If coaching is about helping the client identify their own solutions to moving forward then the ability to ask effective coaching questions lie at the heart of a good coach.
Around 70 - 90% of a coaching session should typically be taken up by a client giving thought to and answering the questions posed by the coach with only 10 – 30 % be given over to the coach in asking questions, summarising, clarifying and reflecting (see also active listening techniques).
Whose session? Probably the first rule of asking effective coaching questions, is to remember that the session belongs to the coachee so, as a coach, you will be asking questions for the benefit of your coachee rather than your own. Adopting the mindset of helping the coachee find their own unique solution and not yours will help you naturally ask the right questions.
The purpose of effective questions Your expertise as a coach will be evident by your ability to ask a wide range of questions at the appropriate time and will help your coachee in the following ways:
Gain clarity, understanding and perspective
Provoke deeper or alternative thinking
Challenge current thinking
Evaluate themselves and their situation
Explore facts, thoughts and feelings
Look at issues from a different point of view
Plan and take action
Generally asking open questions will elicit a lengthier response from your client than closed questions and you should avoid multiple questions (which will only confuse) and leading questions which in effect imply an answer you think the coachee should take (not true coaching).
Not all coachees will respond in the same way to the same questions and as you build up your experience as a coach you find some questions work particularly well for some clients and other’s less so, and you will gradually build up a portfolio of questions which you will instinctively know when to use at what moment.
For examples of some really effective coaching questions that you may help you in your coaching sessions see section on