art of asking powerful questions in coaching

The Art of Asking Powerful Coaching Questions

At its core, coaching is a transformative process that hinges on powerful questions.

These questions, open-ended and thought-provoking, are the key to breakthroughs.

They are how coaches help their coachees explore new possibilities and reach their goals.

In this post, we will delve into the concept of powerful questions in coaching.

By the end, you will understand how they can facilitate growth and development.


What Are Powerful Questions?

Powerful questions are those that prompt individuals to contemplate an issue more deeply.

They shift a person’s thought process and present problems with a sense of urgency that motivates them to take action.

They focus on the present and encourage individuals to take immediate steps toward resolving the issue at hand.


What Are Powerful Coaching Questions?

Coaching conversations rely heavily on the use of purposeful questions.

Purposeful questions either gather information or influence a person’s thinking.

However, at the heart of a coaching conversation is the tool of powerful questions.

The adjective is the important part of this title – powerful!

Powerful questions are the primary tool for getting coachees to:

  • Dig Deeper
  • Think more broadly
  • Discover new possibilities

Powerful questions do more than just elicit information for the coach’s understanding.

Powerful Questions:

  • Send the coachee on a journey of discovery
  • Invite clarity and action
  • Creates a greater possibility for expanded learning and a fresh perspective.

Powerful questions often begin with ‘what’ or ‘how’.

‘Why’ questions are typically avoided in coaching sessions because they tend to put people on the defensive.


General Coaching Questions vs Powerful Coaching Questions

General coaching questions are more informational and directive, aiming to gather specific details about a situation or goal.

They often start with ‘who,’ ‘what,’ ‘where,’ ‘when,’ and ‘how,’ and are designed to help the coach understand the coachee’s perspective and context.

For example, “What is the situation?” or “How does it affect you?”.

On the other hand, powerful coaching questions are transformative in nature.

Powerful Questions aim to:

  • inspire self-discovery
  • encourage coachees to explore their values and beliefs
  • stimulate creative thinking

These questions are often:

  • open-ended
  • challenging
  • thought-provoking

They push the coachee to see things differently and spark curiosity.

For instance, “What would you attempt if you knew you couldn’t fail?” or “How would your life change if you achieved your goal?” are examples of powerful questions that challenge the coachee to think deeply and envision possibilities.


powerful coaching questions matrix 1



Comparative Examples


Topic: Career Transition

General Coaching Question:

  • “What are your career goals?”

Powerful Coaching Question:

  • “If you could design your dream career, what would it look like?”
    • “How can we take steps to move closer to that vision?”


Topic: Personal Growth

General Coaching Question:

  • “What areas of personal growth are you interested in?”

Powerful Coaching Question:

  • “Imagine your ideal self one year from now. What personal growth achievements would you like to celebrate?”
    • “What actions can you take starting today to get there?”


Topic: Time Management

General Coaching Question:

  • “How do you currently manage your time?”

Powerful Coaching Question:

  • “What specific habits or routines can you implement to maximize your productivity and create more time for the things that truly matter to you?”


Topic: Stress Management

General Coaching Question:

  • “How do you usually cope with stress?”

Powerful Coaching Question:

  • “In moments of high stress, what strategies can you adopt to not only manage stress but also thrive under pressure and maintain your well-being?”


How to Ask Powerful Questions

Asking powerful questions is an essential skill for coaches to learn.

To ensure a question is powerful, a coach should frame it positively, specifically, and solution-oriented. Instead of focusing on problems or limitations, frame the question to inspire forward thinking and action. This encourages the coachee to explore possibilities and potential solutions, making the question more powerful and actionable.

Also, use ‘what’ and ‘how’ questions.”What” and “how” questions promote reflection, focus on solutions, encourage clarity, empower clients, avoid judgment, and lead to actionable steps. “What” and “how” questions help individuals effectively explore their thoughts, feelings, and goals. This fosters self-awareness and guides coachees toward positive change.

how to ask powerful coaching questions matrix

Example #1


  • “Why are you struggling with this task?”

