Coaching Questions: Types and Tips – Part 1 of 5

Have you ever asked a question and then realized it came across all wrong? Or realized that you led the other person where you wanted them to go? Does that impact a client in a coaching relationship? Yes, of course – it is limiting! Given a goal of excellence in coaching, a key skill for coaches to develop and enhance is effective questioning. In this series of posts, types of questions and tips for formulating questions provide perspective and ideas.

In the first two posts, four types of questions are explored for coaches, then tips for formulating questions wrap-up this series:

1. Open-ended versus Closed

An open-ended question calls for information and detail; a close-ended question stops thinking and the conversation. “Do you want…” is closed and leading. A closed question is answerable with yes, no, or a word or two. An open question elicits a longer answer, creating an opportunity to think and consider before responding. “What do you want?” is open-ended and affords the coach to follow the client lead in terms of their priorities. A common follow-up question, “Anything else?” is closed, while “What else?” is open.

2. Clarifying versus Interpreting

A clarifying question seeks more information to ensure understanding; an interpreting question includes a judgment. When a client shares information, a coach asks questions to clarify what was said and further understanding. Sometimes the way the question is asked gives an interpretation of what the client said. For example, a client shares their goal to earn $200,000 per year, and as a coach you might think that is unrealistic, so when you seek to clarify, your tone implies disbelief.

What is your favorite open-ended or clarifying question when coaching?

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