Throughout his long experience as an executive coach, Marshall Goldsmith has helped hundreds of major C-suite executives achieve positive long-term change in leadership behavior and people skills. During his experience, people frequently asked him this question:
“How can I be a better business coach?”
Many people asked Marshall how they can become a better coach in terms of helping people deal with the strategic and the business side of the organization. And Marshall has the perfect tool for them: The 6 Question Process.
Marshall has tried this process on 6 major CEOs from different parts of the world, and it worked — every time. One of the CEOs he worked with was Jim Morton, the CEO of John Hancock Life Insurance Company.
Before Marshall coached him, Jim scored an 8 percentile in regards to the way he provides feedback and coaching. After Marshall coached him, he got a 98 percentile, although he spent less time with his employees than when he scored an 8.
What’s the difference here? With Marshall’s help, Jim now had more structure, more direction, and more clarity in the way he coached his team.
Since coaching services are intangible, it is important for coaches to develop a structure or tangible system that can show coachees and colleagues how coaching can help them.
Here is how the 6 Question Process can be a fantastic tool that can help you become a better business coach.
Marshall Goldsmith’s 6 Question Process
Before we get into the questions, first you need to arrange a one-on-one discussion with your direct reports. Do these sessions once every two or three months, dealing with six basic issues that we will be addressing down below.
Question 1: Where are we going?
Just like goal setting is usually the first part of a leadership coaching process, we will be starting the session by asking what your direct report thinks about where the organization is going.
After hearing what they have to say, share your thoughts on the subject matter as the manager. The goal here is to have two-way communication about the topic. Also, try to ask them follow-up questions like “Where do you think we should be going?” to spark up a more in-depth conversation.
Question 2: Where are you going?
In this second part of the session, as a manager, you can say something like:
“Here’s where I see you and your part of the business going. Where do you think you and your part of the business should be going?”
Having this conversation is important because you want to have alignment in two ways.
- Big picture – smaller picture
- Manager – direct report
Question 3: What do you think you’re doing well?
This is a question we don’t ask enough in the workplace. What do you think you’re doing well? What are you most proud of?
Sometimes we don’t recognize people, not out of maliciousness, but out of ignorance. As a manager, you might not be aware of all of the effort and accomplishments of your direct reports. But as the ones who put in the effort, they want to be recognized for their hard work and accomplishments.
By asking this question, you can learn a lot more about your employees. And now, you can provide them with the recognition and praise they deserve.
Question 4: If you’re coaching yourself, what advice would you give to yourself?
Now, it’s time to provide your direct reports with some suggestions for the future that will help them do even better moving forward (feedforward). Remember to focus on solution-oriented ideas for the future rather than feedback about the past.
Then, try asking them this great coaching question. Imagine if you are coaching yourself, what kind of advice or ideas would you give to yourself?
One of Marshall’s coaching clients, George Borst, who is the ex-CEO of Toyota Financial Services, was shocked at how much he learned when he asked people this question. He said that more than half the time their ideas on how they would coach themselves were superior to his ideas on how he would coach them.
So, all you need to do is listen to what they have to say. Have a discussion about both of your ideas for the future, and pick 1-2 things to focus on.
Question 5: How can I help?
Now that we have discussed what they want to do, where they want to go, now, it’s time to put it into practice. As a manager, it is important that you support your employees on their journey to improvement. So, ask them how you can help them get to where they want to be.
Question 6: What suggestions do you have for me?
Finally, we’ve arrived at the end of the session. It’s important to remember that everything we do here is two-way and that the key to making this process work is a mutual responsibility. So, at the end of the session, ask your direct reports what kind of suggestions or ideas they have that will help you become a more effective manager and leader.
It’s all about mutual responsibility
Before you let them go, tell them that you will be having these sessions regularly every two to three months, to go over these points. If at any time they feel a sense of ambiguity, confusion, and are not clear on priorities or direction, they should take responsibility, come in and talk to you. The six questions can help you as a leader and business coach to do a better job of providing clarity, do better at coaching, providing feedback, and providing recognition.
Interested in learning more about Marshall Goldsmith’s world-renowned stakeholder-centered coaching approach?