Got a Coach? Ask them this…

Coaches aren’t the only ones who get to ask questions.

Sure, your coach is supposed to be good at asking questions, and hopefully they’re great at selecting ones that land solidly, maybe even creating a feeling of excitement, “ooooh…I’ve never thought of asking that before.” Fabulous if so. But…

What if you’d like to go further, and seize the reins? What if you feel the call to drive the storyline, and you’d like to ask a few questions of your own?

Well, it turns out the shoe does go on the other foot. Clients can ask questions too! Some coaches won’t give advice, as that is considered more consulting than coaching. However a good number of coaches like myself will combine coaching and advising, and are happy to provide answers. If this is the case in your relationship, you may get a whole lot more value from coaching by giving some thought to questions to ask your coach. Here are some ideas:

What do you see ahead for me, if I follow the path I’m on?
What are you afraid of, if anything, if I pursue this avenue?
What are your hesitations about my idea/plan?
I sense I’m resisting something but I can’t quite see it. What can you tell me about that?
How would you introduce me?
I’m not sure how to feel about this. Would you share what you’re sensing?
This is new territory for me. If you were in my position, what’s one thing you’d definitely do or not do?
What do you wish I would get over? I get the feeling I’m repeating some of my mistakes.
If there was one new habit you could suggest I go for, what would it be?
Based on our conversations, what do you think are my strengths and weaknesses relative to others?
For the challenging conversation I have coming up, what would you say, and how would you say it if you had the chance?
If you were me, what questions would you ask?
I have a lot of dreams but I’m curious what you wish for me.

A trustworthy coach who has your permission to engage in telling, sharing, or revealing personal experiences, in addition to the guidance and questions they ask you, will often have real gems to offer in response to an open ended question. Although you may be in a coaching relationship mostly so that you can be on the receiving end of questions, in a metaphorical ‘catching’ posture, it’s perfectly acceptable to also throw some balls. In other words, there’s no law against asking your coach some straight up questions, and expecting good answers.

In my experience, there are certain moments in coaching engagements when the client starts to show this kind of initiative. To me, these are a signal of a client that is up-levelling. They’re thinking of the bigger beyond themselves, much like the teenager who suddenly realizes her parents have a life beyond taking care of the kids. For this and other reasons, I welcome, and encourage clients who ask me direct questions.

As a relatively experienced or simply courageous coach, consider whether you feel comfortable with the questions in the list above. How might you answer them? In what way could you answer them that would continue to facilitate the client’s agenda, avoiding slipping into the conversation becoming all about you? Would you feel better if you paused to verbalize the shift to advice-giving to the client, and confirm you have permission before you went ahead? That can be a relatively easy thing to do.

On the other hand, if you’re a new coach reading this, wondering what you’d do if a client asked you these things, it may be perfectly alright for you to simply reply with, “I’m curious what makes you ask me that?” and turn the conversation back to the client.

And if you’re someone reading this who doesn’t currently have a coach, it will be useful for you to ask yourself what combination of pure coaching (asking, facilitating, mirroring, holding space, etc.) along with consulting or advising (telling, sharing, advice-giving, directing, etc.) you would most appreciate. Let this inquiry be part of the process you use to hire the right coach for you.

Image Credit: Photo by Eunice Lituañas on Unsplash