Positive and Solution-Oriented Question:

  • “What strategies or resources can you utilize to make this task more manageable?”

Powerful Question:

  • “What one resource can you utilize to make this task more manageable and achieve success?”


The first question, framed negatively, can feel judgmental and may not inspire productive thinking.

The second question focuses on solutions and empowers the coachee to consider ways to improve their situation.

The third question narrows down the focus to identify a single resource that can be used to make the task more manageable and lead to success. It encourages the coachee to pinpoint one specific action or tool that they can employ to improve their situation.

Example #2


  • “You seem overwhelmed by your workload. What’s causing this stress?”

Positive and Solution-Oriented Question:

  • “Considering your workload, what strategies can you implement to manage your tasks better?”

Powerful Question:

  • “Considering your workload, what’s one thing you can implement to manage your tasks better and reduce stress?”


The first question focuses on the coachee’s stress and its causes, potentially emphasizing the problem. The second question acknowledges the workload but shifts the focus toward proactive strategies. The third question narrows down the focus to find one specific action or approach that can be implemented to manage tasks better and reduce stress. It encourages the coachee to identify a single, actionable step that can positively impact their workload and stress levels.

Powerful coaching questions are essential for helping coachees explore, discover, and achieve their goals. They are open-ended, positive, solution-oriented, and transformative in nature. As a coach, practicing formulating powerful questions that inspire deep thinking and creative solutions is important.


10 Powerful Questions for Coaching Your Clients

  1. What are your most important goals, and what steps can you take to achieve them?
  2. Describe a recent success and the strengths you used to accomplish it.
  3. What limiting beliefs might be holding you back, and how can you challenge or reframe them?
  4. How can you enhance your time management skills to increase productivity?
  5. What are your core values, and how do they align with your current life or career choices?
  6. What is the first step you can take today to work toward your long-term vision?
  7. Reflect on a recent challenge; what lessons can you draw from that experience?
  8. In what ways can you improve your communication with your team or colleagues?
  9. What habits can you develop to enhance your overall well-being?
  10. Describe a situation where you felt most motivated and inflow; what factors contributed to that state?


10 Powerful Coaching Questions for Leaders and Managers to Use

  1. What are your career aspirations, and how can we work together to help you achieve them within the organization?
  2. What specific skills or areas of expertise would you like to develop or enhance to excel in your current role?
  3. What challenges are you currently facing in your job, and how can we address them to ensure your success and satisfaction?
  4. What goals have you set for yourself in your current position, and how can we create a plan to reach and exceed those goals?
  5. How do you prefer to receive feedback and recognition for your work, and how can we ensure your needs are met in this regard?
  6. What support or resources do you need to perform at your best, and how can we make sure those resources are available to you?
  7. What aspects of your job are most fulfilling, and how can we maximize your engagement and motivation?
  8. How can we help you strike a healthy work-life balance, and what adjustments or accommodations can be made to support your well-being?
  9. What ideas or suggestions do you have for improving processes or workflows within the organization, and how can we implement them?
  10. What are your long-term career goals, and how can we develop a roadmap to help you progress in your career, both within and beyond the current role?



Powerful coaching questions are a crucial coaching skill and tool in the coach’s arsenal. They inspire coachees to delve into self-discovery and strive toward their goals. By framing questions in an open-ended, positive, and solution-oriented manner, coaches equip their coachees to envision possibilities and potential solutions. As a coach, practicing powerful questions can significantly impact your coachees’ journey toward personal growth. Remember, the power of the question lies not in the question itself but in the coachee’s internal process of seeking the answer.

While powerful questions are undoubtedly an effective tool in coaching, their effectiveness can be greatly diminished without active listening. The power of questions and active listening go hand in hand in coaching. They are the two key components that fuel coaching conversations.

I invite you to check out our post on:

Active Listening in Coaching: 4 Levels of Listening
Uncover how to become a more effective listener and increase your coaching impact.

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