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Mistress of Questions – A Coach Approach to Holding Others Accountable

First a confession: Yes, I was listening to someone else’s conversation but I’m not gossiping when I share some of what I heard because it was just such a delicious example of modelling a coach approach to a conversation.

What Should I Do? There I was relaxing with my cup of coffee in the sunshine, doing some writing of my own, when I became aware of two women in conversation at a table just to the right of me. What caught my attention was the intensity and emotion when I heard: ‘”What should I do? Honestly, I just want someone to tell me what to.” It soon became evident the woman who spoke was facing a ‘discipline situation’ with someone on her team. As a constant student of human behaviour, I was curious to hear how her co-worker would respond so I had to listen.

Mistress of Questions: Her colleague’s response and the results were simply magical. Her colleague was truly the ‘mistress of questions’:

  • I heard you say …what do you think is driving that behaviour?
  • It sounds like you have been trying to resolve this for a while …what have you already tried to interrupt this behaviour? What happened?
  • What ‘results/behaviours’ do you want from her at the end of your conversation?
  • If you were sitting in her shoes, what would she need to hear from you?
  • Based on that, how do you need to approach this?
  • After you’ve had that conversation, would you like to discuss the results over a cup of coffee? I’m here to support you.

Designing Solutions: I know what you’re thinking, but this is absolutely a true story. It was simply a delight to listen to this woman encourage her colleague to find her own solutions to the situation, to take a coach approach with such grace. She obviously believed in her heart that her colleague could solve this problem and the ‘coach’ stayed in a place of curiosity and not once did she offer a solution. She let her colleague design her ‘own’ solution to her own issue, holding her accountable

The End Result: The deeper the conversation went, the lighter her colleague’s tone of voice and physical body language became. She started sitting taller, laughed at herself, took ownership of some of the things she was doing unintentionally to feed the negative situation, and started seeing herself as a partner in the journey. She left that conversation with considerable energy and positivity about her own solution to the issue at hand, knowing there was support after the upcoming conversation.

Holding Ourselves in a Place of Curiosity: Could this employee/colleague have come to you with the same question and achieved the same results? How can you hold yourself in that place of ‘curiosity’ and not deliver the answer before your employees or colleagues explore their own ideas and thoughts? How can you take a coach approach to supporting accountability for others on your team?