Newsletter : November 2011

View From The Hill

In Nancy Klien’s excellent book “A Time To Think” she deals with many issues that coaches confront. One that caught my eye was “Incisive Questions which she says ‘when crafted with precision and lustre’ will remove a limiting assumption from your thinking so that you can think again. In essence the limiting assumption is replaced with a freeing one. She gives numerous examples:

If you were the CEO of this organisation which problem would you solve first and how would you do it?

If you knew you were vital to this organisation’s success, how would you approach your work?

If things could be exactly right for you in this situation how would they have to change?

It strikes me that the condition is put first in an incisive question and then it is followed by the issue. Bringing up the rear of the incisive question is the abstract thoughts of a plan. These then are the 3 critical components of incisive questions. So to check if they can “cut the mustard” so to speak, I looked at the transcript of one of my recent coaching sessions. Was a condition present in any of the questions – No, was the issue present – Yes. Did I solicit abstract thoughts to formulate a plan – No! One out of three is not good – where did I lose that skill? I decided to re-draft a couple of the questions I used into Nancy’s incisive ones. Now we don’t know for sure that it would have made a significant difference to the outcome of the coaching session, but I can say for certain that the session would have taken a different route – How do I know? Well I phoned the client up and asked them the re-drafted question – it was like putting new batteries in the Duracell Bunny! I cannot remember the last time I felt that much energy down a telephone line!

Why not have a look at some of your questions and see if they would benefit from Nancy’s Incisive treatment.

Have a good month.


Have a good month.


The British Army has over 100 uniformed solicitors and barristers, recruited from civilian practice, commissioned and put through their military paces at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. One of the principal roles of the Army Legal Services is to deploy its officers on operations as specialists in military and international law, which is how I ended up in Kandahar province, Afghanistan in May last year.

Operational deployments require working 7 days per week and often in excess of 15 hours a day. There is very little time available to do much else. Making a visit occasionally to the gym, catching up on emails or watching DVD’s is the norm. I ran coaching sessions…

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