How to Ask Questions in a Coaching Culture

As a coach, you probably rely on a combination of training, practice, models and personal reflection to assess your question asking skills. But did you ever stop and consider whether there might be a core set of questions you really must be asking?

Here are 10 questions I view as a must for any coach.

1. Do you want to do better?
2. Are you willing to feel the discomfort of putting in more effort and trying new things that will feel weird and different and wonʼt work right away?

I came across these questions here and have used them at every chemistry meeting ever since. I’ve certainly fallen into the trap of working with clients in the past who deep down couldn’t answer ‘yes’ to either or both of these questions. And, you can guess how successful those coaching relationships turned out to be…

These next few questions are based on Kegan and Lahey’s work on ‘Immunity to Change’:

3. What is the single most powerful change you could make to improve your life (or work performance, relationship, finances, etc.)?
4. What are the things you do, or don’t do, that most get in the way of that change or goal?
5. If you imagine yourself trying to do the opposite of those things, what is the most uncomfortable or worrisome feeling that comes up for you?
6. What do you believe to be true about yourself and the change or goal?

For more on the rationale for these questions, together with a handy-dandy worksheet, go here.

When it comes to concluding your work with a client and leaving them in a really powerful place, I recommend asking these questions (language them to fit you and your style):

7. What changed?
8. What worked?
9. What challenged you?
10. What resources do you have to support you on your onward journey?

The idea is to help your client really reflect on your work together and to get them clear on how they might ‘self-coach’ to sustain their progress.


Ok, so technically I’m going over the promised 10 questions but this one will really help set your clients up for success as they ‘fly the nest’. Before asking it, explain that the rationale for the question will follow after they’ve answered it:

What are the qualities you have seen in me as your coach?

Once your client has responded, explain that the rationale for the question was not simply to get some feedback on your performance as a coach, but because if they’ve observed these qualities in you then those things matter to them. And if they’ve seen them in you, it means the client shares those same qualities too (ie: it’s projection). Explain that, unwittingly, they’ve projected things onto you as coach right from the outset - expertise, wisdom, etc. And so they now have all they need to self-coach, just as you would have coached them if the sessions were to continue.

So, there you have it. 10 (ok, 11…) questions coaches must be asking, in my humble opinion.

What do you make of them? Which ones resonate most? Are there any questions missing from this list in your experience?

About the author

Gareth Russell is an independent people development consultancy offering coaching, management and leadership development, team building, event hosting and facilitation, Myers-Briggs Step I assessment and bespoke design.

To find out about working with Gareth on his Unlimited Potential coach, go here


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