Powerful Questioning

Let us break down yet another P from the Coaching pointers we looked at some weeks ago.

What is a question?

The Oxford Dictionary defines a question as; a sentence worded or expressed to elicit information’. To add to that, I define it as an inquiry or a query, presented to a person, to prod them to generate a response to you.

In the coaching process, the coach uses questions to spur the coachee to dig deep within them, think about the issues and then come up with an answer; the information that will take them on the journey towards finding the clarity and direction they need. These questions, really need to be impactful, cause the coachee to reflect deeply and answer them instinctively and thoroughly. That is what makes them powerful.

What do powerful questions look like?

  1. They are open-ended for example, using the question: ‘How would your life change if you take on the additional responsibility?’ allows the coachee to think about what difference an action would make in their routine. The closed-ended version would be: ‘Can you realistically manage the additional responsibility?’. This style of questioning would yield a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer, with no room for deep reflection.
  2. They build on each other – progressively

    Using the coaching process and curiosity, the coach asks each subsequent question by building on the answer to the previous question, thus forming a line of discussion that addresses the issue that the coachee that has presented. The questions journey in such a manner:

    • Identifying the issue – ‘What would you like to speak about today?’
    • Digging deeper to crystallize the real issue – ‘You mentioned that……… Tell me more?’
    • Considering the current situation and creating awareness – ‘What is your current situation ….?’
    • Helping the coachee visualize the perfect state they wish to be in – ‘What image comes to mind when you look ahead…?’
    • Defining how to get from here to there – ‘What road will take you to that point ahead?’ or ‘What are the stops on the road from here to there?
    • Guide to defining actions and examining different avenues for example: ‘What paths can you use to get to that point?’ and ‘‘What options are available to you now?’
    • Goal setting to spur execution and accountability –
    • How soon will you complete the chosen action?’ and
    • ‘Who would be a good choice for you to share this action with?
    • Plus ’Which obstacles do you foresee while you work on your actions?’
    • ‘How would you deal with these obstacles?’


  3. They are simple and succinct.

A coach will ask you one question at a time. A laden question that has two or three sub-questions may confuse the coachee and throw the conversation flow off balance. One of my mentor coaches often says that a question should have 7 words or less.

In summary, questions are powerful tools to use and hence their place in coaching. A question prompts you to think, to search within, to sign up and buy into the coaching process and work towards generating the answer to the question ‘How do I get a better version of myself at home, work and in the world?’

As Rudyard Kipling says:

I keep six honest serving men, they taught me all I knew; Their names are What and Why and When, and How and Where and Who’

What next?

How would you like to experience these powerful questions? Fill in the contact form to take it forward.