Can Masterful Coaching Include Yes/No Questions?
by Elizabeth Nofziger, IAC-CC
This month, certifying examiner Elizabeth Nofziger helps a member understand the nuances of coaching questions.
"During a coaching triad call I was part of last week, it was mentioned that IAC certifiers do not like to hear ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions in a recording. … Sometimes I do utilize yes or no questions with clients. This is a handy strategy to use when a client is having trouble clarifying plans or goals. My question: Is it true that a coach that poses a yes or no question to a client is not, according to IAC certifiers, displaying masterful coaching and that this can prevent a coach from becoming certified?"
As coaches dedicated to mastery, we work to refine our skills to offer the most to our clients. One of the ways we do this is by expanding their awareness to include new possibilities. Another way we do this is by helping our clients hone in, focus on and clarify what is most important to them.
As the questioner points out, it is absolutely true that yes/no questions can lead to increased clarity (Mastery #6). They can also demonstrate that the coach is listening (Mastery #3) and processing in the present (Mastery #4), all of which can also help the client to expand their potential and invite possibility (Mastery #8). A coach’s job of reflecting back to the client can be as simple as asking, "Do you agree with her opinion?"
On the other hand, that very same yes/no question has the potential to function as a closed question, which can limit the client’s responses or disproportionately influence the direction of the coaching. At worst, yes/no questions can indicate and cause judgment (ineffective demonstration of Mastery #1), and/or narrow possibilities for the client (ineffective demonstration of Mastery #8), as well as negatively affect other masteries.
Asking, "Do you agree with her opinion?" could be done less as a reflection for the client and more as a way to get the client to "see" things from the coach’s point of view (ineffective demonstration of Mastery #5), with the client sensing that there is a right or wrong answer to the question. This can close down possibility (ineffective demonstration of Mastery #8), erode trust between coach and client (ineffective demonstration of Mastery #1) and mask the true intention of the client (ineffective demonstration of Mastery #7).
So, are yes/no questions a display of masterful coaching? It depends on the situation. This invites the question, how can you tell when your yes/no questions are appropriate? And, when these questions are not the best choice, what might work even better?
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Elizabeth Nofziger, IAC-CC, has been an IAC certifier since 2009. She helps her clients apply their strengths and interests to land (or create) great careers that they’re passionate about. Elizabeth also works as a coach trainer, and loves helping new coaches launch their coaching careers. email@example.com
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