What is a powerful coaching question?
Very simply (and I do prefer simple), in my opinion, a coaching question has power if it moves your client forward.
But the most common definition of a powerful question in and around the coaching industry focuses on the internal impact which results in increased or expanded awareness that can create transformative internal shifts. Exciting stuff!
Exciting, but nearly impossible to plan or script. The more you try to come up with a powerful question for your client, the less powerful your coaching becomes. Transformation is a happy (and very common) accident in coaching, but not something you can intentionally make happen for your client. Again, this is my opinion.
Examples of Powerful Questions
The Google Machine is very helpful on the topic of Powerful Questions.
What do you think would happen if you were to select some of these questions to ask your client in a pre-planned, scripted manner?
Most likely they would be annoyed and wonder where (or if) you were trained as a coach.
How to Ask Powerful Questions
I propose three assumptions:
1. A powerful question is one that moves your client forward towards their goal. Awareness or insight doesn’t have value (in coaching) unless it moves your client forward.
2. A question becomes a powerful question based upon your client’s response. Any question could be powerful, but you can’t intend or plan it to be.
3. The best questions come from using your Coaching Superpower in the moment with your client.
All you can and should do as a coach is simply ask the best question that occurs to you at the time, trust your experience, intuition and judgment, and see how it lands for your client to determine where to go next.
If a question lands well, it will be easy to observe and move your client forward.
If a question doesn’t land well, it will be easy to observe and adjust your approach.
So your client is your best guide and teacher on how to ask them powerful coaching questions, not some list off the internet.
Example of a Powerful Coaching Question
I was coaching a never-married older single male entrepreneur who was intensely passionate about his business and tired of being a bachelor, he was finally ready to settle down and really wanted to find the love of his life. He is an amazing man and quite a catch; spiritual, compassionate, empathetic, giving, gentle, loving, creative, musically talented, emotionally evolved, physically active, adventurous, the kind of Renaissance Man that I’ve heard many women complain that they want but can’t find.
We focused on expanding his new business towards profitability and the Conscious Dating® coaching program. When we completed his Conscious Dating® plan, his initial strategy was to contact at least 5 new women per week on a large internet matchmaking website.
We got so absorbed in his business issues and goals that it wasn’t until 2 months later that I finally got around to checking in with him about his plan to contact 5 new women per week and his response floored me. He said “I haven’t been doing that because I don’t think women would want to go out with me because my business isn’t making any money yet.”
First, I had to pick my jaw up off the floor.
Then I had to stop kicking myself from not checking in with him on this much, much earlier.
Then I had to force myself not to yell “ARE YOU KIDDING?!?!”
Then I had to stop myself from hugging him and telling him he is worthy of love and exactly the kind of guy who won’t have trouble finding many, many interested women in his age group.
Then I paused for a few moments, deeply touched, looked at him, and I used my Coaching Superpower to ask the best question that occurred to me at the time:
“Well, do you want to find someone who loves you for who you are, or someone who cares about how much money you make?”
As coaching questions go, it’s pretty dismal and could be called a leading question because it presents two choices where one is obviously better than the other.
However, it was a very, very powerful, transformational question for him. It was his turn for his jaw to drop and he paused a long, long time before he finally declared loudly and firmly “I WANT TO BE LOVED FOR WHO I AM!”
The dam broke and his motivation, creativity, and confidence skyrocketed. We had a great time reframing this as the perfect time to date; if his business isn’t making any money he was guaranteed to only connect with women who would love him for who he is rather than his money. And as a bonus, while he’s in the process of building his business he might even find someone who shared his passion and would join him in his business, which would be his ultimate dream come true.
In my 40 years as a helping professional, 24 years since completing my first coach training, this coaching moment stands out as my favorite of all time and the best example I have of the transformational power of a coaching question to move a client forward towards their goal. This couldn’t have been planned or scripted. The question itself would rate a “C minus” or even a “D” if a trainee were to come up with it as an example of a coaching question, but it was exactly what this client needed at the time, which is all we need to focus on with our coaching clients, one moment at a time.
Please note that Conscious Dating® is a registered trademark of Relationship Coaching Institute and may only be used with permission by RCI members in good standing.