Seeking the “One True Coaching Question”

coaching questionOne of the biggest stumbling blocks for beginning coaches is the quest for the Holy Grail: the coaching question that will unlock the secrets of the universe for the client. Before each question there is a long, awkward pause while we search our mind for just the right thing to say—and meanwhile the momentum of the conversation is lost.

Solution: Trust the Process

It’s not the perfect coaching question that makes the difference: you just need to help the person you are coaching think a little farther down the road than they can on their own. Trust the process to help the person, not the greatness of your insight. One excellent technique when you are starting out as a coach is to lean on a very simple question, like, “Tell me more,” or “What else?” The benefit of these short-and-sweet queries is that they don’t interrupt the person’s thought process at all.

Another great tool is the Observation and Question technique. Pick out the most significant thing the person said, repeat their exact words, and ask them to expand on it, like this:

  • “You mentioned that ___________. Tell me more about that.”


By varying the coaching question (instead of “Tell me more…”, try “Say more,” or “Expand on that,” or “What’s going on there?”) you can use this technique over and over without sounding stilted. It’s a great way to keep the focus on the client and not on your greatness as a coach.

Tony Stoltzfus is a coach, author, master coach trainer and director of the Leadership Metaformation Institute.