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  • Writer's pictureChristian Hartley, PCC

Unleashing the Power of Questions: A Guide to Evoking Awareness

Fellow coaches and aspiring coaching enthusiasts! Let’s dive into the art of asking powerful questions to evoke awareness- a skill that lays at the heart of effective coaching. It is also one of the 8 ICF Core Competencies, defined as when a coach "Facilitates client insight and learning by using tools and techniques such as powerful questioning, silence, metaphor or analogy." If you have ever worked with an ICF credentialed coach, then you have likely experienced the transformative power of well-crafted questions. In this blog, we will explore the dynamic interplay between active listening, coaching intuition, the formulation of powerful questions and how they can unlock the door to heightening the client's awareness.

The Dance of Active Listening

At the core of every successful coaching session is the ability to engage in active listening. As coaches, we must go beyond simply hearing our clients' words; we must immerse ourselves in their experiences, emotions, and any unspoken messages. Active listening involves not just hearing, but truly understanding, honoring, and connecting with our client’s context. That means using their words in our questioning and being in their world by playing with analogies or metaphors they offer in the session.

By being fully present and attuned to our clients, we create a safe and open space for them to explore their thoughts and feelings; something most of don't get enough in our day to day interactions with others. But by employing active listening, we lay the groundwork for a coaching relationship built on trust and genuine connection.

Coaching Intuition: Trusting the Unseen

Enter coaching intuition – the subtle yet powerful force that guides each coach beyond the spoken word. It's that gut feeling, the unspoken understanding that allows us to sense into what lies beneath the surface. As certified coaches, we learn to trust our intuition as a valuable ally in the coaching process by adhering to the ICF's Embodies a Coaching Mindset Core Competency, which encourages coaches to "[Use] awareness of self and one’s intuition to benefit clients".

Coaching intuition is cultivated through experience, self-awareness, and an unwavering commitment to focusing on the client’s growth. It's about tapping into the unspoken energy in the coaching space and discerning the nuances that may elude the conscious mind. As we learn to stay fully present in the moment and become comfortable with not knowing, we can refine our coaching intuition and become more adept at discerning what may need deeper exploration.

The Formula: Active Listening + Coaching Intuition = Powerful Questions

Now, let's explore the formula that transforms helpful coaching sessions into powerful coaching sessions. When done correctly, active listening and coaching intuition combine synergistically to form a potent outcome: powerful questions that evoke awareness in our clients. Powerful questions are the precursor to masterful coaching and they are not possible if the coach is not practicing active listening or trusting of their intuition. Below is a summary of the process you can use to bring masterful coaching to each session by evoking awareness.

  1. Active Listening lays the foundation to evoking awareness by creating a receptive and empathetic space for clients to express themselves. Listen for what is said, what is not being said and any energetic shifts or emotional affects.

  2. Coaching Intuition acts as our compass, guiding us to coaching areas that may require deeper exploration, even when the client's words don't explicitly reveal a need to explore. 

  3. Asking Powerful Questions then becomes the catalyst for evoking awareness. These questions are thoughtfully crafted, often open-ended, and designed to prompt reflection, insight, and self-discovery about a client’s behaviors, values, motivations or deepest desires. As always, we invite spaciousness into our powerful questioning, so the client has ample time to process the question and begin the process of sharing their truth.

Examples of Powerful Questions:

  • "What do you believe is the root cause of the challenge you're facing?"

  • "What is this situation teaching you about your values and long-term goals?"

  • "What might be possible if you were to approach this from a different perspective?"

  • “What might it look like to act on your deepest desire?

In the art of coaching, the fusion of active listening, coaching intuition, and powerful questioning is an alchemical process that transforms conversations into powerful tools for the client’s growth and self-discovery. As professional certified coaches, we must  continue to hone our skills while recognizing the profound impact our questions can have in guiding clients towards newfound awareness and transformative change. Embrace the dance of active listening, trust your coaching intuition, and let the magic of powerful questions unfold in each coaching session.

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