I’m just back from three extraordinary days at the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival in beautiful Lyons, Colorado. John Prine closed out the festival with a set worthy of the national treasure he is. A lot of great lines from the old poet, but here’s the one that’s still rolling around in my head:
It’s not really a question if you already know the answer.
That’s true about the most powerful coaching questions.
Learning to draw out your client’s wisdom rather than impose your own agenda is one of the foundations of coach training. Is it time to refresh that lesson? It’s so easy to get caught up in the task list and learning curves, and forget to lead with curiosity in a coaching session.
No matter how insightful you are (and you are insightful!) the most impactful moments in coaching are drawn out of your clients themselves. There’s no formula for those moments.
That’s why open-ended questions generally work better than yes-or-no questions in coaching. They leave the field open to the unexpected. The conversation can go in any direction from an open-ended question, and that leaves space for the magic to arrive.
Coaching magic can be courted, but it can’t be forced. No list of “canned” coaching questions holds the key to that transformational shift your client is on the threshold of.
Many years ago, Thomas Leonard, founder of the first coach training school and the “father of life coaching,” said:
Never want more for your clients than they want for themselves.
That woke me up! I began to examine my motivations and set healthier boundaries for myself with clients.
Have you ever sensed that you might want too much for your clients?
Most coaches fall into this trap on some level, until they let go of their desire to effect change on their clients, and replace it with an understanding that what is best for the client is only what the client is ready to commit to change within themselves right now.
We can never know the path of another person. If we react protectively, anticipating our client’s pitfalls and mistakes, are we keeping them from valuable experiences that may bring success more quickly? If we jump in to solve their problems and salve all their hurts too vigorously, will we somehow take away their power?
I am fresh from a mastermind retreat with established coaches and brimming with excitement and gratitude. You know how it feels to be energized by powerful conversations? The rich relationships and collaborative learning are even more valuable when we harvest the gems and use them to transform our mindsets, habits and results.
The moments with the biggest impact in my retreats are when powerful questions get asked at just the right time. The right question can do more to motivate a coaching client into playing a bigger game than reading a whole bookshelf of inspirational books or attending several ‘how to’ seminars. Why is that? Questions, when phrased and timed well, entice us to go inside and look around the many rooms of our heart-mind. We emerge knowing ourselves better than we did before.
Here are seven great coaching questions to ask your clients, or yourself!
1. What do you want?
2. What’s holding you back?
3. What is it costing you to continue holding back?
4. How do you want to change your mind’s programming on that topic?
5. What new habits will you put in place to fortify your new mindset?
6. What is the most meaningful action you could take now?
7. What new skills or support systems will ensure your success?
These are just simple coaching questions. But even the most successful coaching clients will get continual value out of these kinds of questions. The right question can help anyone zoom past obstacles and into a power zone of action and attraction.