Starting Open-Ended Questions with Why
Open-ended questions encourage the two-way dialogue which is so important in successful business coaching sessions to take place. Whereas closed-ended questions more often than not bring about simple one word answers, an open-ended question will require a person to provide an explanation or opinion on a certain matter, which forms the basis upon which to start and expand discussion to determine action plans for overcoming certain barriers.
One type of question which the coach needs to be extremely careful with, particularly if they are a manager providing business coaching to one of their employees, are those questions that begin with "why". Although having a person explain their reasoning or actions can be particularly insightful and eye-opening for a manager, questions that start with why can usually be misconstrued as accusatory which can put the employee on the defensive. If this happens it can not only lead to arguments and a shouting match, but can also result in the person putting the metaphorical barriers down and 'clamming up' and reverting to short, sharp answers comprising of a few words. Neither of these scenarios is conducive for a meaningful discussion.
Along with avoiding words which sound like the person is on trial, the tone of the coach's voice also has a significant impact upon the success or failure of the session. This is again because a condescending or accusatory tone can put the employee on the defensive, even if questions do not start with why.
The most successful business coaches will have developed and refined their technique for facilitating discussions with an individual to get the maximum benefit out of the often time-limited sessions that they have with them. Communication skills and questioning techniques are so important that they are covered in many business coaching courses such as the ILM Level 5 Coaching Certificate qualification.