As a coach, it’s not always about having all the answers. Sometimes, the best thing you can do for your clients is to ask them the right questions.
Why? Asking questions is the best way to get to know someone—and to help them get to know themselves. This makes it one of the most important tools you have in your coaching toolbox.
Effective questioning leads to clarity and understanding for both the client and the coach. The right questions can also help you uncover your clients’ goals, motivations, and challenges. It can also help the client to find their own answers and solutions to problems.
Asking effective questions is a key part of coaching competency, but it’s not always easy for coaches in training to know what type of questions to ask (and when to ask them).
A coach needs to be able to assess the situation and then pose the right questions at the right time in order to help the client find their own answers.
This can be a challenge, especially when working with clients who may be resistant or unwilling to open up.
However, there are a few general principles that can guide coaches in training as they learn how to use effective questioning.
- First, it’s important to avoid leading questions that can steer the conversation in a particular direction. Open-ended questions that encourage exploration are more likely to elicit useful information from your client. (An exception would be if you are using questions as a specific technique to “lead” a client to self-discovery, self-awareness, or to a particular insight.)
- Second, coaches should avoid asking too many questions in quick succession; giving the client time to process and answer each question thoroughly will lead to more productive conversations.
- Finally, it’s important to listen actively and show genuine interest in the client’s answers. Remember, it would be more useful for your client to spend 15 minutes with a coach who is actively, authentically listening to their responses than to spend 2 hours with someone who is only focused on what they’re going to ask next.
Following these basic guidelines, coaches in training can ask effective questions that will help their clients move forward and reach their goals.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common types of questions that you can use with your coaching clients:
Open questions are those that cannot be answered with a simple yes or no. They encourage the client to think more deeply about their situation and to share more information.
Examples of open questions include:
- What would you like to achieve from this coaching session?
- What are you thinking about this situation?
- How do you feel about what happened?
Closed questions are those that can be answered with a simple yes or no, or with a specific, factual response. They can be useful for clarifying information or for getting a quick understanding of the client’s thoughts and feelings.
Examples of closed questions include:
- Do you understand what I’m saying?
- Are you feeling angry about what happened?
- Would you like to try this solution?
Probing questions are those that dig deeper into the client’s thoughts and feelings. They can help to uncover hidden concerns or issues that the client may not be aware of.
Examples of probing questions include:
- What specifically are you worried about?
- How do you think this situation is affecting your work/life balance?
- Could there be any other reasons why you feel this way?
Reflective questions are those that help the client to reflect on their thoughts and feelings. They can be used to summarize what has been discussed, or to help the client to see a situation from a different perspective.
Examples of reflective questions include:
- What have you learned from this situation?
- What would someone else say about this situation?
- How do you think your actions will affect the outcome?
Challenging questions are those that challenge the client to rethink their assumptions or beliefs about a situation.
The goal isn’t to argue with the client or to increase emotional stress, of course, but rather to help them to explore different viewpoints and to consider different options. Challenging questions can help the client to see a situation in a new light and to find new solutions to problems.
Examples of challenging questions include:
- What would happen if you did the opposite of what you’re planning to do?
- If you reach your goal early, what else would you move on to?
Whether you’re already a certified coach or are in an accredited coaching training program, it’s important to be aware of the different types of questions that you can employ with your clients.
Through effective questioning, you can learn about your client’s goals, motivations, values, and beliefs.
You can also develop a greater understanding of how they truly think and feel about their current situation. All of this information is important in helping you coach effectively to meet the specific needs of your client.
Questions help coaches to provide feedback and support to their clients, and to guide them towards making positive changes in their lives.
Asking questions effectively can help your client to think critically about their situation, discover their own answers, and to make their own decisions.
Ultimately, this will lead to your clients feeling empowered and motivated to take action—and make lasting change.