We may be professional coaches, but our work depends on our clients’ commitment to positive change to reach their goals. Whether they’re focused on their career or personal life, it's a lot of work to adopt positive psychology, and, ultimately, we're only guides in our clients’ journeys.
Great coaching happens through suggestion; by using natural turns in a conversation, we help clients discover their potential.
A key strategy we implement during coaching conversations is asking the right questions to help our clients articulate their goals and embark on the challenge ahead. Intake questions are a great way to get to know our clients, but we should continue asking coaching questions to determine and incite progress. We’ll share 20 life coaching questions broken into the four sections of the GROW model we can use to gauge our clients’ readiness.
Why we use coaching questions
As coaches, we’re constantly asking questions. Even before the first coaching session, we conduct discovery calls with questionnaires, which are key coaching tools we use to determine if we're a good fit with prospective coachees, and begin work on an action plan. Working with a template of open-ended questions during the first session helps build an analytical profile of clients’ minds.
Since coaching is distinct from instruction-directed mentoring, starting the relationship with thought-provoking, open-ended questions provides insight and helps clients feel comfortable with the coaching process. And as we develop our relationship with coachees, the same question may yield new insights to mark our clients’ development.
Powerful coaching questions to use with the GROW model
Having an action plan and coaching structure is crucial for coaching since we have limited time with our clients. We must work efficiently to determine and address issues while establishing a trusting rapport. Many coaches subscribe to conversational models to help naturally guide sessions and still remain focused on accomplishing the task at hand.
Coaches have practiced the GROW model (Goals, Reality, Options, and Ways forward) since the early 90s. Here are questions to ask clients for each letter in the acronym:
Having our clients set goals is so fundamental to our process. Our life coaching intake questions at the beginning of our coach-client relationship address clients’ initial goals and how they wish to improve. As coaches, it's our job to help clients achieve their objectives, so it’s essential we clearly define these goals.
These goals and the questions we ask need to be specific to them; forcing clients to fit into specific categories will only lead to mutual frustration. By asking these open-ended questions, they'll have the opportunity to express their desires, maybe for the first time in their lives.
We can ask:
- What are your top three priorities right now?
- What do you want to change about your current situation?
- What would this life change mean for you in the bigger picture?
- What’s the best possible outcome if you succeed?
- What small steps towards your goal can we take in the session today?
Once we've established goals with clients, we can shift our focus to understanding their specific situations. This will temporarily direct the conversation away from what they want to accomplish with us to why they sought our help. During this process, we may discover things about our clients’ well-being, so it's important that we proceed carefully.
We’ll use our active listening to determine what blockages may hinder them. Many people are hesitant to express their problems and rely on narratives to compensate for the shame they may feel for having these issues. The best coaching questions we can ask at this point will motivate our clients to dig deeper.
We can ask:
- What is/isn't working for you right now?
- What happened when you tried this in the past?
- What were you thinking at the moment?
- What lessons do you draw from your experiences?
- What resources do you feel you need to succeed next time?
We’ll begin exploring how clients can pursue their goals considering their current reality. There may be several possible options, each with its obstacles and opportunities our clients should consider. The questions we ask at this stage help them measure and determine the best course of action.
Having clients count and weigh their options may open up possibilities that never occurred to them. It may turn out that their goals aren’t nearly as hard as they believed they were. Perhaps their goals only require a redirection of energy — our questions will guide them to consider how best they can reach their goals and the steps needed.
We can ask:
- How would you achieve your goals if you had unlimited resources?
- How have others achieved your goals; have you asked for their advice?
- How would trying that affect other aspects of your life?
- How can you best navigate obstacles?
- How will you know if it worked?
Once we determine what options there are, the questions we ask about the way forward help our clients commit to action plans and hold them accountable. These questions help focus clients by addressing their nervousness in pursuing their goals and giving them the courage they need.
By coaching clients with the right questions, we reassure our clients their action plan is possible with their resolve and that they have the power to improve their home and professional life.
We can ask:
- What do you plan to accomplish before we meet next week?
- What specific steps are you going to take to achieve this?
- What can you do if you need to make adjustments?
- What can you say to remind yourself you can do this?
- How do you think you'll feel when you know you've tried your best?
Ask the right questions with Practice
No matter what coaching style we use, we can adapt these questions to orient sessions toward our clients’ goals and help them consider how their goals are significant to them. Our goals aren’t only something we want to achieve but also reflect how we see ourselves in the world.
When we examine our goals, we see how our values correspond with external expectations. By asking open-ended questions, we allow clients to set themselves on a path that's right for them. That's what the coaching business is all about.
There are many opportunities to ask questions and engage with our clients in and outside of sessions. With Practice, it's possible to share activities and reminders to hold your clients accountable for their commitments. Our CRM tools make it possible to schedule and reschedule appointments and enable end-to-end encryption to ensure safe communication and payment.