Are Your Questions Good Enough?

By admin / April 19, 2011
By: Louise Yates
Category: Coaching

If you have received any training in coaching skills then it is highly likely that you will know the difference between open and closed questions. And you will know that generally open questions (ones beginning with what, when, how, where, why and who) are more helpful questions to ask than closed ones which elicit only limited responses, more commonly either ‘yes’ or ‘no’. But just because your questions are open questions it doesn’t mean to say they are powerful questions, ones which really get your clients to challenge their current thinking, deepen their awareness, gain clarity, open up possibilities, become unstuck and create sustainable change.

If clients are paying you good money you need to be asking questions that your clients haven’t already asked themselves. But don’t think you have to be clever, often the simplest questions encourage the deepest of reflection.

So what makes a great question?
Unfortunately there is no one set of great questions. The power of a question arises from using your intuition to ask the ‘right’ question at the ‘right’ time. A question which works for one person may not necessarily land with another. And good coach won’t have a prepared script of questions instead will listen and tailor their next one in line according to where the client is ‘at’ at that particular point in time.

You may know when you have asked a good question because your client tells you but also you may be able to sense you have suddenly stopped them in their tracks. You will also gauge your question by their responses - does your client now see things from a different perspective, has their energy level changed, are they now compelled to take action? One piece of good practice is to reflect after each session on what questions worked well for each client and take a note of them. Also what questions failed to move them forward and why?

I find as I do more and more coaching the range of questions I ask expands and as I have developed then there are certain questions that I find define my coaching style. When I was first trained I was taught not to ask ‘why’ questions as they are regarded as rather confrontational and can lead to a defensive response. But I see that part of my role of coach is to be provocative, to stir up a reaction from which the client can learn, so if appropriate am not afraid to ask why.

Whilst I have said there is no one set of great questions here are just a few questions that I have found have helped clients deepen their learning and make change.

  • What does success/fulfilment/ happiness mean to you?
  • What is really important to you?
  • What are you choosing not to admit?
  • Where are you choosing to focus your attention?
  • What do you need to be brave about?
  • What is really going on here?
  • Why are you choosing to …e.g. act in this way/ feel this way/play small etc.
  • What question would you least like me to ask you?
  • What part do you play in this situation?
  • Where else does this behaviour show up in your life?
  • On a scale of 1 -10 what is your commitment to this?


Louise Yates now runs a successful performance coaching business. She also helps people understand what is coaching and how to go about choosing a coach.



Article Source: Are Your Questions Good Enough?
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