Marilyn Atkinson is the Founder of Erickson Coaching International and originator of the Solution-Focused Coaching methodology. A former Registered Organizational Psychologist, Marilyn is an NLP Master Trainer and specialist in Ericksonian Communications. Since 1980s she has been helping leading global companies and leaders through Solution- Focused and Outcome-Oriented Coaching. Marilyn has authored eight books, including The Art & Science of Coaching trilogy (Inner Dynamics of Coaching, Step-by-Step Coaching & The Flow of Coaching).
Coaching for Powerful Inner Questioning
We are living in challenging times! At such a time, do you – a coach yourself – have a coach? Why does having a coach make such a difference?
First, when the challenges are new, we need to think strategically – long-term all the way! We need to find our inner dreamer, our inner realistic planner, and our inner strategic explorer. Second, we need to find our inner truths and affirm our strongest commitments. There are many great opportunities for choice and change in challenging times. Self-coaching is valuable and working with a strong coach is even more valuable. It brings our creativity to the fore and supports our commitment to take critical action steps. Third, we need to affirm our personal connections to all the teams we are part of. In challenging times, we can discover both our leadership and team commitment and forge the kind of inner trust for self and others that makes everyone stronger. We can truly use these times to become strong coaches. Use this time to become both a transformational communicator and a transformational listener!
The key to great coaching has always been our willingness to ask great questions, both inward and outward. What are you asking yourself today? Great questions might be described as our radio tuner to our current challenges, taking us beyond ‘worries’ and ‘anxiety thinking’. We start to find our inner 'radio stations' for truth and humor; clear stations with the maximum relevance to our own current life's purpose.
Interested in becoming a coach? Discover how Solution-Focused coaching skills enable you to create transformational change in yourself and others.
We all know that our strongest questions are 'the answer' because being asked powerful questions moves us beyond entangled loops and old internal commentary, deadening mind noise into a place of true empowerment. We can find and listen to our own inner 'discovery channel'!
In challenging times, we need to stand strong with coaching as our stepping stone to leadership. This is the best time of our life for all of us to develop the art and science of facing crises well. Are you not developing new strategies for how to navigate in the world?
By maximizing coaching today, both with ourselves and the teams we support, we explore the power of building great questions rather than relying on assumptions, judgments, or giving advice. With a strong coach at these times, our breakdowns become 'break-opens'. A crisis becomes a catalyst. And, as a self-coach, asking ourselves key questions, we go back to our most important competencies, to find meaning and inspired action in difficult times.
Here are some words written a few years ago that I believe are particularly relevant to us now; even if we have coached for a long time.
Transformational communicators ask open-ended questions rather than tell people what to do. They do this in every conversation. This ability enhances the talents of everyone they connect with.
Every time you give advice, you assume that the person does not have all the resources within to successfully track their own best choices. Notice that embedded in the message is the assumption that the person would not come up with the best answer alone. Therefore, consciously or unconsciously, you assume that you know more than that person.
Any subtle or blatant telling, suggesting, or offering of advice controls the flow of thoughts in the conversation and is likely to stop the person from listening to their own inner guidance. This may also irritate the person and generate defensiveness, justification, and explanation.
The point of asking strong questions with appreciation and curiosity is to get someone to actually listen to what they say both out loud as well as inwardly and conclude, “I am competent and completely able to think through this for myself.” The aim is to assist the person in building a strong inner questioning system until it becomes their own natural habit for inner and outer leadership.
Now is the time to really assist people in accessing their own inner knowing. They begin to fully trust themselves to find their own best choices. In this way, they take full responsibility for their lives, especially when facing the big challenges of today. Let us use coaching to build self-directed leadership, and build the world thereby!