Useful coaching tools and techniques: the scaling question

The scaling question is an extremely useful coaching tool. It is simple to use and highly effective. Delegates attending our coaching programmes love this approach and often report back on how it has helped achieve a breakthrough in a coaching session.

We use it in 2 ways, firstly to establish how important an issue or problem is for the coachee, and secondly to test the coachee’s motivation to take action.

Let’s look at some examples.

  • Your coachee presents an issue about managing their time at work.  They are finding it difficult to allocate enough time to get important work done, such as completing their costings for the next quarter, because they are getting interrupted by questions from team members. To find out where this issue is in terms of importance for the coachee you ask:    

On a scale of 1-10, with 1 being the lowest priority and 10 being the highest,                  where would you place this issue in terms of importance?

Giving this problem a ranking against other competing issues enables the coachee to gain some perspective and helps them to move to action faster. It also provides the coach with an insight as to whether this is the most important problem the coachee is currently facing.  It is not unusual for coachees to ‘test the water’ with a problem that is quite easily solvable before bringing the key issue to the coaching sessions.

  • Let’s imagine that you have reached the action planning part of a coaching session.  Your coachee has identified 3 useful actions that they can take which will move them closer to achieving the goal they have set. To test how motivated they are to take action you ask:

   On a scale of 1-10, with 1 being ‘no chance of taking action’ and 10 being                         ‘guaranteed to take action’ where do you think you are?

In our experience, coachees need to identify themselves as being at 7 or above for them to follow through and take action. Knowing this it is very important for the coach to manage their response to the answer that the coachee gives.  Remember to remain non-judgemental, otherwise your coachee’s motivation may drop further. Your role as coach is to find out what is getting them to the number they have given you, and what might help to increase it further.  This positive approach gets a much better outcome for the coachee.  Here is an example of how to handle the response and how the coach’s response helps the coachee’s motivation:

Coach:       So Mark, you have identified 3 actions that you can take over the next week that will help you to structure your time more effectively. On a scale of 1-10, with 1 representing ‘no chance of action’ and 10 representing guaranteed follow through, what number would you give to taking action on that scale?

Mark:       I think it’s about a 6

Coach:     (positively) OK, good.  Can you tell me what is getting you to a 6?

Mark:       Well I have a deadline looming.  The costings have got to be sent over to my manager in a fortnight, so I need to do something. 

Coach:      That’s positive.  So what do you think would help you get to 6 1/2?

Mark:       I’m definitely going to talk to my deputy about handing some of the enquiries to give me more time. So actually I think I’m at least a 7 now.  Yes, I’m going to get this sorted.

The above dialogue gives a flavour of the potential impact of the scaling question.  I recommend that you include it in your coaching conversations.

The coaching grid is a very popular feature in a 3D virtual world (see image at the top of this post), where coachees move their avatar to the stepping stone of their choice in response to the scaling question.  They can then click on the stepping stone for the next motivational question.

If you would like a free trial of our 3D virtual worlds for coaching so you can try our coaching grid for yourself, please get in touch.  

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