Questions for Coaching

Virginia-based HR Consultant Linda Ferguson asked this question recently on LinkedIn:

~ “What is your favorite coaching question?

Now that’s a good question, in my opinion. Already, a slew of interesting replies have come in, comprising a compendium of coaching questions. I hope Linda has the time to compile the best responses into a resource for the many coaches out there.

The reason I like Linda’s question so much is that I believe that questions are among a coach’s most valuable tools. Effective coaches ask questions that stimulate meaningful goals and unleash imaginative solutions.

Questions in a coaching relationship keep the focus on the client, and help a coach to avoid slipping into “tell mode” where a coach starts giving information, telling stories, and offering advice. As useful as those things (information, stories, and advice) can be at the right moment, they put the coach in the spotlight rather than the client.

So an effective coach is loaded with good questions. Open-ended type questions that provide the client with the opportunity to speak and, in so doing, to discover their own meaning. As communication guru David Berlo once wisely said years ago, “How can I know what I mean until I see what I say?” A good coach creates such a space for the other person to discover who they are and what they want.

My initial response to Linda’s question was:

~ “What would you like to improve?”

For me, this is the question at the heart of coaching. For the coach, it uncovers the desire of the client, the motive for change. For the client, it brings focus to the change(s) that would be most meaningful to him or her.

The question, What would you like to improve?, is inspired by coaching guru Marshall Goldsmith’s feedforward concept.

Related questions include:
– How can I help you?
– What is keeping you up at night?
– What one thing could you change that would make a big difference to you?

What is your favorite coaching question?


Posted by Terrence Seamon on July 25, 2010. For more information on coaching, visit Terry’s website and invite him into your organization.


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