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What makes a great coaching question?

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April 25, 2024
CEO, Founder & Executive Coach
4 min read
Coaching unlocks insights through powerful questions, fostering self-awareness and driving action in the journey.

Coaching is a transformative process primarily driven by powerful questioning. Great coaching questions have the potential to unlock insights, foster growth, and inspire change. They are tools that help individuals explore their thoughts, beliefs, and motivations, guiding them towards self-discovery and effective action.

The Nature of Effective Coaching Questions

Effective coaching questions are open-ended, inviting exploration rather than demanding a specific answer. They are often "how" or "what" questions, avoiding the "why", which can sometimes lead to defensiveness.

For example, asking "What challenges are you facing?" instead of "Why are you struggling?" can encourage a more thoughtful and less defensive response.

These questions are also non-judgmental and free from the coach's biases or assumptions. They should encourage self-reflection and offer a new perspective.

A question like "What would success look like for you in this situation?" helps the coachee envision their desired outcome without the coach imposing their ideas of success.

Characteristics of Powerful Coaching Questions

  1. Clarity: A great coaching question is clear and concise, avoiding complexity or ambiguity. It should be easily understood and direct in its intent.
  2. Relevance: The question should relate to the coachee's situation, goals, and feelings. It must resonate with their current experience and aspirations.
  3. Empathy: Effective questions are asked with empathy and understanding. They demonstrate that the coach is listening and genuinely interested in the coachee’s perspective.
  4. Provocative: A good coaching question often challenges the coachee's usual thinking. It might confront their assumptions or beliefs in a supportive way, prompting deeper reflection.
  5. Future-focused: While it’s essential to understand the present and sometimes the past, powerful questions often orient towards the future. They help coachees envision possibilities and plan for action.

The Impact of Great Coaching Questions

Great coaching questions can lead to many positive outcomes. They can:

  • Unlock insights: These questions can lead to new understandings and realizations by challenging assumptions and encouraging different perspectives.
  • Promote self-awareness: They help individuals become more aware of their thoughts, feelings, and behaviours.
  • Facilitate decision-making: By clarifying thoughts and values, they can assist in making more informed decisions.
  • Drive action: Effective questions can motivate coachees to take action towards their goals.


In coaching, the power of a question lies in its ability to elicit honest introspection, inspire creative thinking, and stimulate forward movement.

The art of crafting great coaching questions is a fundamental skill for any effective coach, profoundly impacting the coaching journey. Through thoughtful and empathetic questioning, coaches can unlock the potential in their coachees, leading to significant personal and professional growth.

In summary, great coaching questions are clear, relevant, empathetic, provocative, and future-focused. They are the catalysts for insight, self-awareness, decision-making, and action, making them indispensable tools in the coaching process.