Use This Questioning Process to Help Your Clients Spot Where They are Blocking Themselves!

Excited Coach Giving the Thumbs Up

Have you ever had a client who keeps committing to action, but then never seems to do what they say they will? I know I have. Well, all too often our clients are blissfully UNaware of how they're sabotaging themselves—and getting in their own way.

So, with your client's permission (ie. assuming they also want to explore and learn what's getting in the way for them) this powerful questioning process will help uncover where you client is limiting or holding themselves back.

What is a questioning process?

This questioning process is simply a structured series of questions, that peels back the layers of a client's motivations and dismotivations so we can see what's underneath.

For those of you who like to 'dance in the moment' with your clients, it may seem like too much structure. And yet, this process DOES dance in the client's moment—taking their last response and using those exact words to form the next question.

How I've used this questioning process

I've used this process with clients when they're not achieving what they intend. And although the start of the process can sometimes be a little awkward, we've ALWAYS uncovered information that allows the client to move forward with greater self-awareness!

I have also used this process to great effect when a client simply feels stuck with a goal. This process uncovers the reasons why they're not taking action, and helps them connect with a more meaningful goal.

A quick overview

In this process we ask our clients 1) What stops you from getting your goal? Then we ask 2) What do you want instead of the thing that's stopping you? in a cycle to get to the bottom of their limitations/what's getting in the way.

Once that's done, we ask 3) What will your (new) goal do for you? and then 4) What will that do for you? Again, we cycle around these questions until we get a really clear picture of all the things achieving this goal will do for them.

The repetition on both sets of questions allows the client to delve deeply into where they're getting in their own way—and what they want instead (of getting in their own way). Then the client gets to explore exactly how the new goal will help them.

It's a powerful combination, and it's easier to do than it seems. AND I also recommend you try it out first on a willing client or a friend so that you can iron out any glitches and get a feel for how to use it.

Here's the Unblocking Questions Process:

STEP 1: Framing Up

Because you're going to follow a specifically worded structured process you'll need to 'frame it up' for the client so they know what to expect.

I recommend you let the client know that i) this is a process, ii) you'll be repeating the same questions over and over and iii) that it may be frustrating in places and to have maximum effect they need to trust you and stick with it!

STEP 2: Uncovering the Limitation and a New, More Meaningful Goal

First establish the goal or action you will be working with. Then, ask the following questions in order:

  1. What stops you doing ________ (their action or goal)?  This uncovers a limitation
  2. So, what do you want instead of ________ (the limitation/thing stopping them)?  This gives you a new action/goal
  3. So, what stops you doing ________ (their new action or goal)?  This uncovers a limitation
  4. So, what do you want instead of ________ (the limitation/thing stopping them)?  This gives you a new action/goal
  5. Repeat.
  • NOTE: Make sure you use your client's EXACT words back to them (just the last phrase or couple of words will work)
  • KEEP GOING with the questions as long as the client emphasises or uses different words each time you ask one of the questions.
  • STOP WHEN: The client says exactly the same words two or three times in a row (only then are they ready to move on). For example they may give the same goal over and over, or say "nothing" in response to what's stopping them.

STEP 3: Stepping Up & Getting Clear on WHY They Want the Goal

Next you will use the goal you ended up with at the end of Step 2. Now ask the following questions in order:

  1. So, if you got your ________ (new action or goal from the end of the first set of questions), what will it do for you?
  2. And if you got ________ (the thing that goal will do for you) what will that do for you?
  3. Again, repeat the questions until you get a consistent response from your client.

NOTE: Again, make sure you use your client's EXACT words back to them.

STEP 4: Wrap-up

Ask your client

  • What did you learn about yourself during this process?
  • What insights did you have?
  • Restate the new goal (or action) to the client—and what it does for them, using their own words.
  • Confirm if this action or goal is a better direction for them.
  • If so, ask whether they'd like to keep or amend the original goal, and if so how.
  • Now coach your client and identify next steps to move them forwards in their new direction.

If you liked this article about coaching questions, getting unblocked and unstuck you may also like:

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, 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 Happy Coach Giving Thumbs Up by kimberrywood via Shutterstock

One Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.