The Essence of a Great Coaching Question

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:
gathering coaching questions wisdom at Folks Fest

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.

Free or Barter Coaching – Should You Do It?

For any coach at any time, but particularly when you’re just starting your business, you might be tempted to get a client by offering free or barter coaching. Should you? There are more reasons not to than you might think.

No fee coaching does have its place (see the last paragraph). But if your goal is to earn a successful living by offering soul-satisfying coaching, it’s usually counter-productive to give it away, except in a sample session. Here is why:

#1 Damaging the co-creative relationship

Coaches often have the heart of altruistic caregivers. If you love to help others and are generous to a fault, being a coach will give you many opportunities to learn balance around giving. This strength, when overused, comes with a high price to your integrity and to your clients.

I’ve been there. I understand that heart-tugging reaction to come to their rescue, when a prospect says they can’t afford your services but they so clearly need help. It’s a RED FLAG.

Coaching Clients – Can We Want Too Much for Them?

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?