Powerful coaching questions are the most important weapon in a coach’s arsenal, and they can pave the way for the most important conversations you have with your coachee.
If you’re looking for the right words to trigger thought and action, this article contains some practical examples that you can adapt to suit your coaching context.
Want to send your questions as homework, questionnaires, or surveys? Creating your own digital resources with Quenza’s professional trial, for only $1 for the first month.
The Importance of Asking Good Questions
The purpose of coaching is to empower others, and effective coaches don’t do this by walking their clients through every step of a journey.
Asking powerful questions is how a good coach will place a client’s development squarely in their hands.
Rather than showing them the way, which might describe instruction, teaching, or mentoring, a successful coach plays a valuable role by helping others realize their own possibilities and potential.
Coaches do this by asking good questions:
- To help clients set goals
- To raise their self-awareness
- To enhance their self-belief
- To build accountability for their progress and results, and
- To help them pave the path ahead so that they can continue growing independently, by finding the answers themselves.
Asking questions is essentially how a good coach will place the power for a client’s development squarely in their hands.
Although different prompts or inquiries will be relevant throughout a client’s development journey, asking questions is how coaches tap into their potential and encourage them to find their own way forward.
How To Ask Your Clients Questions: 6 Tips
Effective coaching conversations should provoke thought and exploration, and they should center around a client’s goals, capabilities, and possibilities.
With these goals in mind, master coach trainer Tony Stoltzfus offers the following tips:
- Ask open-ended questions that encourage your coachee to think and direct the conversation
- Be impartial – ask questions that have many potential answers rather than questions oriented to a particular solution, and avoid asking leading questions
- Trust the process. Rather than looking for ‘the perfect question’, nudge the process along its natural course with short and sweet prompts (e.g. “Tell me more…”)
- Use your client’s own words – this can save you from accidentally ‘spinning’ what your client is saying
- Don’t be afraid to interrupt. Open-ended questions can sometimes lead your client off-track or off-topic, so interjecting at the right time is sometimes necessary to restore their focus.
- Ask ‘What’ instead of ‘Why’ when probing further. ‘Why’ questions may prompt defensiveness, closing your client off to discussion rather than inviting further exploration.
Coaching Conversations: 21 Examples of Questions
The type of questions you ask, and when you ask them, will inevitably depend on your coaching plan.
Whether you decide to follow an established coaching framework or not will also be a factor of your preferred coaching style and experience, but there are a few general functions that coaching questions can carry out.
Introductory questions such as these can build trust and help your client set goals:
- What would you like to focus on in today’s conversation?
- What do you hope to take away from our discussion?
- What would be the best possible outcome for you from our conversation today?
- How can our session help you with your present challenges?
Quenza’s Pre-Coaching Questionnaire Expansion, shown above, offers a few more coaching questions that help you paint a picture of your client’s aspirations, expectations, and background:
- What is most important to you in your life and why?
- On a scale of 1 -10, how happy are you with your life right now?
- How do you want to feel at the end of your coaching series?
The following powerful questions may be useful if you are inviting a client to explore their strengths, values, options, or obstacles:
- What matters the most to you about this goal?
- What have you tried so far?
- What strengths can you draw on to bring about this change?
- How will your life change if you achieve this outcome?
- What actions have been successful for you in the past?
If you’re exploring a client’s values as part of life coaching, Quenza’s The Top 5 Values Expansion (above) will give you some handy prompts:
- What’s important to you in your life?
- What is your life’s purpose?
- What do you enjoy doing?
- When do you feel satisfied and fulfilled?
Stimulating Action and Building Accountability
If you and your clients’ focus is action planning, this list of questions contains a few ideas that might help:
- Thinking about our conversation, what are your next steps to accomplishing your goal?
- What are the potential outcomes?
- What steps will you take? And by what date?
- What will success look like for you?
- What will you need to move forward?
14 Powerful Life Coaching Questions To Ask In Your Sessions
There are no right or wrong goals in life coaching, only what a client considers meaningful and worth pursuing. This will be unique for every client, which gives reflection prompts a very valuable role as coaching discovery questions.
Best Coaching Questions To Elicit Values
If part of your work involves helping clients tap into their values, you might invite clients to consider key life domains using prompts like the following from Quenza’s Completing Sentences to Clarify Values Expansion above:
- Regarding money, I am proud that…
- The main thing I want from my career is…
- I respect friends/partners who…
- Being healthy is important to me because…
- I make time for fun and recreation because…
- Growth and learning are important to me because…
- To me, spirituality means…
- Being part of my community makes me feel…
- Can you identify common themes within your responses?
- What meaning can you make from your responses?
Best Coaching Questions for Resilience
To tap into a client’s internal resources and help them build resilience, Quenza’s Your Best Possible Resilient Self Expansion (above) includes some useful life coaching questions:
- If you were to describe your most resilient self, what would you look like?
- How would your most resilient self act or behave?
- What would you ask yourself, at your most resilient?
- How would you respond?
8 Evaluation Questions To Ask Your Coaching Clients
Although the vast majority of coaching questions are designed to empower clients, evaluation questions help you create even more value by identifying how you can improve yourself as a coach.
Consider the following sample of evaluation questions from online life coaches:
- How did the coaching journey change things for you, as you experienced it?
- Have you developed any new strengths from our work together?
- What will you do differently after coaching, compared to before we began?
Quenza’s Coach Evaluation Form Expansion also contains some good examples of evaluation questions that clients can answer on a scale of 1-5, either at the end of a program or post-session throughout your program:
- My coach listened to me effectively…
- My coach understood things from my point of view…
- My coach focused on what was important to me…
- My coach accepted what I said without judging me…
- My coach fostered a safe and trusting environment…
To broaden your understanding of suitable life coaching questions, why not invest in improving your mind by reading any (or all!) of these valuable life coaching books?
Best Digital Tool To Send Questions To Your Clients
Giving your coachees time to think can often be greatly useful; this allows them to take their new perspectives into the real world and come up with their own solutions between your sessions.
Doing so is incredibly convenient with HIPAA-compliant coaching software like Quenza, which will also:
- Store their answers securely on their personal Quenza Client App
- Enable them to download their responses as PDFs for offline reference
- Automatically gather and send you the answers they choose to share
- Help you stay on top of their answers and complete worksheets in real-time.
How To Use Quenza: A Real-Life Example
You can easily send thought-provoking worksheets or reflections using Quenza Activities, Expansions, and Pathways, depending on whether you want to create your own exercises and resources or work from a template.
For a step-by-step guide to sharing questions and prompts as standalone coaching exercises, take a look at this resource: 21 Impactful Coaching Tools & Exercises for Coaches.
To line up several activities and deliver them automatically, check out our Your Life Coaching Session Planner Example + Template resource.
Whether you’re hoping to set goals, challenge perspectives, or help your client plan their next steps, well-considered questions are your most powerful transformational tools as a coach.
Try digitalizing your own favorites as quizzes, meditations, visualizations, or handouts with Quenza’s 1 month trial, and keep on checking our blog for more helpful tips and techniques.
- ^ Stoltzfus, T. (2008). Coaching questions: A coach’s guide to powerful asking skills. Coach22 Bookstore.
- ^ Hicks, R. F. (2014). Coaching as a leadership style: The art and science of coaching conversations for healthcare. New York, NY: Routledge.
- ^ Hicks, R.F. (2014). Coaching as a leadership style: The art and science of coaching conversations for healthcare. New York, NY: Routledge.
- ^ Buckingham, W. (2021). Life Coaching Evaluation Questions. Retrieved from https://www.lifecoachingprofessionally.com/coaching-evaluation.html