The 6 most important questions to ask in a coaching session

[The following is an excerpt from my upcoming book "Coach!"]

If you ask the following six questions during a coaching session, you are more likely to get results. These are standard questions -- nothing advanced here -- just basic good practice to run a coaching session.


·        “What would be the most valuable outcome you can achieve in our session?” This question focuses the session on a specific outcome. If the client doesn’t have a clear, measurable, specific outcome, the session is unlikely to go anywhere. Even if clients simply wants a sounding board to check the wisdom of their idea about an issue, that at least tells you both what the client wants out of the session. Alternative wording is: “What outcome would make this session the most valuable hour of your week?”


·        “What are your ideas to find a solution?” By asking this question, you jump right to the client’s perceptions rather than interrupting with your own. Alternatives include “Where do you want to start?” and “What do you see as the key areas to discuss?” Frame the question to come from the highest and broadest level of logic to learn the most you can about the client’s own thoughts about the issue.


·        “What are your insights so far?” Ask this question after conducting some active inquiry. It will stimulate the discussion and help clients crystallize their thinking. Listen for how closely the client is to making progress on their stated outcome.


·        “What would you like to discuss now?” Use this question to let the client guide the process. You learn more about clients when you let them guide the process instead of when you direct it with your questions. Similarly, if the client is at a fork in the road and has brought up a few issues or points, you can summarize them and ask, “Which of these—or perhaps another avenue—do you want to discuss now?”


·        “What are next steps?” By asking this question at the end of the session, the client has accountability to take action and keep making progress.


·        “What was most valuable for you in our discussion?” Finally, this question adds value to your coaching. Listen for how closely you came to achieving the client’s intent during the session, but sometimes the client gets value that is different from what was expected. Check to be sure that clients received what they wanted. If not, get back to active inquiry either now or by scheduling a future meeting.

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