How is your follow-up question game?
You know that good coaching requires good questions—and you may already be good at asking those. But what about follow-up questions? Even those with strong coaching skills can sometimes fall short when it comes to a skill commonly called piggy-backing. 

Written By Robert E Logan

Christian Coaching Pioneer, Strategic Ministry Catalyst, Resource Developer, Empowering Consultant : Logan Leadership
Piggy-backing is building on the actual word or phrase a client used to create a helpful follow-up question. For example, if someone says, “I need to do more about xyz,” a coach might respond with, “What are some possible steps you could take to do more about xyz?” (As a coach, you don’t even need to understand what they’re talking about.) 

Following up on client comments brings numerous benefits demonstrates to the client that the coach is listening carefully. It allows the client to clarify something they have said that the coach may not have fully understood. Piggybacking allows the client to expand on a topic of importance to them, often digging deeper in the process to something that may not have been fully unpacked. It allows you to partner with the client rather than being directive or taking over. And of course, as people process aloud, they are more likely to experience those ah-ha moments that move them toward insight and accompanying action.  

Strengthen your follow-up question skills

piggybacking focuses in on core issues

Strength is in the Core

Determine which threads of conversation are likely to be helpful and which are not. If the client is saying something you think may be important, those are the topics to pick up on and ask for more through piggybacking. Stay with that thread longer than you normally would if you think it might be important, and never assume you already understand what they mean. 

Repetition is Key

Use their exact word or phrase. Doing this helps you avoid putting words in their mouth or inadvertently shifting the meaning. Don’t paraphrase or rephrase. Say back what they said. For example, “I’m worried about alignment on the board,” could lead a coach to say, “Tell me more about alignment on the board.” Don’t say, “So you’re worried people on the board don’t agree on the direction?” 

Focus brings Clarity

Don’t break their train of thought. By keeping with their topic and words, you facilitate their concentration. You are partnering with them in their thinking—expanding, deepening, and exploring it—rather than trying to move their thinking onto a different track. This helps them go deeper and consider more carefully.  

Hone in on the Action

As you help your client clarify through piggybacking, try to focus on observable behaviors. If they have a concept, see if you can help them form it into an action that they feel fits. If they have an action, help them identify another example so they can expand on and explore it. Questions like, “What else could xyz look like?” or “Could you give me another example?” or “What are some other ways you might xyz?” might be helpful here.

Exercise Regularly

Practice piggybacking. Here are some follow-up question stems to try…. So what would xyz look like? What would some examples of xyz look like? What are the blockages that are keeping you from xyz? How might be able to approach xyz? What do you want xyz to accomplish? How would someone do xyz? 

Build on Insights

Expand it. Successful piggybacking will often lead clients from xyz to qrs. They have an ah-ah moment, where they say, “Wait, I know what to to do! It’s this!” That’s the end goal of successful piggybacking: helping your clients move their agenda forward. 

Create a Rhythm of Active Listening

The prerequisite for all of this, of course, is listening. As a coach, you need to be listening carefully in order to piggyback well. That means not thinking about what you’re going to say next, but keeping the focus on the client, their words, and their meaning. That is where the data is to be mined for a productive coaching relationship. 

Resources

As you work on your ability in follow-up questions it will become glaringly apparent if you need to work on your active listening skills. Don’t fret— this Effective Listening Skill Builder found on loganleadership.com can help you grow your listening skills.

All follow-up questions stem from good open-ended questions surrounding the 5 R’s. Download our FREE list of powerful coaching questions HERE.

Photo by pine watt on Unsplash

Cover Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

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