Questions, questions, questions. The most important tool that a coach can use to steer their client towards their objectives is asking powerful coaching questions. Asking the right coaching questions or delving into relevant coaching topics in each session pushes the client to examine themselves beyond the superficial, go to the root of each issue, gain a fresh perspective and use a novel thought process to arrive at breakthroughs.
But asking the right coaching questions or bringing up a pertinent coaching topic for discussion is an acquired skill that a coach needs to hone. So, let’s find out why asking powerful coaching questions is important, how to ask them in the proper manner, selecting the right coaching topics to discuss with your clients and more…
Why asking powerful coaching questions is important
The role of a coach, no matter what your niche, is not to provide readymade answers to their client’s problems but to listen without judgement, help identify strengths, weaknesses & obstacles and empower the client to seek their own answers.
Asking powerful coaching questions is important as it sets the foundation for the client to
- Develop self-awareness
- Improve self confidence
- Set realistic goals
- Accept accountability for their own progress
- Find solutions to forge a successful path ahead
As a coach, asking effective coaching questions is at the heart of creating a tangible impact for your client. The best coaching questions aren’t difficult or complicated, often the easiest and most straightforward questions can lead to valuable breakthroughs.
How to choose the best coaching questions or coaching topics
Before moving on to how to choose the best coaching questions, it is necessary to first establish what makes a powerful coaching question. Questions that encourage the client to reflect, elaborate, gain deeper insight into their own actions and principles that lead to real change and positive results are powerful coaching questions.
Always ask your client open ended questions that provokes and challenges their thoughts. Choose questions that:
- Centre around the client’s strengths & objectives
- Stir the client’s interest
- Cause self-reflection
- Reveal innermost feelings and challenges
- Encourage out of the box ideas
- Prompt acceptance of new possibilities
- Inspire desire for real transformation
- And finally lead to more insightful questions
Asking coaching questions in the right manner
In order to get your clients to respond positively and participate in the coaching process, asking questions or bringing up certain coaching topics for discussion is the first step.
Make sure that the questions flow organically and give your client enough space and comfort to express themselves, without making them awkward or reluctant to participate. It is important to make your client feel that their thoughts and feelings are being heard, only then will they respond well to questions. Open ended, impartial, non-leading, subject relevant questions work well when getting the client to reciprocate wholeheartedly.
An empathetic coach has the best chance of reaching through to the client, understand their current situation, roadblocks that are hindering progress, action steps that will help solve their impasse and bring about a positive outcome in their lives.
‘Simply’ powerful coaching questions to ask clients
Let’s see some examples of simple yet powerful coaching questions or coaching topics to dive into with your client. These can be a good starting off point to an engagement, and some of them can be used along the way to help the client reflect deeper on their progress.
1. “What do you want to achieve? What are your goals?“
As a coach, this question is the basis for understanding what exactly the client is looking for in their life, either personal or professional. It sets the entire tone of the coaching process and provides insight into the client’s innermost feelings and expectations, while also giving you the opportunity to compare the aspirations with the status quo.
2. “Why do you want that and what will happen if you don’t?”
An important follow up question that helps the client delve into why they want to achieve a particular goal in the first place. ‘What will happen if that goal is not achieved’ is getting to the core of the obstacle of attaining a particular goal. If the client is unable to answer what the effects will be if they don’t reach their target, then, as a coach this can be a topic to discuss further as solving this hesitation will be essential to moving forward.
3. “Where do you see yourself five years down the line?”
A coaching topic that helps the client visualize their future in terms of how they perceive their life to be. As a coach the client’s answer lets you match their current scenario with their future idea and helps you strategize actions that would help bridge the gap. It also lets the client truly grasp the impact of their current choices and how they would need to change/adapt/develop to reach their future objectives.
4. “How would you define success? What is the one accomplishment you are most proud of?”
This is a very subjective question, but one that lets the client actually pause and reflect on what success or achievement truly means to them. It might well prompt a realization that, with time, their own definition of success has changed considerably.
Asking what they are most proud of is a question that gets people in a happy zone, brings out positive contributions, boosts confidence, brings out the passion to do better and encourages them into working towards their goals.
5. “What do you think are the roadblocks that are preventing your success?”
This is a vital question as it gives deeper insight into what the client perceives are the reasons or factors that are hindering their progress. Depending on the client’s answer, it also lets you gauge whether these are behavioural or practical roadblocks and chart out action steps accordingly.
6. “What steps have you taken to overcome your challenges?”
Once the client describes their problem, the ideal follow up question to that is to ask them what steps they have already taken to sort out the issue. As a coach you can find out what, or if, actions have been attempted, and then lead to reflective questions such as whether the measures worked and if not why. These questions lead the client towards understanding their issues from a fresher viewpoint and can lead to them finding better ways forward.
An effective coach is one who asks the right coaching questions and encourages the client’s thought process. It’s important to not provide readymade answers but only guide the client towards understanding their own situation, assessing it from all angles, working out their own issues and arriving at their own solutions. Delving into relevant coaching topics, asking powerful coaching questions based on your coaching niche, is the very basis on which a successful coaching session, indeed a coaching program, will stand on and help you create the best coaching experience for your client.
1. What are examples of powerful coaching questions?
Some examples of powerful coaching questions include
- What do you want to achieve/as an outcome?
- What is the ONE thing missing in your life right now?
- What would be the one thing you wish to change?
- What does success mean to you?
- What are you most proud of?
- What is stopping you from reaching your goal?
- Have you done anything to correct the problem?
- What will change in your life if you achieve your goal?
2. What are the 4 major types of questions in coaching?
The four main question types in coaching are:
- open ended questions – Questions that begin with ‘what’, ‘where’, ‘when’, ‘how’, ‘who’ and ‘why’ let the coach understand their client better and chart out strategies to help them develop, while also needing the client to self-reflect
- questions about values and motivations – questions that help the coach understand their client’s motivations (to be able to inspire them to do better) and questions about the client’s value system, their intrinsic beliefs and principles that influence their decisions (to ensure their goals are in line with their ideals)
- reflective questions – reflective questions are those that create more self-awareness in the client about their performance or behaviour that can lead to analysis, newer thought processes and ways forward
- questions that delve into habits and structure – these questions can help a coach identify certain habits of their clients so you can help move past poor habits that are hindering their growth and replace them with good ones that will help their progress
3. How do you prepare for a coaching conversation?
Coaches need to prepare before each conversation with clients, in a systematic process.
a. Pinpoint the purpose of the conversation/session and state the issues that will be covered
b. Next define the goals of the conversation/session
c. Note the gap between the overall pre-defined objectives and current situation
d. Talk about the action steps needed to achieve them
e. Brainstorm about the various solutions that can be explored to move forward (towards the overall objectives)
f. Agree on a follow up course of action
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