The Most Important Question in Coaching

You know that to be a great coach that you have to be able to ask great Life Coaching questions.

It shows you are an active listener and that you are willing to challenge your client to find the growth he or she needs.

I believe a surprising amount of coaches do not understand this concept.

I also believe that only 5% do it well.

I’ve been business coaching since 2008 and I feel like I’m now that top 5% and I’m working hard to get into the top 1%.

I have some ways to go, but I practice every single day, and I do mean every day.

Let me give you an example.

I was working with a client who felt stuck in his career.

He got promoted quite quickly and then he inherited a difficult team.

On this team was one very obstreperous employee. He tried his best to motivate and help him, but nothing worked. He wanted to fire him, but his boss told him he wasn’t allowed to for reasons that he wasn’t privy to.

He didn’t know what to do, he felt trapped and despondent.

The Most Important Question In Coaching

So I asked him…

“Do you think this one employee is holding you back from your next promotion?”


“Then what choices do you have?”

“That’s a great question.” he responded.

“I agree. It’s one of my favorite questions.”

“I can leave the company. I can fire him without permission, which will get me in trouble. I can find a lateral position, which there are none available. I can make his life miserable, so he quits. I can… I know I can’t make his life miserable. It goes against my values though so that isn’t a genuine option.”

“I’m glad to hear that. Ok, so what is your best approach?”

“I guess, leaving the company or just being ok with where I’m at.”

“Ahh, so you have two good options. Which one is the best?”

“That’s tough. I think threatening to leave the company if I can’t move this employee to another department.”

And that’s exactly what he did. His boss didn’t want him to go and since his boss had to make a choice he moved the employee to another department.

When he got clear on his choices and what would be the best option he knew what he needed to do to feel happier and succeed at work.

Tim completely flummoxed the current attendees on the Coach the Life Coach course by telling them after one module that he would share the most important coaching question with them the following week.

When he was asked by one of the coaches what the question was he blanked and then started laughing.

“I have no idea” he said shaking his head that he could have said such a thing.

But when he came off the call and did our usual debrief about what we thought went well and what we could have done better he remembered what it was.

The most important question in coaching is the question that shifts your client at the exact right time, which is exactly what my question did.

It really is that simple.

Your Turn

What is your favorite coaching question? You can use a question that you use as a coach. If you never coached anyone then what is the best question a coach that you’ve hired has asked you.