The CIPD Gloucestershire Coaching Network (GCN) is a community of people with an interest in coaching. They run a few events each year to develop their skills, share knowledge and network with other coaches. A topic of interest for each meeting is either hosted by a member of the group or an invited speaker.
I went along last night to the session which was entitled "Asking Great Questions". It was held at Gloucester University, which was a lovely quiet campus with free parking after 5pm, a distinct bonus! There was coffee and biscuits whilst people arrived and a lot of good introductions to people. It was a well attended event and there were a number of others for whom this was their first time at a GCN event which was great.
Kevin Parker, the author of "Purple Monkeys!", led the session. Kevin has a wealth of industrial experience, including at executive level as HR director at Lucas. He now works as a coach, mentor, mediator and facilitator, specialising in organisational development, strategy and executive leadership development.
He started out by acknowledging that he was addressing an audience made up of coaches (what a scary thought!), but that the information he would share would help us all to help leaders in our organisations. He said it would help good leaders become great leaders.
With his presentation he described how, by asking questions instead of telling people what to do, a leader can harness the potential of their staff and enable them to do a great job, making choices for themselves. He talked through what makes a powerful question, starting with the aims of the question to:
- Make the other person or persons think
- make them more aware
- help them understand the choices they could make
He then described a number of principles that, if followed, help add power to questions. He grouped them into 3 types:
- Changing the language we use - use open questions, use "what" and "who", avoid using "why", use conditional and future tense avoid the past tense.
- Changing the scope of the questions we use from narrow to wide, chunking up or chunking down - adding more, changing the perspective
- Changing the depth of the questions we ask - callenge assumptions, look for cause and effect relationships, check for values and strongly held beliefs
He remembered to warn us that if you ask great questions you must listen well to the answers and have empathy with the other person. Soften questions and focus on the future, so as not to build up defensiveness in the other person.
His presentation was packed with content backed up by references out to neuroscience and other research, as well as lots of examples and some fun anecdotes.
Following the presentation, Kevin led a discussion session giving everyone the opportunity to explore ideas and issues and to share examples of when they had used coaching techniques successfully or when they had found the techniques to be inappropriate.
The meeting closed with details of the next couple of events planned for the group and an opportunity to buy Kevin's book at a special rate! Here, Kevin introduces it in a short video: Purple Monkeys!
This GCN event was well organised and friendly. I found it extremely interesting and worthwhile, and I have already booked to go on the next one. Well done to the organisers and thank you CIPD.