There are many things that make for an effective coaching experience, but many will say that it is the questions that are truly the bedrock of any coaching engagement. It is these questions that enable your client to reflect, understand, plan, and visualize about their respective situations & goals and guide them to come up with their own unique solutions that make sense to them.
When a new client comes to your doorstep (figuratively speaking, since coaching now largely happens online), one of the first things you need to do as a coach is to first understand them better – to be able to assess how they function, what is important to them, and how far they are willing to go to achieve their desired goals. Understanding them better will allow you to know the best ways to address them going forward and help tweak and customise your program & process to suit them better.
Let’s explore some powerful life coaching questions you can ask your client to deepen your understanding of them.
1. ‘What do you want?’
This can seem like a very basic question to ask, but when you can sense that your client is feeling scattered & confused because you can see them rambling and bringing up things that seem disjointed and don’t lead anywhere, asking ‘what do you want?’ can help bring them back to why they’re here with you in the first place.
And this is something that happens rather commonly because every client is there to look for answers – because they don’t know what questions to ask themselves, and when. And this is not only for their benefit, but yours as well. When your client is talking about a large number of things, it can get confusing to understand what it is they are specifically looking to get out of not just the entire coaching engagement but out of a specific session as well. So, to quantify it even further, you can even ask ‘what do you want at the end of our coaching journey over the next 6 months?’ or ‘what do you want at the end of the session today?’
2. ‘Can you tell me more?’
When clients are new to coaching, they can often have trouble opening up and expressing themselves to a stranger. This question is great when you are faced with a client who is giving you very little to work with – and it is a simple yet powerful way to follow up to your previous question. This question lets you challenge the client to dig deeper into their problems or situations.
A few variations of this include: ‘What else?’, ‘anything else?’ or a simple ‘and…?’
Understand, however, that these questions need to also be supported with the right demeanour as well as by having a strong hold over the client’s current state. If you’re too pushy or quick to ask the question, it can end up having the opposite effect and make the client close off. Sometimes, letting silent pauses permeate can also do the trick of nudging the client to give you more than they are at the moment.
3. ‘What does success look like to you?’
This is a very important question to ask because there is no standard definition of success – it is purely subjective. For person A, success in life can mean having a 7-figure income, a big house, and a car, whereas for person B it can mean living in the wilderness, having creative freedom, and being in the midst of a community of like-minded people.
Making the effort to understand what the specifics of success looks like to your client is going to help them work with you to forge a path to get there. So, help them get as specific as possible – make it as detailed as possible. Making the markers of success as measurable as possible helps quantify what exactly needs to be done to achieve it and map out objective ways to get there.
4. ‘What’s standing in your way?’
Any and every coaching engagement happens because there is a certain reality that the client desires and something that is stopping them from getting there. This could be anything from building healthier eating habits to wanting to find ways to resolve a difficult relationship. And understanding what exactly is causing them difficulty in getting closer to that desire is vital to know how to bridge the gap between wanting and having.
‘What’s standing in your way’ is one of those powerful questions that allows the client to reflect on what the roadblocks and obstacles in their life are. And even though it sounds simple, many people have never asked themselves this question, which results in them being unclear on what it is that is stopping them from reaching where they want to be. Once they can identify the blockers, you can then lead the conversation to see what are some potential ways your client can remove them.
5. ‘What have you done to solve the problem?’
After a client has described what they want as well as what they perceive are the possible roadblocks or obstacles that are stopping them from getting where they wish to go, it is vital to know what they’ve done so far to solve the issue at hand. ‘What have you done to solve the problem?’ is a way to do just that.
You can even make it slightly less daunting by asking them to tell you one or two things that they have tried, for starters. And when the client answers this question, you can follow it up with ‘Why do you think that didn’t work for you?’ or ‘how would you do it differently?’. Asking these questions urge the client to reflect deeper and think in ways they may not have before, thus possibly leading to some ‘aha!’ moments.
1. What makes for a great coaching question?
A good coaching question is one that:
- Is clear and concise
- Is future-oriented over past-oriented
- Encourages the client to reflect and dig deeper
- Is not leading in nature and is open-ended
- Uses the client’s own words and not the coach’s
- Helps the client look for solutions instead of dwell on problems
- Opens up possibilities instead of closing them off
2. What are some powerful coaching questions?
The number of coaching questions one can ask are endless and the relevancy & impact depend from situation to situation. Examples of some powerful coaching questions are: ‘What does success look like to you?’ ‘What’s standing in your way right now?’ ‘What will help you get closer to what you want?’ ‘Tell me more about this…’ ‘What do you see as the first step to accomplishing your goal?’, ‘How will you measure progress?’ ‘What are the next three steps you need to take?’, Describe your ideal outcome from this coaching…’, ‘So far, what has helped your progress?’, ‘What has held you back?’, ‘Tell me about the last time this happened…’, ‘Have you considered the potential barriers?’, ‘Help me understand why this change is particularly meaningful to you’, and more…
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