The primary purpose of a coach – be that a life coach, career coach, parenting coach or other – is to guide you forwards, toward your own solutions and to hold you accountable for taking action. A coach doesn’t solve all your life’s problems, but work with a coach you connect with and they’re sure to enable you to live your best life possible.
Asking the right questions, is one way in which coaches achieve the above. These provocative queries may force someone to look at their situation from another perspective, thereby encouraging the breakthrough they need to succeed. According to 16 Forbes Coaches Council members, here are the most powerful questions coaches ask their clients.
1. What’s Standing In Your Way?
If you can name it, you can claim it. Life and careers are full of roadblocks and naming the hurdles — personal, professional or relational — can help you begin to brainstorm what problem you really need to solve or help lessen the size of the barrier. With dialogue and coaching, you may realize it’s not a real barrier at all, and you can find a way forward. – Jodie Charlop
2. Can You Tell Me More?
“Tell me more” is a great example of a versatile follow-up question that never disappoints. It’s simple yet powerful. When asked genuinely, it signals your interest in the client’s story and opens up space and psychological safety for them to express their mind. Additionally, it’s a good way to challenge the client to dig deeper and cut to the heart of the matter. – Ali Merchant
3. What Will Happen If You Don’t Take This Step?
This is a client favorite. When using this question, I find we get to where we need to be: the core of the challenge and the hesitation someone feels. Sometimes a client can’t answer this question. That tells us we need to sit where we are (sometimes, literally and physically), and ask it again. – Leila Bulling Towne
4. What Does Success Look Like?
I like to ask this question because it helps a client stop and start visualizing what they want and see in their lives. Somehow, when we get older, our daydreaming stops. The client starts to articulate what they want to explore from a passion perspective and is starting to take action in creating the path they desire. Action is so key to goal-setting. – Joyel Crawford
5. What Are Your ‘Five Whys?’
Asking about their five whys is so simple, yet so powerful, as it gets to the root cause of whatever they are facing. In the first two to three answers to this question, my coachees are giving me a conscious answer — something that they have rationalized for years or maybe even decades. Once we go deeper, we get to the real reasons and the light bulb goes off. – Claudio Toyama
6. What Are You Most Proud Of?
I often ask clients to consider the moments they are most proud of. This question typically releases a flood of positive contributions and accomplishments, reaffirming personal value. Recognizing unique worth and identifying the areas where you made a difference bolsters confidence, spurs positive action, and drives energy back into your work and/or goals. – Adrienne Tom
7. What Do You Want?
I ask all of my coaching clients what they want to get out of our time and work together. Then I tell them I am here to help them create the map that gets them there. The fundamentals of performance-based progress are never hard to find when we begin with what they are passionate about, and then help them step into a place of greater focus, peace and balance. – Courtney Feider
8. What Have You Done To Try To Solve The Problem?
After a client describes their problem, I often ask them, “What are one or two things you’ve tried to solve the problem?” The question is also a good set up for follow up questions — “Why do you think that didn’t work?” or, “If you had to do it differently, how would you do it?” These reflective questions can often lead to an “a-ha” moment and the client solving their own problem. – Randy Goruk
9. What Are You Doing To Not Achieve Your Goal?
Most clients come to me with big goals that they have yet to achieve even though they have had them for many years. So, I ask them this question: “What are you purposefully doing to not achieve this goal that is so important to you?” The question is valuable because it helps them recognize that they’re making choices every single day that will determine whether their hopes become realities. – Maria Lena Popo
10. If Your Main Obstacle Didn’t Exist, How Would Your Life Look? This powerful question allows someone to engage in the possibility of overcoming whatever obstacle is stopping them from reaching their goals. For most people, it’s fear. They get so stuck in that space that they think there is no way out. Getting them to verbalize how it would feel without that challenge allows their brain to bridge the gap and opens them up to find a solution. – Noor Hibbert
11. What Do You Need Most Right Now?
Many times, people fail to look at what is most important first. Asking the question, “What do you need most right now?” is powerful because it helps the person to prioritize what is most important and needs immediate attention. We all have limited time, so being forced to focus on the most pressing needs as well as delineate the order of less important needs is critical. – Lori Manns
12. What Will Things Look Like After You’ve Been Successful?
What would “this” look like after you have been successful? How will you feel? The Future or Dream State question does two things: It helps you define what you really want out of a situation and it tricks your brain into feeling you have achieved your goal. When you visualize how you feel after you have already done it, you begin to feel that the task is easy to do. – Marie Pawlak
13. What Is The Most Important Thing In The World To You, And Why?
It’s surprising that most clients have never been asked this question and have to dig deep to discover their truth. This is the most valuable knowledge one can have about themselves, as it is their innate core driver, and once known and honored in all area’s of ones’ life, provides a quickened path to sustainable success. – Linda Zander
14. What’s Important About That To You?
This question gets to the heart of what the person values. My clients will often take a long pause, and I’ll see them searching to identify and understand what value the topic is triggering for them. It is incredibly powerful because we often have ways of operating, but we don’t often look at the underlying principles that drive us. Often, our responses and actions are triggered by what we value. – Leanne Wong
15. So What?
I often ask, “so what?” to a client who is stuck on something that impacts them emotionally. Usually, the client takes some time to answer, and they recognize that the worst thing that could possibly happen just isn’t that bad. Other times, there is a recognition that when they put words to the potential outcomes, there is room to take action, even just a small step, to improve their situation. – Marcy Schwab
16. Why Not? Change meets resistance. All too often, this resistance is self-imposed. Responding to an “I can’t, won’t, shouldn’t” with “why not” challenges their reactionary response. It gives them permission to get past the surface layer block to get to the root of resistance. Then they can connect their authenticity, drivers, goals and this new perspective to move forward. – Lisa McDonald
You can find Dries Lombaard on the Sterkla App. Download now via Apple and Play Stores: