Why should you ask the right coaching questions?
It’s simple. Questions help clients examine their lives. Examination allows introspection and introspection then allows action.
Coaching questions are the backbone of professional life, business, and executive coaches.
A successful coach is usually good at three things: Understanding what to ask, when to ask it, and how to ask it.
The ICF Core Coaching Competencies advises the use of “awareness-building questions”. These often start with the words: What, When, How, Who, If.
Small questions or big questions?
Questions such as ‘what should I wear today?’ or ‘what should I eat today?’ help us keep our daily lives on track.
But without the bigger questions, the small ones soon become irrelevant. These are the questions that make us introspect, and change our lives. In the hubris of smaller questions, we often forget to pause and assess our goals and priorities.
Now that we’ve figured out why it’s important to ask, here’s a set of questions that will help you dive right in.
Beginning with these coaching questions
1) What is your definition of success?
You will notice that often clients have a tough time defining success. This can be due to different factors such as the environment in which they live.
It reiterates the fact that the definition of success changes from person to person. Once you’ve defined success you can break it up into smaller, more realistic targets.
This makes it easier to work toward without feeling overwhelmed.
2) How would you rate your happiness on a scale of ten?
This coaching question is an excellent sneak peek into your client’s mindset.
Ask your clients to be as open, honest and candid as possible.
Begin by breaking it down into a set of sub-questions: When you woke up in the morning, did you feel happy? In the last two weeks when do you recollect being the happiest? Why?
Once you’ve got that information, your goal will be to devise a plan to increase the happiness rating.
3) What things from your daily life make you happy?
Is it watching a movie? Swinging a golf club? Meeting a grandparent?
Clients often approach life coaches feeling overburdened. Helping them figure out what makes them happy can go a long way in alleviating that heaviness.
In fact, it can even bring about acceptance and calm.
4) What type of life do you envision for yourself?
Ask a child about what he wants to be when he grows up. The answer you’ll get is an indicator of the hopes and dreams that he/she has. As we grow older, we still harbour hopes and dreams.
Helping a client determine what their ideal life would be, can help you devise a plan to get there.
Comparing life as it is, to an ideal future state, is a great way of determining what isn’t working.
5) What/Who are you grateful for?
Contentment comes from an appreciation for the finer details in life. You’ll find that the people who are the happiest are also the ones who are the most grateful for what they have.
By asking a client what he/she is grateful for you to allow them to take their lives into perspective. It’s an opportunity to understand the positives in their lives. And a foundation from which to start.
When you’re aware of your strengths, you can put them to use. So help your client find his or her strengths!
Help your client understand the roles that other people play in their lives. In doing so, you’ll help them appreciate these people better.
In time you’ll help your client build healthy relationships.
6) What are your biggest fears?
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” – Marianne Williamson.
This coaching question will help you shed light on what a client views as adversity. This adversity can manifest as either psychological, physical or even both.
By helping a client work through their fears, you can help with stress, and build a foundation for success.
7) What can you do in the next week to make you happier and more purposeful?
Sometimes running a marathon can be a daunting task. But if you look at it as a series of steps, it becomes easier to take the first step.
Drilling down larger aspirations, into weekly goals can help your client refresh. Your client’s happiness and purpose will be in their own control.
8) What do you want to achieve in the next year?
People from all walks of life often put their goals on hold whilst they ‘try to figure out things’. But moving is better than standing still.
Asking a question like this will help your client reiterate his/her commitment to his life goals. By doing so you are also helping your client set deadlines and work towards them.
Adhering to deadlines also reaffirms accountability to themselves.
9) How will you get to success?
Success is never one thing, but a combination of events, goals and dreams. When working with your clients it is always very important to keep their point of view in mind.
When you’re aware of what they’ve tried already, are trying, or are willing to do, you’ll help them find a road to success. Work toward what your client envisions, as well as what he/she places emphasis on.
You’ll find that it’ll help carve out a much clearer path to get there.
10) Who are the people you want to help the most through your life?
Human beings are social creatures. Which is why the interactions we face in our lives influence the way we live.
Understanding the relationships in his or her life can help your client value people. Sometimes, attempting to change the world around us can become counter-intuitive.
Streamline it for your clients. Ask them: Who are the people they want to help? Who do they want to have a lasting impact on?
By doing so, you’ll get a better understanding of what they need to work towards.
11) Which relationships do you value the most?
The answer to this question will help you build on question no. 5. To begin with, you’re helping your client shine light on his or her relationships. You’re also helping them understand why (or why not) they hold onto these relationships.
