Listening to a professional coach you will hear them ask a large number of questions. Indeed this is one indication that the conversation you are listening to has coaching intentions.
So where do all these coaching questions come from, and how will you think of the right questions to ask during the coaching session when you are the coach?
My skill in asking powerful questions is one that has developed over time, and has had several distinct phases. Initially I asked open-ended questions, ones that cannot be answered with a simple yes or no. I made note of which open questions had a strong beneficial effect on my clients. The next phase saw me using with new clients the kind of open-ended questions that were powerful for previous clients. The last phase saw me move towards focusing on questions that are powerful for the client that I had in front of me.
So let's start there!
The aim of asking powerful questions is to reveal the information that is needed to get maximum benefit for the coaching relationship and the client. Basically that means being honest about what is going on. Immediately, without judgement, ask the question. Such as...
"How strongly will your attitude affect your chances of ... reaching your goal?"
You be aiming to evoke discovery, insight, commitment or action, so it's important to keep your own attitudes and opinions out of the tone of the question.
Often powerful questions will challenge the client's assumptions about what is happening, and you will do well to show respect for their view of the world; at the same time as you are questioning it.
Open vs Closed Questions
The reason coaches ask open-ended questions is that open questions create greater clarity, open up possibilities or new learning. Closed questions that can only be answered with yes, or no have the effect of ending the conversation.
Mostly you will ask questions that move the client towards what they desire, rather than questions that ask them to justify themselves or look backwards at past actions.