Have you ever experienced something like this before? Somebody is talking to you about a challenge they are facing or a goal they want to accomplish, and about half way through the conversation your gut tells you that there is something that doesn’t fit; that there is another side to that story they haven’t told you yet. If you have, then let me show a way to gently probe for more information in order to help them out.
This is part three of the Coach Leader - Coaching Culture workshop. Thought-Provoking: Asking powerful questions to prompt self-reflection.
If you fall into a similar situation while having a conversation, visualize that person being just like an iceberg. The tip of the iceberg represents their outer-world; what is seen and manifested in front of you. They could be telling you about an idea they have, a goal, a challenge they are facing, or they could be expressing their anger and disappointment about something or someone. In that moment, you have the opportunity to learn more about their current attitude, behavior, perspective or perceptions they have about a situation.
Below that, much like the iceberg, is the larger and unseen inner-world. You don’t know much about it, but this submerged section represents what is behind the behavior that you observe on the surface. This is where you will find their values, beliefs, biases, fears, hopes, emotions, judgments, etc.
If you want to support them to overcome their struggles and achieve their goals, you will have to consider their inner-world, what is below the surface, and address that person as whole so you can engage in more meaningful conversations and create deeper connections. This can be done by being curious, being attuned, using deep listening, and what I call being a “Kind Provocateur” and asking thought-provoking questions to explore what they are currently experiencing. By being attentive to what they say, while remaining neutral, you will in time be able to recognize when they are sharing something from the tip of the iceberg, or from their submerged inner-world.
Notice if this requires an internal or external change. I once worked with a client who had many goals. However, she continuously started the session by pointing at external reasons for not being able to get to what she wanted to achieve. She said things such as, “The team is not helping me find solutions to the project” instead of “I struggle to find the solutions for the project on my own.” Or, “My colleagues are not supporting me in my work” instead of “I’m having a hard time resolving this without support.” Do you see the difference? She expected external changes and failed to recognize that there is a part of the work that she needed to do internally. For her, this could start by having the courage to ask for help; which meant being vulnerable in revealing her weak points.
To support her, I would suggest asking deeper, thought-provoking questions to uncover what is really happening. For example, you could ask: “What makes you think your colleagues are not supporting you?” “What could happen if you asked for support?” “In what areas do you feel you need support?” These questions can help uncover different perspectives and could lead to more awareness about what is going on internally. The key is not to give advice, but to empower the other person to find solutions on their own and discover what has been holding them back.
Next, explore possible advantages of changing course. How could this benefit them or the team? What do they need to achieve that? Help them realize the positive outcomes from taking the new directions.
Finally, talk about realistic steps they are going to take to get there. Ask about how they are going to continue the new behavior, how committed they are to accomplish them and how they are going to hold themselves accountable.
All these questions should flow seamlessly and with ease in your conversation. When you engage with curiosity and hold back judgments or personal views, as you ask thought-provoking questions, you’ll be surprised at what people are capable of accomplishing and resolving on their own.
Trust the process by focusing on what they can do more, less, or differently in order to be effective. Offer your support and encourage them to reach out to you to discuss progress. As you see them inch toward their goals, don’t forget to celebrate their achievements, no matter how small.
And lastly, here is one quote I can leave you with “Accept that you are not the measure of all things and allow your worldview to be enhanced by the experience and knowledge of others.” I know I personally have gained so much from allowing this to happen. See what this can do for you as well.
Support your peer. Be thought-provoking. I dare you.
Click to read part one and two
Learn more about the Coach Leader - Coaching Culture Workshop. Click here
Roberto Giannicola - Coach & Facilitator - www.giannicola.com