Question-Able Supervision


Questions Motivate

Are you a coaching Supervisor?

In coaching, questions are stronger than statements.

I cringe every time I hear supervisors say, “I was promoted to teach others how I do it.” Good supervising isn’t teaching, it’s coaching.


“In a coaching session, who is in control: the person asking the questions, or the one answering? How can you coach people to get what they want and need if you haven’t asked enough questions? What do you call a person who tries to teach you something without asking you what you want to learn? How would you feel about a doctor who prescribes drugs without first asking where it hurts? How do you know if you are recommending the correct course of action if you don’t ask lots of questions?

“How many questions can you ask in a regular coaching session? Do you use a formal questionnaire to make sure you ask the right questions? If not, can you develop one? What do you suppose the benefits of using a form might be? What disadvantages might it create?

“What critical questions should you ask? Did you know that there are nine key questions that relate to just about any coaching situation? Did you know that if you get the answer to these nine questions, your protégé will achieve the critical goals? What are they? And why did you wait so long to ask?

  1. What does your protégé really need?
  2. What does your protégé really want?
  3. Does your protégé have the skills and self-image needed to achieve it?
  4. Does this person have the opportunity and freedom to make changes?
  5. When do they need your support?
  6. How much of the five types of resources will they need to achieve their goal(s)?
  7. What are the decision-making criteria?
  8. What is the decision-making process?
  9. What are your protégé’s dominant needs, the emotional reasons they might want to change their behavior?

“Do people change for emotional or logical reasons? I’m sure that as an experienced coach you know that emotion motivates change, don’t you? If that’s true, do you know how to sell change emotionally? What would be the difference between logical changes and emotional ones? Could you ask them some questions about their current situation, the facts, and then follow with questions about how they feel about the current situation?

“For example, “How do you feel about your current position? How do you feel about your current prospects for promotion? How do you feel about the level of motivation exhibited by your employees? How do you feel about their ability to manage themselves and their time wisely? What do you feel is their biggest challenge? What’s holding them back? How do you feel about their level of professionalism? How do they feel about the way you reward them? Are they doing what they should do? How do they feel about you? In their opinion, do they feel that they are getting adequate support? Do they feel that they are reaching their potential? If not, why not? What’s in their way? Is there a solution? What’s the difference between where they are and where you’d like them to be? How big is the gap? Would you like some help?

“How do you determine a protégé’s dominant change motive? Can you come right out and say, “What is your dominant change motive?” Although not likely, could you ask, ”How do you see yourself performing differently after the coaching is finished? What would it mean to you to have all your people working more effectively for you over an extended period of time? How would that make you feel? Then what? If that were a reality, what would be different in your business? In your personal life? Is that important to you? How important? What would it be worth to make that happen? In your opinion, do you feel that working with me would enable you to achieve those results? If you get a “yes” answer to the last question, what do you have?

“Did you know that successful coaches report that they spend the bulk of their coaching time asking questions compared to a relatively small amount of time teaching the skills for change? Did you know that this is just the reverse with less successful coaches, who spend less time asking questions and more time telling and showing?

“It seems obvious, doesn’t it?

“Were you aware that people who coach by asking questions get to know their protégés better, understand them better, match their needs and wants with the benefits of change? Can you see that the recommended solution has more value and credibility? But how do you make sure you are on the same track? Could you ask some checking questions? For example, “In your opinion, do you feel that being more effective would be of benefit to you and your company? In your opinion, do you feel that getting better-organized and using systems would help to achieve that? In your opinion, do you feel that a process that would encourage behavior and habit changes over a period of time would be effective in making that happen? In your opinion do you feel that giving them the tools to work on their habits, their attitudes and their working skills would be helpful in achieving the results you are looking for? In your opinion do you feel that you would be able to get a good return on your investment after such a program?”

“Do you feel that you could become more successful in your coaching if you did more asking and less telling? In your opinion do you feel that you could be more professional and respected if you asked more questions? Can you just imagine for a moment that it’s two years from now? Do you control every coaching session you have? Are you achieving the respect and trust of your protégés because you know them better than anyone else they talk to? Do they warm up, relax and share information that gives you an intimate insight into their group’s structure, the politics, the challenges, and the opportunities? Do they tell you what’s important to them? Do they share their dreams, aspirations and frustrations? When you envision that scenario, what’s different? How does that make you feel?

“So, what’s holding you back? Will you commit yourself to asking more questions from now on? Have you figured out what’s in it for you? When will you start? Today?”


John Smithman is the founder and head coach of Champions in the Workplace Training & Development Inc. and the author of Workplace Champion by Example, an internationally distributed book that shows employees how to be effective and successful supervisors in the workplace. John is a regular contributor to LinkedIn and Twitter. He publishes regular posts on his book blog site at and has been a regular guest coach on a weekly radio show.

Active in his community, John is a Past President of his local Rotary club, a Toastmasters past-president and Director of Feedback and Recognition for The Vancouver Magic Circle.

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