While providing feedback and support is central to the coaching process, asking questions is just as valuable. You can use strategically chosen questions to help clients find out more about what they really want.
Entire sessions can be structured around a single question, causing the client to slowly dig deeper and clarify their answer. This process often helps them learn more about themselves.
This article discusses the importance of prioritizing asking questions during sessions and offers coaching question suggestions for common situations.
Why asking questions is important
There are two key goals during a coaching session. The first is to equip your client with the tools necessary to progress toward their goal. The second is to guide them toward better understanding themselves — including understanding what’s holding them back and what they really want.
Choose questions relevant to your coaching specialty, and personalize them whenever possible. For example, life coaching questions tend to be more private, while career coaching questions typically focus on workplace relationships and skill building. Clients often surprise themselves by their honest answers to questions.
Here are a few ways asking questions makes coaching sessions more effective.
- Inspires connection. The most powerful questions for coaching make clients feel understood and demonstrate that we care about them as people. If we thoughtfully reflect on a previous answer before prompting them with a new question, it shows we’re listening and understanding what they’re saying. Clients appreciate coaches who want to get to know them and aren’t simply fixated on one goal or potential outcome.
- Starts the conversation. Starting sessions with new clients can be awkward, and asking questions is a great way to break the ice. It’s easier for clients to open up to someone they have a good rapport with.
- Finds talking points. Excellent coaches pay attention and remember key points for later. When a client answers open-ended questions with detailed information, remember it. Follow up with them later in the session or further down the line when it becomes relevant. You’d be surprised how these details connect in other areas.
- Keeps clients on track. Questions can steer the conversation toward areas we know our client needs to address. Sometimes, they require a nudge in the right direction, and a thoughtfully-chosen question does the trick. Making clients reflect or think harder about a previous response or reaction helps them examine deeper feelings and behaviors.
Best coaching questions for the first session
A client’s first session is important. Since this is where your journey together begins. You want them to walk out of that room excited that they’ve taken the first step toward their dream life. They must also feel like you’re the right coach to get them there.
Here are seven coaching interview questions to set the session's tone and demonstrate our coaching style to clients.
- How would you describe yourself?
- What made you decide to find a coach?
- What’s one habit you’d like to correct?
- What’s the biggest challenge you’re currently facing?
- What’s keeping you from taking on that challenge?
- What sort of learner are you?
- What do you want to change about your current situation?
Consistency is comforting. Starting every session with a few check-in questions is a great way to give your clients something they can prepare for. It’s a way to mark progress, show that you care about their daily lives, and receive feedback on improving their coaching experience. Here are seven great coaching questions for the start of every session.
- What’s something you’ve done this week that you’re proud of?
- Where can I assist you this coming week?
- What would you like to accomplish by the end of the session today?
- Are you feeling well supported by me?
- Is there anything going on in your life that’s preventing you from focusing on your goals?
- Are you on track, behind, or ahead regarding overall progress toward your ultimate goal?
- Is there any way I can improve your coaching experience?
A crucial aspect of every coaching session is guiding our clients toward a better understanding of themselves and their goals. Only then will they feel prepared and motivated to do what it takes to achieve them. Here are 10 powerful coaching questions to get your clients reflecting on what they really want.
- What’s the most significant change you’re willing to make today?
- Imagine your ideal week. What did you accomplish?
- What inspires and motivates you?
- Who do you envy? Why? (This answer often showcases what they wish they could achieve.)
- How will you know when you’ve reached your goal?
- What decision are you avoiding?
- If you took this risk, what’s the worst “What if” that could come of it?
- If you took this risk, what’s the best “What if” that could come of it?
- When was the last time you tried something new?
- If money wasn’t a concern, what would your life look like in five years?
Now that we have a better idea of our client’s problems, worries, and goals, we can use this information to plan for the future. These seven questions are great jumping-off points for creating schedules or action plans.
- What’s your ideal life look like five, 10, and 15 years from now?
- What are the necessary steps to achieve your five-year vision?
- What do you think is a realistic timeframe to accomplish the first step?
- How will we measure your progress?
- What have you already tried that didn’t work?
- What’s a different method you think may be more effective?
- Who else is involved in this plan?
Asking expected check-in questions at the end of a session is an excellent way for both parties to reflect on progress. It makes your client feel prepared to take on the hard work necessary before the next meeting. Here are six effective questions to close your sessions with.
- What’s one thing you learned about yourself today?
- What do you hope to accomplish before we meet next?
- What’s the first thing you need to do to work toward that goal?
- What was your least favorite part of today’s session?
- Are there any pressing concerns that haven’t been addressed?
- How should we measure progress this week?
Asking open-ended questions
Common coaching practice tells us to ask open-ended questions instead of closed ones, but what does this mean? Open-ended questions can’t be answered with a yes, no, or maybe. They require critical thinking and thoughtful, detailed answers.
It’s best to ask these sorts of questions to learn more about your client. “Yes” doesn’t give us much to go off of — it tells us nothing about the client’s goals, obstacles, and fears.
There’s a time and place for closed questions, like on a client’s intake form. For deeper insights into what makes your client tick and what they really want to accomplish, ask open-ended questions.
Making the most of every session
The general structure of a coaching session should include a session recap and goal-setting discussions. Enhance the efficacy of these tasks by asking the right questions.
To learn more about coaching best practices, browse articles on our blog. Here are a few topics we recommend reading before your next session: