Scaling Questions in Coaching
Scaling is a key tool that belongs in every coaching toolbox. Whether you need to gauge a subjective perception, define a person’s starting-point, assess progress, or discover resources and solutions, scaling questions will play a key role.
Scaling questions can be used in different situations as well as for different purposes. They are designed to have coachees assess their personal situation and rank themselves on a scale from 0 to 10. By answering scaling questions, coachees render their subjective perceptions and assessments measurable and even visible if the scaling is being visualized. Scales, for instance, can easily be drawn and marked on a piece of paper (or if you like me on a napkin). Alternatively, in team coaching situations, physical scales (e.g., sheets of paper with numbers from 0 – 10 attached to a cord stretched from wall to wall) can be set up in a room with teams having to place themselves somewhere between 0 and 10 according to how they assess their team situation.
What kind of questions can be used for scaling? Here are a few samples:
- How confident are you that you will follow through and make the change?
- How much are you suffering in this situation? Rate yourself on a scale from 0 to 10, 10 representing a maximum of suffering, 0 the opposite.”
- To check how things have developed – Last time you rated yourself a 4. How would you rate yourself today?
- To what extent did you reach your goals?
- How satisfied are you with your situation? Rate yourself on a scale from 0 to 10.
- How confident are you that you will reach this goal? Rate yourself on a scale from 0 to 10.
Sometime ago I met with one of my coachees after an extended break. When we met, he was totally frustrated and unmotivated because he felt he had not made any progress with regard to the goals he had set. I asked him to rate his motivation on a scale from 0 to 10. He rated himself a 2. We then started working on the goals again looking for possible solutions and then clarifying the next steps. At the end of the session I asked him the same scaling question again. Becoming aware of the new perspective and motivation he just had regained through this session, he rated himself a 7. Scaling questions allow coaches to quantify the present state of a coachee as well as any personal developments that have taken place, even within a short period of time.
In what kind of situations can you use scaling questions?
1. To define the coachee’s personal point of departure:
Coach: “How would you assess your team situation today on a scale from 0 to 10? 10 representing a preferred situation, 0 the very opposite.”
2. To refer to competencies used in the past:
Coach: “You rate yourself a 3. Note that’s not a 0. So tell me, what is working for you already? What makes you rate yourself a 3 and not a 0? – What you do as coach is look at the competencies your coachee is using already. He or she may not be aware of those competencies or not think highly of them yet. But you as coach take a close look at them by using this kind of scaling question.
3. To find out about resources drawn on in the past:
Coach: “How did you exactly manage to reach a 3? I mean you could be lower on the scale. So what resources, what skills did you bring into play?”
4. To flesh out goals:
Coach: “How will you know that you have achieved your goal of reaching an 8 on the scale? What will your goal look like when you have reached it? What behaviour will be associated with it? How will people around you respond when you have reached an 8?”
5. To focus on next steps:
Coach: “What step could you take to keep yourself moving towards a 10 on the scale? Right now you are at a 5. So what do you need to do to reach a 6?” – Usually coachees find it easy to answer this kind of question. They may not know how to reach a 10 and even become paralyzed if asked. But they usually know how to get from a 5 to 6.
6. To check if the goal(s) have been reached:
Coach: “You started out with a 3. Now, you rate yourself an 7. What have you done to reach 7? What remains to be done to reach a 10?” – So at the end of a coaching relationship scaling questions help you assess intentionally what has been accomplished through coaching, what is still missing, and what steps remain to be taken.
Scaling questions, of course, can be used in a number of different settings (e.g., in one-on-one coaching relationships, team coaching, solution-focused processes). They are an indispensable tool for anyone who is serious about coaching.
Colin is the Director of ResourceZone International. He has thirty years of ministry experience as a pastor, college lecturer and consultant/coach to consultants, denominational leaders and local church pastors. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org