In most cases, this will help your client to step back. They can then decide which relationships deserve more time and effort.
You will find that an individual’s mindset is often influenced by the relationships in his/her life. Cognizance of these relationships can empower your client.
12) In one sentence, how would you describe your previous year?
Asking a client about his/her previous year serves two purposes. One, it can help them break down recent occurrences in their lives. Two, it will give you further context to your client’s mindset.
This is a great question to gauge the level of clarity (or lack thereof) in your client’s mind. As well their general outlook on life.
Remember, the intent of questioning is to help your client express, analyze and solve.
Consider the past year as a subset of your client’s life. And use it to help your client build a step-by-step plan of action.
13) What hasn’t been working for you today?
This question will help your client address immediate concerns in his/her life. It’ll help them break down their problems to a granular, day level.
Beginning small can have many benefits. For starters it makes the task at hand seem less daunting.
If there are certain things that haven’t been working, help your client find the alternate route.
14) What’s been on your mind since the last time we spoke?
This coaching question can help you take cognizance of your clients’ thoughts and concerns.
A lot of people face difficulties in opening up. Reservations about sharing and difficulties articulating are the first obstacles. Which is why it’s important to create a comfort zone.
It is your job as a coach to take cognizance of your client’s apprehensions.
You can then help your client address these concerns in a step-by-step manner.
15) What do you need most from me today?
More often than not, your clients will have difficulty figuring out what it is they want from a session. This coaching question will make them address what they want.
A symbiotic working relationship in which both your client and you are on the same can go a long way.
It’s momentum toward achieving those larger, life-changing goals and targets.
16) What would a perfect week look like for you?
A good start to answering this question is by asking your client to list out his/her top choices. Once they have done so you can guide them through each point.
Help them chart out a path to making the following week, a perfect week. Break it down into smaller, more achievable weekly components.
These weekly milestones will inject motivation for continued progress.
It is necessary for you to energize and reinvigorate your client from time to time. As they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day.
17) What is the biggest compromise you are willing to make today?
You’ll notice that clients will willingly talk about what they want. It is much harder to address what they’re willing to compromise on. A coaching question like this can go a long way in helping your client understand what they don’t need.
In other words, what is surplus to their requirements? You’ll often find that it is the unnecessary baggage that makes the journey difficult.
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18) Tell me about your week?
More often than not, it’s important to talk open-ended. A question like this helps with the flow of ideas and to generally brainstorm.
Feel free to guide the question and to touch upon all sides of the spectrum, good or bad.
19) In the last month, what’s made you apprehensive or scared?
It is often difficult for individuals to own up to their apprehensions or fears. But no one likes being apprehensive.
Once you’ve helped your clients figure out their fears and insecurities, help them get to the root.
Treat the root cause rather than the symptoms. Work with your clients to devise strategies to tackle, or qualify these apprehensions.
20) What are your concerns with a coach?
Building a healthy working relationship begins with an open client-coach relationship. Asking a question like this is a great way of breaking the ice and winning trust with newer clients.
Giving your client a comfort zone in which they can open up, will help you work more efficiently with them.
It’ll give you more to work with and help you get beyond the surface, of troublesome issues.
21) How would you expect me to help you after a month?
Remember that clients approach coaches with a goal in mind. Never lose sight of this goal.
Use this question with newer clients to gauge where they stand, and where they want to go. Chart out a plan with them.
Setting the expectation straight from the get-go is crucial!
22) What do you plan on doing after our session today?
This question helps your client get into the habit of making lists. Lists are nothing but a straightforward way of getting organized. Devise strategies to help your clients organize and document their lives.
Asking a question like this will help them draw up a list of things they plan on doing. And it’s much more tangible on paper rather than in the mind.
23) Is there anything you are uncomfortable talking about?
Like question 20, this question shines a light on your client’s safe space.
In a working relationship, it is very important to establish boundaries. And to respect these boundaries. A coaching question like this right off the bat, will build trust, and create a safe operational framework.
But remember that one approach doesn’t work for everyone. It is very important to gauge what works for each individual.
24) What kind of coach would you like me to be for you?
Ask your client to think about what they want most from the client-coach relationship. With the expectation out in the open, you’ll be able to mould your approach to what works for your client.
Being a hard coach might not always work. Sometimes it may take a more motivation-based approach.
The important thing to note is that your coaching style depends on the person your coaching. Try not to prescribe to fixed strategies but base your approach on what your client wants of you.
