If you’ve never been coached (whether formally or informally), and it’s something you’re considering, you may be wondering what sort of questions a coach might ask. Or if you already work with a coach, you would love some insight behind the questions your coach asks you.
As well as running an independent coaching practice, I mentor coaching students at The Coaching Academy. I asked fellow graduates and students, as well as other coaching colleagues for their favourite coaching question.
This is what we came up with.
I’m a fan of Clean Language which attempts to remove the pronouns and presumptions from questions. For example: In general coaching, you might ask: “How’s things?” or in business coaching: “How’s business?“. Or for a specific agenda: “What’s happening?” This unfocussed approach means the client has to mentally sort through their priorities, store of issues, and will need some time to unpack.
However if the client answers quickly with “fine” or “OK”, my next question is “tell me more about ‘fine’“.
Katja van Koten at Sparkling Speech
There are so many questions in so many different situations that provoke wonderful answers and insights! I love this question: “What’s the worst thing that can happen?”
Especially if you allow your client to speak out their thoughts and ‘just’ listen to them for a while. What I often experience is that clients start to sum up all their fears only to come to the realisation that it’s not that bad/big/relevant/….
It’s really special to hear that turnaround.
Another question I love “What did you learn from this session?” allows your client to sum up the important insights they’ve gained during the session.
Katherine Grace Hyslop
“What might you be assuming (here), that is making you hesitate?” is a great question for getting to understand your barriers or what might be getting in the way.
Alice Dartnell at Alice Dartnell
I like to ask “If your best friend was in this situation, what would you advise them?“Sometimes we are good at giving advice to others but not so good at taking it. This helps the client to take their own advice!
“If you had one hour extra each day, what would you do?”
My favourite coaching question is in the ‘Option’ stage, the ‘digging the well’ questions “What else can you do?” “What else?” “Tell me one more“.
This almost always results in a lightbulb moment which I just love. I love it when my client realise that they have all the answers themselves; they feel inspired, motivated and empowered.
Caroline Flanagan at Baby Proof Your Life
“What are you assuming?” is a favourite one for me.
Julie Dennis at The Menopause Coach
“What have you done to relax today?”
Many women think managing menopause symptoms naturally is all about the way you eat and exercise. But actually managing stress is crucial so it’s important to take at east 5 minutes each day to relax. It can involve meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, listening to music, having a bath but it’s got to be all about you.
Sue Revell at Magenta Change
I often ask “What is the smallest step you could take that would create the biggest impact?”
I use this question when I want to help a client to move from thought into action and also into exploring what becomes possible by taking action. If we are resisting taking action or moving forward in some way then identifying a small action, that perhaps we feel safe to take, moves us from inertia towards momentum, especially if we can imagine and then witness the positive impact we are creating
“I enjoy using ‘what would would you say if you did know‘ when clients say they don’t know! It sometimes makes people chuckle a bit, but then encourages and challenges them to think beyond their own limitations.
Fil Biggs at Lifehand
My favourite coaching question is “If you had to make your life 1% better today, what would you do?“
I have several, however, one that I use with clients who tend to get a bit stuck in Options stage is “If you had a magic wand – what solution would you ‘magic’ up?“
Jenny Tower at Tower Mindset Coaching
“……and what would you like to have happen? (now/next/instead/in the next 24 hours etc)?”
This is a ‘clean language’ question. Phrased with that unusual hypnotic syntax. This keeps the client focused away from ‘the dark side’ and their current state. It is a slight improvement on the “what do you want?” – the latter implying that it could happen without the client making it happen. “What would you like to have happen?” requires a deeper commitment. It also distracts talkative clients from the content, the story, the surface details, the ramblings – let’s cut to the chase and explore “what would you like to have happen?“
Jessica Gardener at Find Your Phoenix
I like the question: “What will it mean to you to achieve this goal?”
I think it really helps the client to understand how important a particular goal might be and also as a coach it can tell you a lot about how driven and committed the client may be; if they don’t seem as driven or committed, it’s an opportunity to challenge them and even reassess the goal entirely.
My own personal favourite …
“What else?” I love this question because it opens up the possibility to there being another option, another idea, and another resource. If my client is stuck and can’t think of anything else, I might follow up with “I know you can’t think of anything else, but if there was just one more option, what would it be?”