Applying the Socratic method to executive coaching
January 16, 2018
Life without examination is not worth living. This quote from the famous philosopher can easily be translated in the corporate world when, as a leader, one needs to coach people. The ultimate object of this process is to teach people how to act and think for themselves. Is that they become leaders of themselves. Is to rev up the minds of those with whom we work together.
The goal then is not the destination but the journey. And the Socratic questioning is a very useful tool we can use. Even in the most obvious coaching cases, the answer is very rarely obvious. By asking simple questions, and then proceed questioning the usual answer, we help people realize that their first answer might not only fail to fit all the contingencies implicit in the question, but perhaps it might even contradict analytical reasoning, or even common sense.
But we need to be very cautious how we show the individual that they possess far less knowledge than they thought they did. If we are not courteous and attentive, people may think that we do not trust them or that we even want to make a fool of them. That is why it is key that before starting any coaching exercise, we explicitly put forward our intention, which should be to encourage our subordinates to acquire more knowledge and grow in wisdom, and thus help them make proper decisions by reflecting on, initially, unreflective thoughts.