12 Cool Life Coaching Questions

I frequently get asked by people what are the skills needed to be a successful Life Coach.

Fortunately, and presuming you genuinely want to help people and like interacting with others, then the most important ones can be learned.

Whereas I’m sure there are some people who have innate abilities that makes coaching come more easily to them, I’m equally sure that anybody with the desire to learn and the tenacity to practice, practice, and then practice some more can become an effective Life Coach.

Leaving aside understanding how to run a Life Coaching business and how to market yourself effectively to make sure you actually get clients to use your skills on, I think there are three crucial skills:

  • Rapport Building
  • Question Asking
  • Active Listening

For the purposes of this post I’m just concentrating on great questions. Questions that if asked at the right time can provide anything from getting a coaching call flowing more effectively to providing huge a-ha! moments for your clients.

I have already written a PDF containing 20 of my favorite questions that’s available to course attendees, but I wanted to expand on that.

To do so I threw the question out there to other coaches by posing it in my last blog post and also in a LinkedIn coaches group I am a member of and also asked them why they liked the question and thought it to be effective.

Below are 12 of my favorites that also offered an explanation from the person who provided it as to why it’s effective.

I’ve also offered my own 2 cents for what it’s worth.

12 Cool Life Coaching Questions

 

The questions are in no particular order, although I have tried to divide them into rough categories to make the post easier to read.

The operative word there is, ‘rough’ as I know some can be listed under more than one heading.

The links are to the coaches website where they have given me one, otherwise it’s their LinkedIn account. Or if I don’t have that, there isn’t one.

Belief and Self Examination Coaching Questions

1) “Are your beliefs about this (presenting issue) supporting your needs, expanding your choices and empowering you?” – Pamina Mullins

It works brilliantly because:

A) The answer automatically requires a client to take personal responsibility for their choices and actions

B) It instantly invites them to question why they think, feel or behave in a particular way.

Most of us when we are stuck on something, forget or don’t know how to recalibrate the frame in which our “story” is taking place. That is always where the answers lie.

Tim’s Note: Fairly obvious this one, but that doesn’t make it any less powerful.

Firstly, it uses a presupposition that the clients restraints are only beliefs and not facts (which they nearly always are) and secondly when presumably they say ‘no’ it shifts them into a position of having to accept responsibility.

2. “When was the last time you were out of your comfort zone”? – Kevin Norris

More often than not, this leads to deeper more revealing coaching and sparks additional questions.

Tim’s Note: I think this is one of those questions that needs an element of judgment before you use it, because you will get clients who can’t remember ever being out of their comfort zone and there is a danger, albeit a small one, of sending them in the wrong direction.

Having said that, as Kevin says it can give you a deeper understanding of the client, especially how they perceive their comfort zone.

Permission To Dream Questions

3. ‘If you had a magic wand and could change one thing in your life, what would it be and why?’ – Didi Zahariades, MA

I find the ‘magical’ part of this question allows a person to drop his/her guard and just answer. Especially effective when working with an executive client… we may be focused on work yet the answer is often reflective of important issues outside of the job.

Tim’s Note: Any time we give a client permission to dream we are far more likely to elicit a genuine response than if they feel constrained by Societal, business or personal norms.

A client may come to you thinking certain things in their life are set in stone, but when you tell them we’re going to use magic (or any other similar analogy) they can relax and tap into their unconscious knowing it’s not ‘real’.

You may be tempted to think this approach may not work with more analytical clients, and for the most part, you’d be wrong.

4. “Who do you need to become in order to accomplish that wish/dream/goal?” – Christina Tomescu

It changes the perspective, the client focuses all his attention inside, understands the need to shift himself , not change the environment.

The client has to start from the end , have a clear vision first on what he will look like, feel like, talk like ….this will change his vibration and his point of attraction first of all and will allow him to get inspired actions in order to achieve that goal, not to start from what he lacks now and needs to improve …

Tim’s Note: if you don’t feel comfortable using magic wands, then you can use something like this to shift the clients focus toward possibilities and solutions without being too airy fairy.

5. “When do you feel like your true self?” – Caron Proctor

This opens minds, doors and allows me and my clients a glimpse of ‘ the real person’ hiding behind the behaviors or trying to be something / somebody to please others

Tim’s Note: This question will not always work, but when it does it can work spectacularly well.

If you ask this question be on the lookout for the clients initial split second response. You may see a flash of delight cross their face before they shake it off and say they don’t know.

Fortunately for you, you now know they do know and their conscious mind is limiting them. How you get past that conscious mind is an entirely different matter however 😉

Better Understanding/Bail Out Questions

6. “Tell me more” – William Wilcox

It seems simplistic, but it encourages the client to dig deeper.

Tim’s Note: I totally agree with William that this can be an incredibly effective question, especially on more taciturn clients who you want to open up.

It also has another use and that is it can be a bail out question for new (and sometimes not so new) coaches who aren’t sure what to follow up with and need time to think.