25) If you could pick your ideal career, what would it be?
Professional well being is often an integral component of a balanced life. Imbibing a childlike ability to dream, will help your client feel reinvigorated. In doing so you’re setting them up to actually move towards their ideal careers.
Help your client map out their ideal career and assess that against where they are currently at. What are the obstacles stopping them? What is the quickest way to get there? What is the most sustainable way of getting there?
26) What 3 emotions do you feel right now?
Here’s another list based question! That’s right, listing out answers is often a great way of covering the thought spectrum. Ask them to be as candid as possible, and use this question to compare how they are feeling to how they want to be feeling.
A majority of decisions and situations can arise from the mental makeup of your client. Understanding how they feel is necessary for you to understand their current predicament.
As always, charting out a map from the current state to the future state is a great strategy.
27) What bothers you the most right now?
If you’ve figured out what worries or bothers your the most client you’ve addressed a big blockage. When the blues hit, we often cannot see beyond our problems. Help your clients lessen their most pressing concerns and you’ll open up a big knot.
It’s also a great exercise in clarity and organization.
28) Is there something you yearn for that you have difficulty admitting to yourself?
This question is an interesting one in many ways. Uncovering subconscious desires can help pinpoint where our thoughts come from. By doing so, we can then decide whether it’s worth acting on these thoughts, or not.
Drill deeper into the things your clients want, but are afraid to acknowledge. That way you’ll really be able to strike a chord. It’s always the deep-rooted problems that hold us back. Spend a little time on getting to the source. Making the connections all the way to the root can help you as a coach, derive the essence of the problem.
29) What are 5 things that would make the biggest difference in your life right now?
Here’s another fantastic list based question. This question works wonders to help your client become more proactive. Focus on the most important things and get the ball rolling on those.
Once your client feels a little momentum, problem-solving will become easier. By doing so you’re making them more energized. A trait which carries over into other goals in their lives.
30) In your perfect life, what is the first thing you would change about your current life?
It’s always a great exercise to help your client introspect and analyze. Line up the present against what they consider to be their ideal. In doing so you can help them pinpoint the areas of their lives which they are most dissatisfied with.
Figure out the areas your client wants to change, and work out a game plan to bring about the change.
31) What are the top 5 issues that you face on a daily basis?
Listing out the top 5 issues is a great exercise in prioritization. By filtering out the signal from the noise you’re helping your client take a look at the most cumbersome issues. Rather than try to fix everything at once(which can be a daunting task) you’re streamlining it to a fixed set of issues.
Fixing these daily problem points, is the first step to healthier, happier living. Instilling the habit of handling issues on a daily basis can add up to larger goals.
32) What are the top 5 things you dislike?
You may think this question is a lot like question 30 but you don’t jump the gun. It’s not. This is a great question to help you peer into the biases that your client finds himself subject to.
By addressing what it is he or she dislikes you can help them navigate around these things. It can also help them understand whether there is a genuine reason for the negativity. The release of negativity is an important step to a balanced, and content mindset.
33) If you could fast forward a decade, where would you see yourself?
Have you ever watched ‘Back to the Future’? Well, what if you could give your clients a time machine to help them travel into the future. Wouldn’t it be interesting to help them take a look at what sort of lives they lead in the future? This question utilizes the power of visualization.
Asking your client to visualize a particular time in their lives can help them detach. It allows them to observe their lives without getting caught up in it. Once you’ve got them visualizing, it’s a matter of helping them discern what they like and what they don’t.
34) What makes you feel proud?
Self-esteem can have a crippling effect over time. It trickles down into both personal and professional lives and can wreak havoc. This is a great question to help your client affirm their own worth and find value in their own lives.
Making light of one’s accomplishments, big or small, can help keep one’s self-worth intact. It’s the small steps in confidence that can really add up.
Stay Curious and Keep Asking
Questions are the best way to understanding your clients. They’re also the first step toward building strong relationships.
Above, I’ve detailed 34 questions, but remember that you can mould these questions into your approach.
The important thing is to do is to stay curious, and go with what works for you. But most importantly what works for your client.
The questions I’ve detailed here are the tip of the iceberg. The key here is to understand which questions help you understand your client better. Keep in mind, that you can only get better with the questions you ask, so be sure to keep up-to-date and keep learning.
Make use of the questions in this article and build upon them. Work with your clients to gather as much context as possible. Working through problems and concerns will help you build systematic plans.