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What does your favorite movie have to do with your coaching?

The movies are a pretty good teacher about all things coaching

The movies are a pretty good teacher about all things coaching

Do you have a favorite line from a movie? Or a favorite scene? It might be “You had me at hello…”, “Go ahead, make my day…”, or “That rug really ties the room together…” It could be anything. If you’re thinking of a scene, maybe it’s Danny Noonan and Ty Webb walking the golf course, the Fellowship of the Ring setting out, or something from Nights in Rodanthe…again it could be anything.

Ok, let me ask you a key question: what came after that line? Or what came after that scene? It can be really hard to remember, can’t it? The connection between that great line and the rest of the story doesn’t always stick. Some films have story lines that are quite a bit less-than-memorable, but those same films are really quotable. I don’t think that was what the director was going for, do you? To really work, a movie needs both: a great story is made more memorable by having memorable lines in the film.

Think about a coaching relationship like the narrative to a movie…each scene in the movie is like a conversation in a coaching relationship. Here’s the most important part: each scene connects to the one that comes after it. That’s a key idea for coaching: each coaching conversation should connect to the one that comes after it. Each scene takes the moviegoer closer to the ultimate resolution. In the best scripts, each line moves the audience closer to the big finish. Coaches can learn from this model.

In an effective coaching relationship, each conversation should drive the client closer to their goal. If you’re not making progress toward that goal, your coaching conversation might actually be working AGAINST your client. Just like a scene has to connect to the bigger storyline, each conversation has to fit in the larger narrative of the coaching relationship. A coaching conversation is a building block.

Stephen Covey wrote about the difference between the urgent and the important. The movie narrative can help illustrate the difference. If you’re working on scenes (coaching conversations) that connect to each other, chances are you’re focusing on the important. You’re focused on your priorities, and are systematically making progress toward what’s key to accomplishing your goals.

If your scenes are disjointed or struggling to stay connected, this coaching relationship may need some re-focusing on the bigger picture. You’re working on the urgent! Resist assigning an outcome for your client–that’s not the coach’s role!!–but re-visit the coaching agreement or draw the big picture out of the client. Once you have a clear picture of where your client wants to go, structure your session to help the client get there.

Now let’s break all this down to the individual line. Something a character says might bring a scene to a conclusion, define a relationship, or open up a new wrinkle in the story. Coaching questions have the same possibilities. When a coach is choosing questions (either in preparation for a session, or in the moment during a session), moving a client toward their ultimate goals is the standard. Each question can bring a session to a conclusion, define a relationship, or open up new wrinkles in the story. Ultimately, every single question has to be focused on what the client wants to accomplish.

When you think about your coaching, do you come up with memorable coaching questions (like great lines from a movie)? Or do you think of entire sessions, like scenes in a movie? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment area below.

Where Do The Best Coaching Questions Come From?

At a recent coaching event, Ron–a highly skilled coach–was telling me about what he feels like when he’s really locked into the coaching zone.  “It just flows out of me…I’m really hearing what the other person is saying, bold questions are just jumping out of my mouth, and my clients are coming up with creative and useful action steps throughout the session.”

You've got questions?  So does a good coach!

]1 You’ve got questions? So does a good coach!

Every coach has had sessions like the one Ron is describing.   I asked him what kicks off a process like this.  He didn’t blink “It’s the questions.  When I get to the zone, I don’t even know where the questions are coming from.”

That got me wondering about how a coach could internationalize the question asking process so that effortless coaching zone might be more easily achieved.  Let’s look at the origination of a bold question.

Most coaching questions come from one of two places. First, there are questions that we ourselves can draw out of our own experience. We might have seen something or experienced something that caused our brains to put an idea out there or follow a mental trail to ask a particular question.  If it’s true that how you are in your personal relationships is how you are in your coaching relationships–I believe it is!–a good coach can relay on their own experience to frame a question that serves the client.  That also means a coach can ask those questions with integrity and authenticity, which only serves the client and the coaching relationship even more strongly.

The second place questions come from is God.  There are always questions that Jesus is asking us to ponder. This one is much harder because often we don’t have any idea what the ready-made answer might be.  It might be a rough edge that needs to be filed off, a deeply held calling on which we haven’t acted, or the introduction of a brand new phase of life–personally, professionally or in ministry.  

A good strategy for coaches who want to ask the best possible questions is to take a moment in preparing for your session(s) and ask yourself “Which of these areas is the source of the questions I’m feeling compelled to ask?”  Be prepared to draw out deeper understanding  and listen very closely for the balance of the human-framed question and the God-inspired one.  Ron told me that when he’s in his coaching zone he feels like 60-80% of his questions are the God prompted ones.  How do you do with balancing these two sources in your coaching?  Please add your thoughts in the comments.

Sometimes, The Questions Will Surprise You!

I got this email this morning from a coach–Jonathan Wright of Wichita, KS (@jonathanwwright) we trained a couple summers ago.

Really, It's a coaching image!  (Mysterious ways, huh?)

]1 Really, It’s a coaching image! (Mysterious ways, huh?)

“Seriously…a few weeks ago while coaching someone I thought to ask… “What if you could have a beer with Jesus?” (There was a context for this.) I was surprised at the new line of thought that this prompted. I’ve used it twice since then with additional success. It was especially handy when they felt or it appeared they were at the end of new thought, kinda stuck in a box of reason, mixed things up a little. Thought I’d share.”

This can be really helpful observation. If you got a client who’s stuck or having a hard time coming up with new thoughts, a wacky, out-there question can be just the thing.  The goofy question disarms the client in a fun way, and new breakthroughs can happen as a result.  What’s the strangest question you’ve ever asked–as a coach?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Ok, now for a moment of shameless, self-promotion.  Jonathan Wright added “FYI though, it is not original with me it comes from a country song. I gotta tell you for what I do in the kingdom the coaching skills I am learning are HUGE for those I have the opportunity to influence. CoachNet is a blessing!”

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