 7. “And?” – Barb Zeigler

After some statements can bring some interesting things to the surface.

Tim’s Note: Barb’s right, it most definitely can. It takes a bit more confidence to ask than ‘tell me more” because you have to be comfortable with silence and not rush to fill in the void if the client doesn’t respond immediately.

Who’d have thought one 3 letter word could act as such a good question?

Pay-Off and Framing Questions

8. “What wins did you have this week”Leonard Diana

It starts the session on a positive note. If the client can’t think of one, no matter how small, I would ask, “Well, did you wake up this morning?”– that’s a win.

Tim’s Note: I definitely wouldn’t start every session using this because sometimes it’s just not necessary. However, it’s a good option if you have clients who are liable to kick things off with a stream of complaints or try and drag you into a pity party.

9. “What are you getting from being where you are right now? – Renata Kulpa, MI

Payoffs questions often elicit wonderfully revealing answers, such as “I can avoid looking at my part in the situation”, “I get to avoid feeling empty”, “I have a sense of belonging“, etc…

Tim’s Note: I like this because it acknowledges that the clients actions/behaviors have a positive intent (and every action has a positive intent even if sometimes clients don’t want to accept that, or just don’t believe it).

10. “If you were the bravest version of yourself today, what would you be doing?” – Kathleen Murray

It almost always gets the client to automatically think a bigger dream for themselves because the “bravest” part brings a kind of freedom to them that didn’t exist before.

Tim’s Note: This question could fall under any number of categories because it encourages dreaming and elicits a pay off (hopefully).

Most clients are held back by fears to a greater or lesser degree and if you can help them look past their fears then you are way more likely to find out what they really want to achieve.

I use a version of this question with most clients.

11. “What could be your first step in the right direction?” – Karen Kocakurt

The reason I love this question is because people often see their goal, so big that the pressure that they put on themselves almost eats them up (which is ok, considering that “if your dreams dont scare you, they´re not big enough)…

This little magic questions brings them back to the first realistic and tangible step they can take to make a difference.

Tim’s Note: I agree with Karen, but I also I like it for another reason. By using ‘could’ you are removing pressure and allowing them to be curious. Getting your clients curious is so important and so useful.

12. “What could you do less of?” – Amanda Hope

This can help the client identify things that are stopping them from finding the time they want to get on with what they want to do. Also it shows up things that they may not have mentioned even though they are possibly causing blocks to them moving forward.

Tim’s Note: This question can also act as a break state and quickly change the way a client is thinking about something. It forces the client to think a bit more deeply because they tend to expect their coach to be focusing on what they ‘should’ be doing more of rather than vice versa.

What’s Your Favorite Question?

So come on don’t just scan and leave, let me know in the comments which ONE of the 12 questions you like the most.

Please do only give me one, otherwise my math skills will be put under severe pressure!

Image: ‘Questions’ Courtesy of Oberazzi

Comments

  1. Kevin M. Norris

    Nice Blog post Tim! I think your 3 crucial skills are spot on.

    The most resonant question for me is number 9. “What are you getting from being where you are right now”. The question provokes me to look at what part I play for being where I am. It tells me that if I am stuck somewhere that there is an element of being there that is attractive or comfortable to me. It holds me accountable and responsible for the choices I make.

  2. Laura

    I like question 11. I often find it helpful and empowering, with myself and with clients, to realize that the first step is actually doable, and even more so, it is often quite obvious. Knowing that we already know that first step gives encouragement that the later steps will come together, too.

  3. question 1) “Are your beliefs about this (presenting issue) supporting your needs, expanding your choices and empowering you?” is pretty powerful question because it is our beliefs about ourselves, situations, and life in general which either causes us to fear or to love. Move forward, or go nowhere.

    I myself, use a question very similar to this one. I will ask a client, “Do you believe what you believe about {belief] because someone told you to, or because you have experienced it?” Nine times out of ten what we say we believe is from someone else’s belief system. As we learn our true identity it is important to have our own belief structure we are confident in.

  4. Mirian

    I like nr 9!

    “What are you getting from being where you are right now? – Renata Kulpa, MI

    I won’t necessarily agree that it acknowledges the positive intent behind the behavior, because that depends on the answer to the question itself in my opinion (not that there is no positive intent, but that the client might not see it as such). But is a great question to raise awareness about the reasons/justifications for the behavior…

    • timbrownson

      I love being challenged 😉

      It absolutely does acknowledge that as you’ll see when we get into language patterns – For it to offer that doesn’t require that the client recognizes that at a conscious level.

      I do get what you mean though Mirian.

  5. Michael

    Question number three opens a whole new world. Sometimes the client needs to change perspectives, review the big picture, look at goals, and reevaluate. This question provides an opportunity to do all four simultaneously.
    The challenge for us as coaches is to ensure we ask this question at the right time. Great question.

    • timbrownson

      Agreed. It’s actually not a question I use that often simply because most clients I attract aren’t sure what they want from the process, but it can definitely work really well with the right client in the right situation.

