Coaching questions are the most powerful tools in your arsenal as a life coach. When you go round and round in circles with an issue your client is facing, the right coaching question at the right time can bring key insights that will change their perspective forever.
There is an art to asking life coaching questions the right way. Some questions work best in a sequence, each building on the previous one, while others work well individually, as a pattern interrupt in the conversation.
In this article, we’ve gathered everything you need to know about what coaching questions are for, how they should be used, and a list of our favorites. Use them to create even more powerful transformations in your clients’ lives.
Note: This article is about coaching questions to be asked during your sessions. If you need some nifty questions for your coach intake form or your discovery sessions, here’s some further reading for you:
Why Should Life Coaches Ask Coaching Questions?
The most fundamental premise of our profession as coaches is that we’re not meant to tell our clients the answer but let them discover it themselves. Even if you think you’re facing a familiar pattern and feel the urge to solve it for your coachee, let them get to the conclusion in their own time. They might discover the same truth as you knew all the way along (though they might actually surprise you), but it will empower them much more to find their own version of it.
Sometimes the much awaited epiphany doesn’t happen in your coaching session, and that’s okay. The question you asked will linger in your client’s mind in the coming days and might hit them when they least expect it. Remember, most of the inner work happens in between the sessions.
Coaching questions, asked well, have the ability to get your clients unstuck by opening their minds to a whole new perspective. They also come in handy with clients who have some resistance to change, by placing the responsibility back into their hands.
Sometimes, the simplest questions create the biggest impact. None of them are too “basic” to ask, no matter how long you’ve been coaching (and no matter how much coaching your client has received). Even if they think they know the answer, hearing themselves say it out loud might help them face their current reality (which, as we know, is the first step towards transformation).
How to Ask Life Coaching Questions the Right Way
When you work with coaching questions, the trick is to find the one that fits the context of the conversation best. The question that serves the overall purpose you’re working towards with your client. Some questions open up the imagination, others help set more specific goals or face one’s internal dialogue.
Don’t worry about asking the “wrong” question. Every person is different, and they might resonate with one question more than another. In the world of coaching, just like there’s no right or wrong answer, there’s no right or wrong question either. It’s a journey, not a straight line.
If your client seems confused by your question, or their answer is very brief without much insight, try asking it in a different way or add a follow up question to dig deeper into the subject. It’s best not to overwhelm your client with too many questions at once but rather give space for them to process their thoughts and look behind the surface.
You might notice that most life coaching questions are open-ended questions. This is because, as a coach, you should never assume or influence the answer of your client. Always ask with curiosity, without trying to control the direction of the conversation, and refrain from judgment on what’s being said.
Finding the right coaching questions in the moment gets easier with time in a particular client relationship. As you get to know your coachee better, you’ll learn what coaching tools work best for them and how they like to be asked.
For example, if they’re more visual, you might ask questions like “how would you imagine your life if so and so was true?” If they’re more auditive, you may use questions like “what would it sound like if you talked to yourself in that way?”
Conversational Structures: The GROW Model
The most widely known conversational structure is the GROW model. Coaching frameworks like this organizes life coaching questions into a particular sequence and gives more structure to your sessions.
Using the GROW model during your sessions will help your clients define their goals and the action steps that will lead them there. It tends to work best for more practical coaching situations, and it’s a real life-saver in brief sessions, where you don’t have a lot of time to linger on the subject for too long.
Here’s how it’s built up.
The first step is to ask a series of questions from your client to help them set a clear objective. Make sure their goal is specific and comes from internal motivation rather than outside influence. The better their goal is, the more effective the rest of this process will go.
Coaching questions to ask:
- What would be an inspiring goal for you to work towards?
- What specifically do you want to accomplish?
- How could you rephrase that goal, so it depends only on what you do and not on others?
- How will your life change as a result of working on this goal?
- How would you make your goal more measurable so that it’s clear when you’ve achieved it?
- By when do you want to complete this goal?
The second step is to take a reality check of the current situation your client is in. This will put their goal in context and highlight the gap they’re facing between their present and their desired future.
Coaching questions to ask:
- Where are you today in relation to this goal?
- What have you already accomplished?
- What have you tried that worked/didn’t work?
- What events and decisions led you here?
- Who else is involved in this situation and how?
The third step of the GROW model is about finding possible solutions or action steps for your coachee to move towards their initial goal. It’s also a time to find creative ways to go around obstacles and come up with new ways to approach a seemingly futile situation. Make sure your coachee finds their own solutions, without you advising them.
Coaching questions to ask:
- What are some options you have in this situation?
- Let’s come up with five more ways you could move towards your goal.
- If you had unlimited time and money wasn’t an issue, what would you do?
- What would you do if this obstacle was removed?
- Who could give you more clarity on this? Who could help you achieve this?
- What have you seen others do, that might work for you?
4. WAY FORWARD
The final step is called way forward or will. This is when you define concrete action steps together with your client that will move the needle for their main objective.
- Which options do you want to take action on?
- How can we turn that into an actionable task?
- What’s the first step you want to commit to?
- By when would you like to get this done?
- On a scale of 1-10, how likely is this step to get done by this timeframe?
- How can we turn that into an 8?
- Are there any obstacles we need to address, to make sure this step gets done?
Powerful Coaching Questions to Use in Your Practice
Coaching Questions to Open Your Sessions With
These coaching questions work well at the beginning of your coaching conversations, in order to set a purpose for the session.
- What’s alive in you today?
- What would make this a powerful conversation today?
- What would be the best use of our time today?
- What goal would you like to set for our session today?
- What’s on your mind today?
- What would you most like to talk about?
- What would you like to get out of our time together?
Coaching Questions to Close Your Sessions With
You can end and recap your coaching sessions with these questions to make sure the conversation is complete and to reaffirm the main learnings from it.
- What do you take away from our conversation today?
- Could you sum up your key learnings from our conversation today?
- Was there something else you wanted to share but haven’t been able to today?
- What was the biggest win of this session for you?
- What action step would you like to commit to until our next conversation?
Coaching Questions to Dig Deeper
- Can you tell me more about this?
- What else?
- What if you secretly did know the answer?
- What do you think might be behind that?
Coaching Questions to Help Clients Get Unstuck
- How does that serve you?
- How has that been working out for you?
- What will it cost you if things remain the same?
- How else could you respond to this situation?
- What’s standing in your way?
- How would things be different if we removed that obstacle?
- If you had a magic wand and you could change anything in this situation, what would that be?
- What do you feel you’re missing in order to move on?
- What’s the smallest step you could take forward right now?
Coaching Questions to Envision the Future
- What would be an inspiring future for you to work towards?
- If you got everything you wanted, how would your life look a year from now?
- What’s the best possible outcome that could happen?
- Would you like to explore this dream and see if it’s a real possibility?