One of the most important skills of a coach – think life coach, instructional coach, or leadership coach –  is asking curious and powerful questions.  Here are three tips to amplify your question asking and elevate your coaching skills – even if you are not a trained coach:

Tip #1:  Start your questions with “what,” “how,” or “tell me more.”  Avoid asking “why” questions because they come off too judgmental and avoid “who” questions because they often create blame or they can be answered way too quickly.  A great way to reword a “why” question is to use the word “provoked.”  What provoked you?  Versus “Why did you do that?”

Tip #2:  Keep your questions short; aim for 5-7 words at the most.  The brevity will naturally make your questions more open-ended.  For example, ask questions like:

  • What’s possible?
  • What will you do next?
  • What are you learning?
  • What supports do you need?
  • How do you plan to move forward?

Tip #3: When you ask a question, wait for an answer.  This may sound obvious, but often times people ask a question and either keep talking or they pile on more questions.  For example, avoid sounding like this:  “What was your favorite part?  What was it like for you?  What’s next?  How will you involve others?”  Notice how exhausting it is to recite that string of questions aloud.  Now, imagine being the one who is trying to remember and answer all of those questions at once.

If you want to challenge yourself to practice this essential coaching skill – asking curious and powerful questions – try asking only curious and powerful questions next time you are in a conversation.  Do not make statements, articulate what you hear, or add quick remarks, instead only ask curious and powerful questions.

You got this, Coach!  Good luck!