  6. I like #11: 11. “What could be your first step in the right direction?” – Karen Kocakurt

    Gets the client moving, thinking and taking personal responsibility for that movement forward.

    • timbrownson

      Thanks Kathy and I made a mistake there the actual tally now is:

      1 for #1
      1 for #3
      1 for #4
      2 for #9
      2 for #11

  7. Bev Lawes

    My choice is number 1. because it is so positive and because the three main points (needs, choices and empowerment) are fundamental to a full and satisfying life. And to my growth.

  8. Hi Tim,

    I have to agree with Kevin and say no.9. They are all really good questions but 9 forces me or my clients to actually look inwards, take ownership for the element of choice we have in the situation and therefore take responsibility.

  9. Sue Ellis

    Pamina Mullin’s question No 1 is the best as it makes the client think most deeply about their current situation. It could lead them to understand how their belief/s are dictating their attitude/s and thus their situation/s.

  10. I like all of them, thank you Tim and all the coaches who’ve been ‘chosen’.

    My favourite though (following the rules :-)), would be number 9. “What are you getting from being where you are right now?. It gets clients to look at what they’re contributing to the situation and taking responsibility for staying or finding ways to change – rather than ‘blaming’ others for what’s happening in their lives.

  11. timbrownson

    I’m going to throw my vote in to the hat after some more consideration even though it’s unlikely to win and go with “and?” by Barb Zeigler.

    Much tougher to use and way more effective than at first it seems.

    New update

    3 for #1 Pamina Mullins
    1 for #3 Didi Zahariades
    1 for #4 Christina Tomescu
    1 for #7 Barb Zeigler
    4 for #9 Renata Kulpa
    2 for #11 Karen Kocakurt

  12. Andy

    For me it is a tossup between number 1 and 9.

    Number 9 appear to add focus on the current situation which could lead to a more venting or intelligence gathering exercise.

    No 1 appears to do the same as question 9 but force the person to reflect.

    I go with No. 1.

  13. I like number 12. We all spend a lot of time working on what we want but often neglect to look at what we are doing and is it helping or hindering us from getting to where we really want to be.

    • timbrownson

      I think there’s definitely an element of truth to that mate and I do love the question.

      I also have a feeling that too many people spend a long time asking themselves why their life sucks and we’re not as goal focused as many people thing we are.

      Of course that’s only my personal experience with clients I can’t speak for the planet 😉

  14. Autumn

    No. 11 for me. It seems likely that this one will result in positive action rather than just posturing or hopefully gaining understanding, which without action can be just another excuse “I’m like this because its the way I think”.

  15. timbrownson

    3 for #1 Pamina Mullins
    1 for #3 Didi Zahariades
    1 for #4 Christina Tomescu
    1 for #7 Barb Zeigler
    4 for #9 Renata Kulpa
    1 for #10 Kathleen Murray
    3 for #11 Karen Kocakurt
    1 for #12 Amanda Hope

  16. #3 — in any version: “a magic wand and…you could remove all the ‘shoulds’ in your life;” or “…you could visit yourself 5 years from now.”

    I agree about the analytical clients. When you are in rapport they trust where you are going together. It can be a big door-opening relief to imagine another version.

  17. I just used #9 with a client who struggles with weight loss. She identified, rather swiftly, that she protects herself from changing-loosing the weight because:
    – I can avoid or defer looking at my role in this situation
    – I can feel sorry for myself
    – I don’t have to face ridicule or criticism if I try and fail
    _ I can feel sorry for myself, which I am sooo used to feeling.

  18. timbrownson

    3 for #1 Pamina Mullins
    2 for #3 Didi Zahariades
    1 for #4 Christina Tomescu
    2 for #7 Barb Zeigler
    4 for #9 Renata Kulpa
    3 for #10 Kathleen Murray
    3 for #11 Karen Kocakurt
    1 for #12 Amanda Hope

    • Sly man, Tom (ha,ha – inside joke).
      I love your openness. Give me the next 24 hours to pick the winner of this competition. The rules confuse me.

  19. Coaching Winner Announced!

    Kathleen Murray IS The Winner of the First Ever “12 Cool Coaching Questions” competition from ‘Coach the Life Coach” ‘by Tim Brownson.

    Congratulations Kathleen!

    Renata

    PS. I was sooooooo… going for the coaching “cleverness” for most of last week and into the weekend that I almost did get away with it all. Almost, but not quite because, all of a sudden, you asked me to judge this competition. So, I buckled down and took my time to ponder…. I pondered around a bunch of big windows.

    Suffice to say – one should never water the computer, no matter how thirsty the SOB seems to be ( I mean the computer)..

    THE WINNER IS KATHLEEN MURRAY!

  20. Well, I was out of town and just got back to check through emails and messages. How fun to read the blog and all the comments! Renata, thanks for selecting me as the winner. 🙂 I love the question and use it at the beginning of all my workshops. What has been amazing is to see the shifts in people when they let go of the fear and look at their brave self.