is about the other person and not you, also helps you to put away your ego and to focus on the person and the situation standing in front of you. When we put our attention and intention on the other person, their needs, desires, hopes and fears can very quickly become our primary focus and again our questions are based on what they need rather than what we need to hear ourselves say.
Finally, remember to KISS – keep it simple stupid! Keeping your questions short and simple such as the great AWE question, ‘and what else’ or ‘tell me more’ can be far more impactful than you possibly ever can imagine. As a coach in training, I remember coming up with some (what I thought to be) jaw-dropping impactful questions that over time quickly become redundant, as I realised not only was I showing off, having stock questions that I was waiting to drop into the session, but that they were just too complicated to even answer.
So how can you go away from today feeling a bit more curious and a bit more confident in asking curious questions? You need to speak like KIDS.
K – keep it simple stupid (KISS)
I – pay attention to your INTENTION
D – DON’T show off
S – what’s needed in their SHOES?
If you ask KIDS questions you will not only be reminded of those million and one questions you often see children ask, but you’ll also break down the four key components of powerful, curious questions: keeping it simple, focusing on your intention, dropping the ego and wondering if you were in their shoes, what you’d want to be asked?
If you’d like to find out more about curiosity then why not join myself and my colleague Gwynneth, to our free 5 Day Challenge starting on the 9th March via LinkedIn. And for those of you hungry for more – join us in Glasgow for 3 days over 3 months of coaching-based training where we’ll share some of our coaching secrets to enable you to have Curious Conversations at work.