10 of My All-Time Best Coaching Questions & Why!

Image of woman pondering the best coaching questions to ask!

Do you love coaching questions like me?

Well, while coaches are often looking for the best coaching questions to ask, but it's not just the questions themselves—it's about asking the right question at the right time in the right way. And that's a whole other topic!

Great questions however, are a key part of our coaching toolkit—with the best coaching questions selected for the right occasion. And below I share 10 (with a few bonuses) of my all-time favourite coaching questions, plus when I use them.

I'd also love to hear some of your best coaching questions—comment below to share yours!

Here are 10 of my all-time Best Coaching Questions!

  1. What would you like to have achieved by the end of this session?
  2. What's MISSING in your life right now?
  3. If you could change just ONE thing right now, what would it be?
  4. How SPECIFICALLY will you know you've completed that action/goal?
  5. What's the FIRST (or easiest) step you could take?
  6. What do you NOT want me to ask you?
  7. How does that serve you?
  8. How will you CELEBRATE that?
  9. What's wrong with how you are RIGHT NOW? And where are you ALREADY Awesome?
  10. What was your biggest win of the session today?

Read on for why and when to use them plus some bonus coaching questions!

Here's Why & When to Use these Best Coaching Questions

1) What would you like to have achieved by the end of this session?

I ask this (or a version of it) at the beginning of EVERY coaching session.

This way both the client and I are clear on what we're working on—which keeps us on track. And it also makes sure the client feels like they're getting great value from the coaching!

2) What's MISSING in your life right now?

This coaching question is deceptively simple—and powerful. Because we're all so busy these days keeping it all together.

This powerful question points to unmet needs—and can be extremely helpful to our clients as they learn to take responsibility for meeting their own needs...

TIP: I also love the coaching questions, "What would you like MORE of in your life?" followed by "What would you like LESS of?"

3) If you could change just ONE thing right now, what would it be?

The best coaching questions will often hone a client in on one thing...

Use this question when a client feels overwhelmed, or is unable to pick a topic or get focused.

4) How SPECIFICALLY will you know you've completed that action/goal?

It may sound like a dull question, but a lack of clarity is the MAIN reason people don't complete their actions (and goals!). Instead help your clients learn to get specific! Because when we're super clear it's easier to get started on actions, see our progress (which feels great) and know when to celebrate!

5) What's the FIRST (or easiest) step you could take?

Use this coaching question when dealing with big goals, when a client feels overwhelmed or is getting drowned in details or worrying about the amount of work their goal entails.

TIP: I usually add "within the next week/month" or "tomorrow" depending on the goal/client.

6) What do you NOT want me to ask you?

This is definitely one of my best coaching questions! And your clients' answers will point to an area they are avoiding. Bringing this into the light and tackling it is almost always a powerful moment in the coaching relationship.

TIP: Ask this playfully!

7) How does that serve you?

This is one of the best coaching questions to ask to discover how clients are subconsciously getting in their own way.

People often sabotage when they haven't fully acknowledged the scary parts of changing, or the benefits of NOT changing. In coaching we call this the client's "secondary gain".

And, as well as looking straight at the self-sabotaging behaviour, this coaching question can also be a great lead-in to looking at why clients might be sabotaging themselves.

TIP: Another question to ask is "What is the benefit of staying just as/where you are?"

8) How will you CELEBRATE that?

I don't just ask this about big goals, but also after a challenging action is completed. Celebration is often missed, skipped or rushed over as we move onto the next thing. But without acknowledgement our lives can easily become "one darned thing after another".

9) What's wrong with how you are RIGHT NOW—where are you ALREADY Awesome?

I ask this when clients get fixated on things being better/different at some point in the future (when they've achieved X/Y) instead of valuing themselves as they are, NOW.

TIP: Ask this question gently and earnestly. If you like you can add what you see as their coach, "Because I see a beautiful person—inside and out—who cares deeply about X and Y."

10) What was your biggest win of the session today?

