C3: How to become an effective coach for business performance using 5 core questions

Jonathan Hill is the founder and MD of Catalyst PLD Ltd. Find more here.

If you’ve ever read any of my previous bloggage or ever had a conversation with me about coaching (and everything that underpins it) then you’ll know why I’m attending this session. My passion for coaching comes from my beliefs and values about people and the world. I am just as keen for people to experience coaching conditions (particularly those created in a Thinking Environment) as I am for coaching approaches to be accessible to everyone managing someone else. I’m looking forward to listening to Jonathan.

The Five Question Leader – this makes me think about the 1 minute manager and I like the idea that we can be effective and impactful, quickly, if we listen well and ask the right questions. The better the questions, the better the answers, the better the world.

He says the workshop title is more complex than the reality of this session… it’s 5 core questions that will enable us to work less hard, but have more impact…

And now we are up and seeking a partner in the room that we’d like to connect with. It has been 30 seconds before Jonathan rang his tibetan bells… and offers a coaching question What has been the highlight of the show so far? and there person with shiniest shoes goes first… (and the yogi in me loves the bells).

New partner and new question: What’s the cross-roads you’re at? So this one is about decision making… it can be any decision you wish to share from beef or chicken for dinner to leaving the job and buying a yacht. The person with the longest hair goes first.

And again the room is buzzing with conversation and I’m the only quiet person (apart from the listening in the pairs) which is rare.

Now we are sitting again and have some questions to rate from 1 to 7.


How engage and active do you plan to be this afternoon? 7

1=im just digesting lunch

7=Im really engaged in this coaching stuff and

How much risk are you prepared to take? 7

1=i just want to sit here comfy

7=I’m ready to jump into to something new

How much do you can about the experience of your lovely friends?

1=quite frankly my boss asked me to come here

7=its great to be with such fantastic people and I want to ensure others have a great experience

[NB – I always start at 7, but thats just me]

What would you like to get out of this hour together? 

  • top tips to pass onto team members
  • stuff to get buy-in from manager and senior leaders
  • powerful questions to share with my team
  • more better more powerful coaching – as a coach myself

That was a great warm up…

Jonathan talks about 3 Vicious Cycles: The over independent team, disconnect from the real work that have purpose and value, in a state of overwhelm.

Techniques we will practice break these cycles….

Milton Glaser (creator of the the I HEART NYC logo) wrote about 3 types of work that we are doing… Bad work, Good work or Great work – what does that look like?

Bad Work = WOMBATs waste of money bandwidth and time

Good Work = customer satisfaction, delivering to expectations, the job description, what we are paid to do,

c) innovation, planning, spending time and space thinking, inspired work, space for creativity, work that makes a difference… when we are doing great work it evokes emotions – first we’re excited about it, and secondly its quiet fearful to step into a new work space and do things differently to how we’ve always done it.

FOCUS – Ownership of and accountability for great work. good thinking and planning, and knowing where you’re heading

COURAGE – Go toward those difficult convos where you suggest change – we can do this differently

RESILIENCE – see it through, stick at it, keep with the challenge and stay with the discomfort. Let other be learn to be un-comfy and support them to handle that discomfort

Next more coaching… the workshop is designs to encouraging us to be subjective and objective at one time… to be coach and present, and to be listening to and open…

How can you bring more great work into your role? – on three themes Projects, People and Patterns. And think about your own leadership. Your behaviours and whether you are caught i any of those vision cycles. We ask 3 questions:

Question 1: What’s on your mind? – person with the biggest hands goes first

When we’ve finished Jonathan asks… what went well about that? A: we didn’t need to ask anything else. A lot of info, every quickly, from one question, and listening. We don’t need to have the answer. We don’t need to be the subject matter expert. Great for relationship building and gives you insight into the other persons world.

Question 2: What’s the real challenge here for you?

This is the focus question. the structure of this question is really important. It isn’t with emphasis of the ‘real’. It isn’t ‘whats the real challenge’… it bring s the convo away from the thing, to the person. Ownership and focus.

Question 3: AWE = And what else?

Jonathan says this is the best coaching question in the world. The value is quite simply … when we ask, someones first response if rarely their best response or their final answer. It allows us to uncover more layers and insight. It also slows us down and helps is not get pulled into the advice/problem solver.

We now coaching in pairs for 4 minutes using those two questions…. the person with the biggest hands goes first

What was interesting after asking those questions? A: you have consciously not response and jump in. Holding the silence and changing our own behaviour, so that we don’t interrupt. It’s really powerful for the other person. A lot more detail came out, more levels, peeling back to more insight. The actual final answer is quite different from what the initial answer was.

We have just experience a good and powerful coaching conversation is less than 10mins.

We ask question 3 again: And what else? Then review: What did you find? What happened? – something shifted, the answers are far from the initial ones and much better/deeper/insightful. I am listening better.

Question 4: What do you want? – this is a little harder… but the buzz around the room is indicative of how engage everyone is

Question 5: What was the most useful for you?

This is our learning questions… encourage a reflection and closes the learning cycles… encourages ownership and accountability.

And he even finished with appreciation for you coach!

Question from the floor included:

What if someone doesn’t want to speak? A: give them time, space and silence

It feels like there is no action at the end? A: ask question about action/solution – avoid the tell. OR just trust their will be action from the adult you’ve just listen to

Challenges to questions. A: ask about the resistance to the questions, and inquire as to why someone is holding back from the self-directed learning…

Recommended reading is Coaching Habits – focusing on 7 core questions, and changing behaviours

Thank you Jonathan for an excellent workshop session.


[This blog was written live in session at the CIPD Learning and Development Show 2018, Olympia, London on Wednesday 25th April. My intention is to capture a faithful summary of the session highlights, but my own bias and views will undoubtedly contribute to the tapestry of this story. Please excuse any typos, and don’t hesitate to join the conversation on Twitter with me @Jo_Coaches and the blog-squad #cipdldshow]


1 thought on “C3: How to become an effective coach for business performance using 5 core questions

  1. Pingback: That was the L&D Show

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s