Coaching is not giving advice, it’s helping others solve their own problems. Use the following questions and approaches to help folks find their own solutions and insights.

Ask these 7 questions to coach

  • Open: What’s on your mind?
  • Expand: What Else?
  • Focus Problem: What’s the real challenge here for you?
  • Focus Need: What do you want?
    • Do not ask why, it makes people defensive - you’re question their ability by asking why.
    • Want vs Need
  • Focus Request: How can I help?
  • Focus Trade off: If you say yes to this, what will you have to say no to?
    • Omission - automatic no
    • Commission - what you must deliberately give up to make it happen (relationships/projects/)
  • Close the loop: What was most useful for you in this conversation?

How to coach for task completion vs insight

  • P: Project - Immediate task
  • P: People - Relationship
  • PC: Pattern - Help person get better.

How to coach to build strategic insight

  • What does success mean?
  • What is our scope (who/where)
  • What will be our differentiator/moat here?
  • What capabilities/assets will need to achieve this?
  • How do we measure success and provide feedback?

How to keep people safe while coaching using human safety models


  • Tribe: Tribe, ‘us’ vs ‘them’ - be us.
  • Certainty: People dislike ambiguity/uncertainty.
  • Rank: Do I move up or down the social ladder
  • Autonomy: I have control

SCARF - More details in Search inside yourself - Leadership and social skills

  • Status: Where am I in the pecking order
    • BUILD: Give credit, and feedback, ups peoples status
  • Certainty: Do I know what what’s going on.
    • Build: removing ambiguity, and giving people certainty on things that matter.
  • Autonomy: Do I have control over the situation?
    • Build: making clear it’s people’s choice, not yours.
  • Relatedness: Is other person friend or foe.
    • Build: by taking time to know people.
  • Fairness:
    • Build: making clear that you’re being fair.

Soften your coaching: How Can I help

  • Out of curiosity
  • Just so I know
  • To help my understand better
  • To make sure I’m clear

SCARF Model: Fairness People will injure themselves to ensure fairness.

Deflecting the desire for you to solve their problem: How would you handle this

Great question, I have some ideas, but first, how would you tackle this? What else?

Saying No: Say yes slowly

  • Why are you asking me?
  • Whom else have you asked?
  • What you say urgent what do you mean?
  • What does done mean?
  • If I could only do one part, what part would you have me do?
  • What do you recommend I take off my plate to get this done?want done?
  • If you still have to say no Make sure you’re saying no to task, no to person.

Fantastic video on coaching, improvement, and discomfort