I ask this fabulous coaching question at the end of EVERY coaching session.

It helps the client think about the benefits of coaching, to see where they are learning and growing—and what matters to them.

As well as getting to know what matters most to individual clients, this question has also helped me really understand why people come to coaching overall, as over the years I have seen recurring themes.

What are your all-time best coaching questions? Comment below with yours!

Emma-Louise Elsey Headshot

Contributing Author:

Emma-Louise Elsey has been coaching since 2003 and is the Founder of The Coaching Tools Company and Fierce Kindness.com. She's passionate about coaching and personal development. Originally a project and relationship manager for Fortune 500 companies she combined her love of coaching, creativity and systems to create over 100 brandable coaching tools, forms and exercises including 30+ completely free coaching tools. She now serves coaches and the coaching world through her exclusive newsletter for coaches, Coaches Helping Coaches Facebook Group and many other great tools for coaches, plus resources and ideas for your coaching toolbox. The Coaching Tools Company is an official ICF Business Solutions Partner.

Learn more about Emma-Louise & see all their articles here >>

Image of Image of woman with many questions by Sophieja23 via Pixabay




    Your COACHING QUESTIONS are great Congrats

    Best regards

  2. Sir Charles

    1. Are you satisfied with your life right now?
    2. If you had to take anything with you from this session, what would it be?
    3. Are your dreams bigger than other people's opinions or vice versa?
    4. Where do you go when you need peace?
    5. What is your foundational principle?
    6. According to you, Are you doing better or do you know better?
    7. Do you believe that you are made great by the great family you belong to?
    8. Who is adding value to your life and why are you grateful?
    9. What do you hate most about your life?
    10. What are you going to use immediately when you leave right now?

    • Emma-Louise

      Dear Sir Charles, thank-you for your powerful questions! I particularly like number 10, "what are you going to use immediately when you leave right now?" Appreciate you sharing 🙂 Warmly, Emma-Louise

  3. Vani Seshadri

    Hello Emma-Louise,
    I just completed a weekend class for my PCC certification and found your Top Ten questions on a random Google search. Glad to have gotten here.. loved the questions, particularly "how would you celebrate", Where are you already awesome and " what would you not want me to ask you"? Thanks for sharing!


    • Emma-Louise

      Hi Vani, so glad you found us and found the article helpful too 🙂 And thank-you for taking the time to comment! Warmly, Emma-Louise

  4. Kylee Sallak

    I am wondering if you have any tips for coaches (like myself) for organizing and cataloging information I have already written down for other clients. Let me give an example. My clients are parents of kids under 10 who struggle with sleep training and general behavior issues. I give them in-home attention, followed by weeks of individualized correspondence most of which happens via email. They send daily logs, I send adjustments and suggestions based on my parenting system. 90% of what families ask is the same as previous families. And aside from gender changes and a couple of small adjustments for the individual child, my answers are largely the same. I waste so much time writing these emails to clients when I know I have already said, word for word, what I need to convey to this new family. But I can't find a software program or a systematic way of organizing and easily being able to look up and copy and paste these things. Do you have any suggestions? Software I am not aware of? Hacks for getting a robust database going that I can easily search by topic and sub topics? Thanks in advance!

    • Emma-Louise

      Hi Kylee, I love that you're thinking about systematising! This will indeed make life easier for you and save time.
      First, the biggest piece of work is not the how (ie. what software program you use etc) but the actual collating and organizing of the data itself. Once you have the data - your commonly asked or frequently asked questions (FAQ), the how is the easy part. It doesn't need to be overcomplicated - you could have a few "template" emails saved in your drafts for each of the FAQs (with a good subject line so YOU can see which one is which), then you you simply copy the email, tweak and send. Or you create a Microsoft Word Doc, or a Google Doc, or have it on a spreadsheet. You could create a blog page and direct people there (there are also plug-ins that allow you to have a drop down so that only the question is shown until they hit some button to expand and see the answer). See our FAQ page here: https://www.thecoachingtoolscompany.com/frequently-asked-questions/

      So, my suggestion is to stop worrying about the how. And first, do the bigger piece of work to create your list of the most frequently asked questions. Aim for say, 10. Then review your various responses and create a good "standard" response to each FAQ. As you think of more you can add them to the list.

