Coaching is not just for problems. Coaching helps you avoid problems by providing space to think and be more intentional about your goals and actions. And coaching is especially helpful for getting clarity on where you want to go.
Working with a coach gives you:
• Space for self-reflection
• Fresh perspective
• Challenges where your thinking is stuck
• Support for difficulties and new ideas
• Accountability for your plans
Coaches don’t provide answers, they ask great questions. Good coaching questions help you find your own answers.
In this Ted Talk, Bill Gates says, “everyone needs a coach.”
It is possible to coach yourself.
If your circumstances don’t allow you to hire a coach, it is still possible to benefit from good coaching questions.
You will need a dedicated time for reflection, ideally the same time each week, and a journal. Writing is important because it forces you to slow down and get clear. And it provides a vehicle for accountability.
Or you can buddy up with a friend and coach each other.
You can work your way through this list of coaching questions or choose the ones that best apply. Sometimes one or two will pop out as particularly appropriate. Don’t just choose the easy questions. Choose some that make you uncomfortable or challenge you. And don’t answer them quickly. Take your time to chew on the questions and consider your answers.
My favorite coaching questions
1. What would it look like if you were entirely successful?
2. Follow up: What would you see if you popped into a time machine and there it was?
3. Why do you want that?
4. Follow up: Why do you want that?
5. Follow up: Why do you want that?
6. In six months, if things were going exactly the way you want, what would you see?
7. What would be your next goal after you achieve your current one?
8. Follow up: Why?
9. What would you do if you had unlimited resources?
10. What is so important to you that you would stand in front of a bus to defend it?
11. What would be the impact on you (and others) if things don’t change?
12. What can you accomplish that doesn’t depend on others?
13. What is your current biggest problem or challenge?
14. Follow up: If this weren’t a problem, what would be your biggest problem?
15. What is working well?
16. What has contributed to your success so far?
17. Follow up: How might it get in your way?
18. What might keep you from getting where you want to go?
19. What obstacles have you faced, what did you do, and what did you learn?
20. What obstacles do you expect to face? How do you plan to approach them?
21. What resources do you have access to?
22. What are your biggest mistakes and what did you learn from them?
23. If a friend were in your shoes, what advice would you give them?
24. What is one step you could take right now that would indicate you were moving forward?
25. Are there any important questions that have not been asked?
Which are your favorites? What would you add?
These are helpful for professional coaches and individuals who want to coach themselves. I especially like #25. I never considered that question before, and yet so helpful!
It is my intention was that these questions could be useful for professional coaches as well as individuals. Thanks for pointing that out, John.
#14 “If this weren’t a problem, what would be your biggest problem?” is an interesting question. Why would you ask this?
Hi James, This is one of my favorite questions because it forces you to look at your situation from a larger perspective. Sometimes we get so focused on a particular issue that we lose sight of the bigger picture, or are so focused on short-term issues that we don’t see something big that is heading right at us.
Smiling as I read your response Jesse – You are gifted at getting others to see a larger perspective!
Sometimes things in your life aren’t that easy to put aside to look at a bigger picture, because you have to focus on the problem at hand. Some problems we have to focus on are life changing, life altering or life threatening. To just ask us to put those aside is unfair. The reason I say this is because we don’t know the outcome, and we may be in a completely different place afterward. Our goals can be completely changed by these problems and outcomes.
This is true, especially when in the midst of a crisis. And sometimes it is possible to look at the bigger picture even when it is not clear where you are going. These questions are listed so you can choose the ones that work best for you. Not all will fit. The most important thing is to get the support you need.
These are great questions for self-coaching when you aren’t sure what to do next. The more emotionally tied you are to a situation, the harder it will be to critically self-reflect but you have to really challenge your assumptions, beliefs (how you frame the situation), expectations (even irrational ones), and fears. Here are some questions I use after I think I’ve made up my mind about what’s next:
Do you have a good reason for what you just decided or is that your brilliant rationalization?
What assumptions have you made about this situation? How do you know they are true?
What is the personal value or needs that you are meeting with this decision? What is the loss?
Wonderful additions, Marcia. So great to hear from a master coach!!!
Thank you for these questions, Jesse… and thanks for calling out the need to identify assumptions, Marcia!
As always very insightful Jesse. A question that we might add is: “If success were assured, what would you like to do? What is your passion?”
Very helpful, expansive. Thanks for the addition, Mary!
Thank you Jess for this article. i will definitely use for myself and add for my clients.
So glad you found it helpful!
Great questions and ones that require serious contemplation. I really like the repeat of “why” as a way of getting down to the core. Pardon the pun but you do peel an apple. The constant use of “why” asks that you peel layers off to get to the heart of a matter.
If I had to add one more it would be: “What do you know, in your deepest heart, would let you live with no regrets?” This becomes a priority in making work and life choices.
A great question to examine your congruence between work and your personal life. Thanks Eileen!
Love this list of questions Jesse! Thank you for sharing!
Number 10 – What is so important to you that you would stand in front of a bus to defend it? (My answer probably won’t surprise you!) Freedom!!! To listen, research, ask questions and think critically. Freedom to express our thoughts. Freedom to promote causes we believe in. Freedom to questions laws and leaders. Freedom to choose our faith and practice it…
Great to hear that, Chery. And not a surprise. And I suspect “respect for all” (or something like that) is closely tied to it, as I suspect you are not just talking about your own personal freedom.
All great questions. The one that really interests me is “is it possible to coach yourself?” If professional coaching means anything, I’m not sure.
Is it possible to do therapy on oneself? Or with respect to my own book, can one really apologize to oneself? I conclude in that case no, it’s not meaningful because in the last analysis an apology requires another party to evaluate the apology.
