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Coaching Questions to increase Performance

Coaching Questions to increase Performance

By February 18, 2016 No Comments


At this point NHL coaches have played enough games to know what they like and don’t like about their teams. And so do you… how is your team performing? What does your team need to change to execute at its highest level? During our many Performance, Team or Leadership development sessions together we have started many corporate conversations around the power of QUESTIONS. Why are questions so critical to leadership in 2016? And, how can we ask specific questions to generate different behaviours?


Questions are the key to clarifycloseup in almost every part of life and the asker of questions seams to be the new 21rst century genius. Questions clarify communication, intent and cut through the information over-load. Questions engage people’s intellect and energy. Questions and how to ask them are becoming the key to Performance Coaching.


Many of you know that I am a Performance Coach for Players who desire to play in the NHL and executives who want to take themselves and their people to the next level. During these weekly 25 minute to one hour calls I help performers clarify, uncover and inspire action around the goals and dreams that each of my performers hold important. During my performance coaching process I utilize generous amounts of questions.


I am just finishing up a good read from Marshall Goldsmith. The book is called Triggers and it gets practical near the end handing out a couple of good ideas that I can use this week. The books big idea comes from Marshal’s daughter Kelly (a Ph.D from Yale in behavioral marketing) who introduces readers to the difference between ACTIVE and PASSIVE questions. Most of us fully utilize what she calls Passive Questions and in business they sound like this “Do you have clear goals?”


Passive questions describe a static condition and it is passive because it can cause people to think of what is being done to them instead of ‘what they are doing for themselves.” She suggests that passive questions almost always provide “environmental” responses, like “My manager can’t make up his mind” or “the company changes strategy every month.” Passive questions give people a personal out.


This reminds me of another great business coach Alan Fine who counsels “Always push responsibility for the performance back on to the performer.”


Kelly goes on to say “that the ACTIVE question differentiates from the passive question in one way… the former challenges the performer to describe or defend a course of ACTION, the latter is trying to determine the performer’s state-of-mind.”


Passive Question “Do you have clear goals?”

Active Question “Did you do your best to set clear goals for yourself?”


How questions are asked becomes critical to engaging and sustaining performance. I have shared in the past my understanding of the difference playing on the Washington Capitals in the early 80’s and the Montreal Canadiens during the rest of the 80’s. In Washington our “out” was to blame the referee (we thought they always had it out for us.) In Montreal that wasn’t an option, you learned to control the controllables and that making excuses was giving away our power to find a solution.


Excuses reduce our power to find a solutions and perform at our highest level.

In essence passive questions can develop personal “outs.” Active questions focus people on their personal responsibility (what they can control) and build higher engagement. Active questions also focus performers on the positive difference that they can make in the world. Wasn’t it John F Kennedy that said “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country!”


Who would have ever thought that the way we ask questions could better our world.



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