Psychometrics and other forms of diagnostic, such as 360-degree feedback, can be very helpful in getting to know a client and “what makes them tick”. But they take time, often require lengthy analysis and can become somewhat mechanical processes that miss the richness and complexity of “who is this person and how do they connect with the world around them?”

By far the fastest way to get to know someone is through an initial dialogue, in which empathetic curiosity plays a strong role. Ideally, we want to gain a multi-perspective, holistic insight that encompasses values, aspirations, culture and both current and historical context. The dialogue serves a dual purpose, creating awareness for both the coach-mentor and the client.

The following 12 questions and their subsidiary questions provide a framework, on which to build this kind of exploratory conversation.

  1. How did you become you?
  1. Who do you admire? (What does this say about you?)
  1. What do you most care about? (How does this influence the choices you make?)
  1. What are your core values? (How do you put them into practice?)
  1. What do you fear most? (How do those fears affect your behaviour?)
  1. What does success mean for you? (What is your purpose in life?)
  1. What’s the difference between your public and private selves?
  1. Where do you find your energy and how do you focus it?
  1. What do you still have to accomplish in your life? (What is your future story? Who do you want to become?)
  1. How does what you want to achieve in the short term fit with your long-term aspirations?
  1. What creates interference for you, preventing you from focusing on what’s important to you? (How do you manage interference?)
  1. What resources do you have/ could you create to support your aspirations?
  1. How do you think coaching/ mentoring can help? (What are your expectations of me and of yourself?)

Of course, other questions and topics will emerge from the dynamics of the dialogue. However, these 13 questions are enough to establish the insights and rapport essential for beginning a journey of deep learning and transformational change.

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