The power of closed questions
As coaches and leaders who use coaching skills, we know the power of open-ended questions. We’ve had it drilled into us that open questions are where it’s at. Open-ended questions invite self-awareness, time to think about possibilities and other explorations.
But there are also times when it is time to decide or choose. This is where closed-ended questions really shine as they invite commitment or challenge indecision. It has the other person recognise their willingness or readiness for a next step.
The use of closed questions can also be used to challenge self-limiting beliefs or doubts. When Rachel had her dream role dangled before her, she saw so many reasons not to go for it, she told herself the timing was off; she could do with more experience; others on the team were more expert than she was; some were even more popular – but when her team leader put the question to her – ‘Is that true?’, she quickly realised she was as qualified as any of the other potential candidates.
Are you willing to try this?
Is that an excuse?
Are you ready to let go of the mindset that holds you back?
Are you up for this?
Are you committed to this plan?
Will you follow through?
Recently, I have been in situations where I’ve asked such questions to either provoke a commitment or to discover lack of commitment. Either way the answer would be fine, it just needed to be declared and to find out which direction the person was facing at that moment.
These challenging questions can create discomfort, but we all know that coaching isn’t always about comfort. In fact, comfort can be the enemy of progress and become a red light to moving on to new challenges and avoiding making key decisions.
If there isn’t a yes or a no answer to that closed question, there can always be more exploration, but it might be slightly different than before the challenging question was asked. The message here? Let’s not disregard all closed questions just because we know open-ended questions are our primary and powerful coaching tool.Hey, listen… hello?Can’t say no?