      Once you have that, think about HOW you use the data and choose a way to access/offer this information to people in a way that suits you.

      Hope this helps, warmly, Emma-Louise

  5. komal

    Enjoyed reading the article above, really explains everything in detail, the article is very interesting and effective. Thank you and good luck in the upcoming articles.

  6. Kevin Anderson

    Do you have any advice on discerning which client statements or comments to ask the questions about? Sometimes it feels like they say 3 things that good questions come to mind on, and I'm not sure which direction to go like I'll miss a bigger opportunity by choosing to ask about the wrong thing. Thanks.

    • Emma-Louise

      Hi Kevin, great question! And I wouldn't worry too much. Relax! There are ALWAYS several paths you can take, and you probably won't ever get to everything that is raised (or is of interest) in a session.
      In addition, if something is important, and you miss it, the chances are your client will bring it up again...

      One strategy: Ask the client! Try something like, "Hmmmm. We could go here, here or here. What would give you the best outcome/What would move you closest to your goals/What would put the biggest smile on your face/You said you wanted to achieve XXX in this session, so which would move you closest to that (session) goal?" (the second part is options depending on the context)

      Finally, you might also like:

      Hope this helps, Warmly, Emma-Louise

  7. jerry

    i feel embarrassed about asking this question however i'll just ask anyway!

    I have a very close friend that is 60 years young, and wondering if he's spinning on a sixpence because he says he cannot settle on what to do for the next ten to twenty years of his working life.
    Daily he's faced with what to do next, he asks:
    Am I old, am I past it, am I able to start a new career, what happens when i'm ten years older and I reach 70, will I have the energy.
    At his desk daily, he considers a number of options which seem to spin around, and quite honestly he says its so tiring.
    Each day arrives, sometimes a real drag, expending enormous effort on trying to find 'his passion'.
    He goes on to say, I don't have one passion, I have lots. Sport Yoga Pilates swimming, each of which I wonder, 'could I do this as my new profession'. Thoughts range from, I want to make the world a better place; I want to make a large amount of money. I want to change the world. There's so many different weekly directions.
    Is there a practice which could help him in his plight to drop the juggling balls, the heavy rocks, and just settle with one definate choice, and stick to it, and in such a way be happy with far less option.
    Is it C-19 uncertainty we are all facing? He is 60 and never felt so mentally confused.

  8. Billy

    I always use your questions in my meeting, absolutely helped me lots as a beginner in this process so l thank you .

  9. Marilyn Rose

    I work with many in the service/healing professions. One of my favorite questions that often arises is,
    "What stands in the way of extending that same grace, love and support you so freely share with others, to yourself?"
    Individuals with strong empathic tendencies (gifts:) often recognize and drawn to tending to the needs of others before
    recognizing and caring for their own. Marilyn

    • mturcott

      Thank you, Marilyn! I love the way you phrase that powerful question 🙂 Warmly, Mary

  10. Rachel

    Have loved reading all this.. I'm a complete newbie. I've just obtained my Life Coaching Diploma but still deciding on a profitable niche,any suggestions?

    • Michela Phillips

      So glad you enjoyed the article, Rachel 🙂 Welcome to the life of coaching! When looking for a niche, the two most important things to consider are 1) whether your intended clients can afford you/have spare money for coaching and 2) whether there is a place (online or in person, notice boards etc.) where you can 'connect' with or meet these people.

      We have many articles where we talk about defining your coaching niche, feel free to check them out here: https://www.thecoachingtoolscompany.com/category/grow-your-coaching-business/find-your-coaching-niche/

      I hope this helps!

      - Kindly, Michela


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