Many consider Socrates the “father of Western philosophy.” Socrates developed the Socratic method of questioning because he believed that his students could examine the validity of their ideas through questions. Socrates put the control and ownership into his students’ hands. He offered advice when prudent but prioritized asking powerful, thought-provoking questions. We can borrow his fundamental approach and apply it to our daily conversations to make them more impactful.
When someone comes to us looking for advice, we tend to rely on providing advice from our own personal experiences. This isn’t to say that all advice is bad. However, when giving advice is our default or automatic response, it caps the impact of our conversations. If Socrates had only relied on giving advice to his students and followers, we probably wouldn’t remember him centuries later.
The most effective coaches have a different perspective when team members approach them with a problem. They believe that the Talent is the expert of their unique circumstances and is in the best place to solve their challenges. Only the Talent is deeply aware of the nuances of the situation that they face. The coach also believes that the Talent is the expert in becoming the best version of themselves: the best leader, the best delivery person, or the best salesperson.
How do you handle a conversation if a team member approaches you looking for advice? Most of us give the advice as the end of the conversation, feel good that we were helpful, and continue with our day. Unfortunately, on a scale of 1 to 10, this conversation is probably sitting at level 6. The most impactful leaders move these conversations to level 9 or 10 by shifting into coaching mode, ensuring that the other person leaves the conversation challenged, inspired, or different in some way.
This week shift your conversations to coaching conversations by:
- Asking thought-provoking questions. When someone approaches you looking for advice, ask coaching questions to help them think differently about their situation. For example, ask questions that lead to taking action:
- What kind of person or leader do you want to be?
- Is your best work ahead of you or behind you?
- What is the most exciting outcome that you can imagine?
- What is the most potent first step that you can take?
- Listening intently. Invite silence into the conversation. When you ask a thoughtful question, allow the Talent time to think deeply. Do not feel that you need to save them from a tough question by filling the silence with your own response or by asking another question.
- Asking for a commitment. Ensure that during your conversation, the Talent commits to taking action based on insights learned from the conversation.