15 Essential Questions Coaches Ask To Uncover A New Client’s Goals

Originally published by Forbes.com

Loren Margolis, Founder & Managing Director, Training & Leadership Success

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Asking powerful questions can create powerful shifts in consciousness. This is especially true in a coach-client relationship, where establishing a good rapport with the client is essential to meeting goals, kickstarting the imagination and building trust.

There are various ways to get the conversation flowing and help clients discover what their goals for your coaching relationship are during the onboarding process. Below, members of Forbes Coaches Council share the “big questions” they ask new clients to provoke illuminating responses and get the ball rolling with their engagement.

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Forbes Coaches Council members share the “big questions” they use when onboarding coaching clients. Photos courtesy of the individual members.

1. How Would You Notice If A Miracle Happened Overnight?

The “miracle question” is really useful to start with. Typically, when clients describe what they want out of the coaching relationship, it is for something to change and shift. In response, I ask the following: “If you woke up, and a miracle had happened overnight, and what you wanted to change has changed, how would you notice? What would be different?” This creates deeper reflection and insights. – Mickey A. Feher, MindsetMaps International

2. What Outcome Would Really Get You Excited?

I ask and explore, “What outcome would really get you excited?” Most of the time, clients struggle to answer this on the first go. We’ve been wired to think about goals as “what’s needed or practical.” Unpacking what goal would excite them and get their heart pumping gets them fully engaged and connected to the goal on an emotional level, which brings forth deeper meaning, purpose and stake. – Lin Tan, Collective Change Institute Pte Ltd

3. What Do You Want To Be Known For?

“What do you want to be known, recognized and valued for?” I’ve found that this question gets clients to reflect on what really matters to them and gives us a reference point to measure the impact of our work together. – Todd Zaki Warfel, Zaki Warfel & Co.

4. How Ready Are You To Change What Is Holding You Back?

At its core, coaching is a change management tool that helps people create meaningful change in themselves and their organizations. I’s crucial to gauge the leader’s change readiness at the start. I ask, “On a scale of one to five (one being not at all and five being all-in), how ready are you to change some of the behaviors and thought patterns that hold you back?” Then, I drill down to set further expectations. – Loren Margolis, Training & Leadership Success LLC

5. Why Now?

I have a handful of pre-coaching questions, but I always ask these three questions: “What’s bringing you to coaching – ”why now? What’s your vision of a successful coaching engagement? How will you know if the coaching is working for you?” I help flesh out processes, intellectual and emotional measures. This gives the client better clarity about their vision and how they’ll measure success. – Susan Sadler, Sadler Communications LLC

6. What Will Success Look Like?

A key question at the start of a coaching engagement is, “What will success look like if we are successful in this engagement?” This helps to visualize what the positive impact of the change will be and forms the basis for measuring progress. The question should focus on the impact of the engagement in making the business or individual more effective. It also creates positive energy for change. – Charles Dormer, APEX STP, LLC

7. What Would Getting What You Want Get You?

“What do you want? If you got it, what would that get you?” The answer to the second question usually helps clients clarify what they are really after and helps us frame their goals for coaching. – Lisa Coleman, Lisa Coleman Advisory Services, LLC

8. What Do You Want To Accomplish?

When working with a new coaching client, I always ask, “By the time we finish working together, what do you want to accomplish?” This sets the expectation for both the client and the coach and creates a clear path to what we will be working on to reach those goals. – Courtney Baker, Courtney Baker LLC

9. Where Are You Stuck?

The biggest go-to question for me with clients is a simple, “Where are you stuck?” I have found that, most of the time, people seek a coach because they are stuck in the routine and monotony of bygone days, and sometimes they cannot figure out how to get unstuck. Then, we lay out a process and plan to get them out of their own way and unstuck, growing their business big! – Jon Dwoskin, The Jon Dwoskin Experience

10. How Will You Know This Partnership Has Been Successful?

“How will you know that this partnership has been successful at the end of the coaching agreement?” This is my “big question” that helps get the ball rolling. It really gives the client an opportunity to explore possibilities and gain an unmatched level of clarity. – RaQuel Hopkins, RH Life Coaching

11. How Committed Are You To Embarking On This Journey Now?

“How committed are you to engaging in this process, and what has made you decide to embark on this journey now?” Without commitment, a coach can guide a client, but results aren’t very likely. It’s important to understand where clients are in their journey as well as where they are trying to get to so that they understand the level of commitment and actions needed to get there. – Rebecca Patterson, Rebecca Patterson

12. Why, What And How?

I ask, “Why?” Why do you want to engage with a coach? Why now? I ask, “What?” What are you aiming to be able to do differently, and what impact would that make? What goals do you have, and do they align with the goals of your organization? I ask, “How?” How can I be the best possible coach for you? And how will you know if you have reached your goals and that I, as your coach, have really helped you? – Pernille Hippe Brun, Momentu

13. How Can I Help You, And Why Now?

“How can I help you, and why now?” The first question sets the dynamic that they own the journey and you are there to help them. It enables the client to express what has been going on. What are their needs, hopes and desires? That information helps you clarify their goals. The “why now” question brings contextual information that is often omitted, which will be invaluable and may lead to redefining goals. – Julie Kantor, JP Kantor Consulting

14. Why Would You Want To Make This Change?

When I begin work with any client my first question is, “Why would you want to make this change?” It sets the stage for open discussion about the client’s issue. Moreover, it establishes an opportunity to immediately start the evoking and self-efficacy process. The client’s own motivation is the strongest catalyst for evolution and lasting change. – D Ivan Young, Dr. D Ivan Young

15. How Will We Know The Coaching Was Successful When It Ends?

“How will we know the coaching was successful when we have completed your engagement?” This provides coaches with a clear understanding of how to assist with reframing mindset, focusing conversations with empowering questions and defining metrics as well as accountability. – Sheila Carmichael, Transitions D2D, LLC