5 Incredibly Helpful Coaching Questions to Add to Your Toolkit - and Why! | By Ruby McGuire

I don't know about you but when I first started out as a coach I was on a never-ending quest to find THE best coaching questions. I would scribble them down when I was reading books, or being coached myself and remember having a HUGE list of questions on paper when I did my first coaching calls. Prior to that there were scraps of paper, post-it notes and index cards all over my desk.

I remember complaining to my own coach about it and she could sense my frustration and sent me over 100 questions to ask my clients. After a few coaching sessions, she asked me if the questions helped. I laughed, and said, "Not really as they don't quite fit into the conversation I'm having with my clients". Fast forward a few years and I now realise there is no perfect question.

The trick is to ask the right question at the right time, and that takes time to figure out. It's all about practice and testing out questions to check how they land. Oh yes, and silence. Silence really is golden when it comes to coaching.

Now, if you're looking for the best coaching questions, then you'll be rolling your eyes at me right now, maybe even shouting at me saying that you need to know what the good coaching questions are, and yes I get that.

I will share a few goodies, but know this - the best coaching questions are those that get your clients really thinking. It's the ability to ask a question that cuts through all of the fluff and gets to the nub of the problem. Simple, but not necessarily easy.

Here are the 5 Incredibly Helpful Questions I Love to Use:

QUESTION 1: "What one thing would you like to work on that would make a great outcome for this session?"

Oh boy, I used to mess up on this. I'd get to the end of a session and not know if I'd actually helped my client.

This question gets us back to basics - at the beginning of the session, drill down into the ONE thing they'd like to have as an outcome.

Another way you can do this is by asking, "If you had to sum up your goal for the session in one sentence what would it be?"

When to use this question: Every session. You can play around with the wording, but essentially you want your clients to articulate what a good outcome will be - because then you can refer back to it throughout the session. It's like a thread that runs all the way through your coaching conversation, keeping you on track.

Why it works: Clients will often come to you with an enormous list of things they want to achieve, this question focuses them, the session and you.

  • It helps you get your client focused
  • You're helping your client to prioritise (a useful life tool)
  • You keep the focus on their overall objective
  • You can bring them back on track quickly
  • Your client leaves with their outcome ticked off the list (which makes you and them happy!)
  • You're delivering results
  • You're teaching your client that change takes time (it's not possible to conquer the world in one session but you can make a great start!)

QUESTION 2. "Let's suspend the idea that you can't do x. Now what could be possible for you?"

Clients get stuck, and they may have already explored lots of different logical options for going forward. This questions is about suspending the logic and letting the creative brain play.

When to use this question: When your client is stuck in a cycle of thinking they aren't able to do something, or feeling negative.

Why it works: It helps get your client into a place of possibility.

  • Suspending reality allows their creative brain to kick in
  • Then, anything is possible...
  • They get a list of possible options to explore
  • They can decide which options are feasible
  • They can choose which one(s) to focus on

QUESTION 3. "What else?"

This seems like two silly words put together! How can this question be that useful? Well it's extremely powerful in a coaching session. Even more so if you're starting out because there's a tendency to want to fill the gap when your client has stopped speaking.

When to use this question: When your client has been talking things through with you, and yet you think there might be more that needs to be said.

Why it works: It creates space for your client to think and expand on their answer.

  • It ensures you get to the core of the issue/situation
  • It creates more clarity
  • Your client will open up (Caveat - providing you shut up! I mean this in the nicest way of course!)
  • Your client will share on a much deeper level

QUESTION 4. "What's another way of looking at this?"

In my business, I use a lot of NLP and as part of that I love doing perspective change work. So often we don't see what we don't see! The transformation just from helping someone view something in a different way can be subtle yet life-changing.

When to use this question: When your client is having difficulties in a relationship, struggling with a particular issue in work/business, feeling stuck etc.

Why it works: We have our own filters that pre-determine how we view situations/issues.

  • The question itself suggests that there are other ways to perceive the 'problem'
  • It helps move a client past their own thoughts on what's happening and what might be happening
  • Your client can get a whole new perspective with your help

QUESTION 5. "How willing are you to do what it takes to change this situation?"

Ooh this one's a bit hard-hitting. It's a goodie though!

When to use this question: When your client is talking about taking action, but they don't take it. Or when the action required from the client is big.

Why it works: It challenges your client to consider whether they are actually willing to do what it takes.

  • The question automatically assumes the client IS willing, and that it's just a matter of how willing they are!
  • It helps your client get clear on the commitment required
  • It can open up a bigger conversation on what might be holding them back
  • It can uncover lots of fabulous gems to help your client with

So there you have it, 5 simple questions that help you to dig deeper with your client.

The biggest tip for coaching questions?

Simply listen and be in the moment with your client. Trust your intuition and know that the right question will come if you can shut your mindset monkeys up long enough to listen! It's not about you, it's about the client. If you're scrambling around for the next best question, you might miss the one key thing they're talking about that will help them have a breakthrough.

Let me know in the comments your favourite coaching questions below. I still like to try out new ones so I'd love to hear from you.

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Contributing Author:

Ruby McGuire is a Business & Mindset Queen. She's an Accredited Master Coach & Master Mentor with the IAPC&M, Trainer, Inspirational Speaker and Author of multiple books. She loves helping her clients step up and become leaders (aka Queens) of their businesses. She helps her clients develop their leadership and business skills, create a success mindset and attract dreamy clients. She is a Brit on a mission to live a simpler life without marketing on social media so that she can spend more time in her beautiful Scottish surroundings. You can find her at her pretty online home, over on her podcast show, Rock Your Fabulous Biz, and here where she shares her Mini Guide to Marketing Without Social Media. When she’s not working you’ll find her surrounded by books, making hand-made cards, and enjoying life with her hubby, little dog and chickens (usually with a Whittard Vanilla cappuccino in her hand)!

Learn more about Ruby & see all their articles here >>


  1. Tracey Bryant Stuckey

    This is a fantastic article. I love this. I question my candidates all the time and always ask them to dig deeper. The mindset monkeys do often times get in the way, but learning to silence those and trust the relationship you build with clients is amazing. I find that there are times I grow working with clients all the time and from their mindset shift, comes great results. Great work Ruby!!!


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