In my view one main reason coaching works is because of the accountability factor. Without the coach something useful and interesting may be happening but is it really coaching?
Good question, John. I agree that coaching yourself is not ideal, but when having a real coach is not an option, some self-reflection and a journal can go a long way.
Thanks Jesse for those powerful questions. My add would be*who are you going to be tomorrow? *How is the going leading you?
Provocative questions, Herman. Thanks for adding them.
great article thanks for collecting all these brave questions , and i think that coaching almost about how to create all estimated scenarios , and pursue more efforts in scenario planning before moving to strategic part.
Thanks for your thoughts, Ashram. I believe coaching is especially helpful at the beginning, during a transition, or when stuck.
These are good questions Jesse. If I were to add, the questions I would add would be career questions. If you are serious in asking yourself these questions, then you must be serious about your career. If so then
26. Where do I want to be in one year?
27. Where do I want to be in three years?
28. Where do I want to be in five years?
There are several sub questions to these that would be part of an effective career development, but these three would help frame and would help make the first 25 questions even more meaningful.
Helpful career questions. Thanks for adding them, Tim.
Great specific questions for the coaching process Jesse. Worth mentioning is the best-selling book “Change YourQuestions Change Your Life” by our friend and colleague Marilee Adams.
Questions are very powerful tools!
Very profound and well articulated, Jesse. What stands out for me is the unhurried build up to help people undertake an inward expedition. As the masters have said – if you want to help people, solve their problems – but if you want to transform them ask them questions. A few additional pointers to your list –
a) what defines your inner identity?
b) where can you live your purpose?
c) how can you make meaningful difference?
Thanks for your helpful additions, Ajay
Fantastic list. I love having more questions to be able to ask clients.
One I would add …
What would you do about this if you knew you could not fail.
Wonderful question! Thank you, David
Thank you for this important post. As I read through your blog, it reminded me of the line “the quality of our questions determine the quality of our life”
Here is a question that seems to help my clients find new insights
“What would your future self tell you right now/ How would your future self address this situation”
Excellent addition. Thank you, Sridhar.
That’s a good one
Great article and comments Jesse. I’ve been trying out some questions that I found put forth by Nancy Kline in her inspiring coaching book “More Time to Think”. Two of those include the ones Marcia Reynolds cites, but are follow-up questions to “What are you assuming…..” and “Is that assumption true….”.
These additional questions are: “What is true and liberating instead?” and “If you knew (insert the answer to “what is true and liberating), how would you go forward?”. Although Ms.Kline suggests every coaching conversation include these structured questions in order, I personally find that technique too rigid, but have found times to use these four questions in a coaching conversation and they are powerful.
Another favorite (because so many leaders think they have to shoulder everything alone): “Who can help you?”.
Excellent additions. Great to hear from a master coach!
Khalid asked me a great question last week…” what one thing could you change next week to make a difference ( losing weight)
I gave him two, and lost 2 kg when I achieved them to get below 100 kg for the first time in 6 months!
Excellent question and congrats to you, Neil!
Good questions Jesse, and can be used very effectively. I tend to stay away from why questions though, as that can take you in a direction down the rabbit hole that may not be productive. I’ve found what and how questions work best.
Why do you want that? and Why is that important? can lead to deeper understanding of what you really want. But agree that why questions to determine cause can lead down a rabbit hole. What and how are excellent questions to elicit action. Thanks for the clarifications, Ray.
Chanced upon this blog and patted my back for doing that!
I am a leader and have believed strongly in the power of feedback- anonymous feedback from the team.
This set of questions will really help me in making my team reflect and evaluate their own thoughts and self- in many ways. Thank for such a beautiful write up.
I’m delighted to hear that, Sunita. Best wishes with building a strong team and your continued leadership.
Great reading Jesse and thanks for sparking off other peoples’ideas too 🙂
Another question I find really useful, especially when a client is making assumptions is:
“What evidence do you have to support this?
Excellent question! Thanks for adding it to the list, Gail.
Thank you so much for your collection of questions and the opportunity for others to share what has worked for them. I usually start off a session with an invitation to tune inwards and a wonderful question that can be asked at that time or even later is “What wants to be known right now?” It helps to move from the head to within, and I feel that even in coaching an orientation towards the wisdom of the heart can be helpful at times.
That’s an excellent question, Antionette. Changing the orientation can be very helpful for many people. Thanks for adding your insights.
Chose a couple of questions which really talk to, and answer them. Then try to identify why they talk to by asking “What is the question behind the question”? (You can do the same with your answers, by asking what is the underlying answer?).
Great question: What is the question behind the question? Thanks Erik!
Great stuff jesse. Thanks for sharing dear.
Thanks Denny. So glad you found it helpful.
Great article, thank you!
Here’s a few of my old favourites:
“What are you not doing?” Followed by “How is that serving you?”
“What does success mean to you?” “What does it look and feel like?”
“When you have achieved your goal [success], what will you be saying to yourself? What will you be seeing and hearing around you? What will you be doing?”
Excellent questions, Caron! Thanks for adding to the list.
Great question banks. I would like to know what would be the trigger point that remind the executive to seek a Coach support.
Similarly, How an individual conclude that he has reached his destination. Is there any saturation point ?
Those are important questions for the contracting agreement. There should be agreed upon goals with clear measures. The goal of coaching is to work yourself out of a job, not to have a job for life.
That is an excellent set of questions.
What advice would you like to give to young leaders following the pandemic situation?
very good questions. its very hard to answer #18.
Thank you. The harder to answer questions are the best, because they require reflection.
very good questions. its very hard to answer #18
That is an excellent set of questions.
What advice would you like to give to young leaders following the pandemic situation?