Once you are in a coaching relationship with someone, your understanding of his or her motivations, emotions, personality traits, and communication style becomes a factor in your ability to coach productively. One coaching method that allows you to gain this deeper understanding is to practice the skill of exploring.
There are many ways to explore: asking questions (see previous post on Asking Powerful Questions), listening carefully to what they are saying or getting to know more about what interests them. Often, as a coach, you are looking to unlock underlying attitudes or perceptions that are “driving” the person’s behavior or performance. Exploring is often indirect and not necessarily something that you highlight. It is a way to gain insights about the person so that you can improve the effectiveness of your coaching and, hopefully, allow the person to gain insights of his or her own. Sometimes, directly questioning a person regarding emotions or motivations, for example, can disrupt the coaching process by creating a subtly uncertain or threatening environment for the person being coached. The person may not understand their underlying emotions or motivations or they may feel you are going to too “personal” a level. By being indirect and not going straight to the point, you receive the insights and retain a safe space for the coaching (the subject of a future post-stay tuned).
Managing people is about so much more than surface appearances or actions. Using the skill of exploring within your coaching relationships allows you to go below the surface and to find root causes of behaviors, thus leading to a deeper understanding of the person and greater opportunities for change.