There’s a question we use in cnLaunch (the first unit in CoachNet’s coach training process) that illustrates the power of an open-ended question. The question is “How can you increase the learning in this situation?”

It’s a solid, open-ended question. It opens up possibilities for the person you’re coaching. You can’t answer this question with a simple, thoughtless answer. You have to work.

But there’s one problem: I’d never say “How can you increase the learning…” Would you?

Not every question works for every coach. This question doesn’t work for me because I just don’t talk that way. “Increasing the learning” just doesn’t flow out of my mouth.

What do you see in yourself

But you know what? I can think of several coaches who not only can say this question 100% naturally, they have used it to great effect!

Here’s what makes the difference: You have to know yourself to the point where you know what you can say and what you can’t.

This doesn’t just apply to question choice or word choice. It runs all the way through your coaching. Maybe think about it like this: You have to understand what you’re bringing into the coaching relationship. Effective coaches understand themselves at a high level. If you don’t, you are cutting the legs out from your coaching effectiveness.

The best coaches bring three things into their coaching relationships. What do you carry into your coaching every time out?

What are your values and how do they inform your coaching? Coaches who have high levels of clarity about their values understand HOW they interact with their clients and what clients can expect from the coaching relationship.

What experience do you have that would be valuable? Effective coaches use their experience to frame questions that dig beneath the surface. That’s the ideal use of experience, but you do have to guard against predicting outcomes or insisting on a particular plan because of your experience. Be especially careful about telling your own stories, unless you have a moment where you re-orient the story to be useful to the client.

What attitudes or beliefs do you have that are helpful? A coach I know believes that coaching is the ideal way to help congregations get unstuck. He carries that into every coaching conversation. It makes him more effective.

What are you good at? What questions flow naturally in your coaching conversations? When are your personal experiences helpful? How can you draw insight and wisdome out of your clients? What are your strengths and gifts? What’s your vision for coaching?

Here’s one final thought: People often just want you to listen. There are seasons in just about every relationship where the person you’re working with just needs a friendly ear. A high commitment to listening is one of the key foundational issues for any coaching relationship. Always listen a little longer than is easily comfortable.

What do you bring into your coaching? How do you ensure that those things are useful to your client? I’d love to hear in the comments.