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Applying The Socratic Method To Executive Coaching

Life without examination is not worth living. This quote from the famous philosopher can easily be translated into 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. It is to rev up the minds of those with whom we work together.

The goal, then, is not the destination but the journey. And Socratic questioning is a handy tool we can use. Even in the most apparent coaching cases, the answer is rarely obvious. By asking simple questions and then proceeding to question the usual response, we help people realize that their first answer might not only fail to fit all the contingencies implicit in the question but might even contradict analytical reasoning or even common sense.

But we must be very cautious about showing individuals that they possess far less knowledge than they thought. If we are not courteous and attentive, people may feel we do not trust them or even want to make a fool of them. That is why it is vital 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.


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