7 Coaching Questions


A fantastic coaching book is The Advice Trap (Be humble, stay curious and change the way you lead forever) by Michael Bungay Stanier – an easy read with some powerful messages and quick wins – just up my street.

Michael suggests 7 questions that every coach should use in order to achieve results:

  • What is on your mind?
  • And what else?
  • What is the real challenge here for you?
  • What do you want?
  • If you’re saying yes to this, what must you say No to?
  • How can I help? (I prefer ‘How can coaching help?’)
  • What is most useful or valuable here for you?


My favourite 7 questions are:

  • What do you want to have happen / how can you have this happen?
  • What is under your control?
  • What are your thoughts and what are you thinking?
  • What is the real challenge?
  • Who are you when you are at your best?
  • What is stopping you?
  • What else?


My choice of questions have been influenced by positive psychology, NLP, clean language and Nancy Kline’s work on thinking environments. My favourite questions change from time to time and I go through phases of using some more than others. My intent with questions is to build capacity and for the client to resource themselves. I love short questions that hold thinking space with minimal interference from me. You might notice my favourite questions contain little or no metaphor, allowing the client to fully explore their own experiences and interpretations.

I have asked fellow coaches to share their 7 questions. I was fascinated to know the results and thought it would be an awesome opportunity to share. ‘If you could only have 7 questions in your coaching tool kit, what would they be?’

This exercise assumes that the opening and closing phases of the coaching session are taken care of, therefore the questions do not need to account for beginnings or endings. In no particular order, here are the results …



  1. How will this impact upon you?
  2. What else?
  3. What would success look like?
  4. What is the spark that lights the fire within you?
  5. What are your strengths?
  6. What’s stopping you?
  7. If you could do anything, what would you do?



  • Describe what it looks/ feels and sounds like to achieve your aspiration/ goal
  • What do you want?
  • What’s holding you back?
  • What else?
  • If you could change one thing right now what would it be?
  • If you’re saying yes to this, what are you saying no to?
  • On a scale of 1-10 where are you with your commitment to achieving xyz? Follow up if needed – what can you do to increase that score?



  • What would you like to be different by the end of our time?
  • Who is not in the room that you need to listen/speak to?
  • What happens if you do nothing?
  • Who can help you?
  • If there were no constraints, what would you do right now?
  • As we are talking, what has given you energy?
  • If your colleague or partner were in the room, what challenge would they set us



  • What’s something on your mind right now?
  • And what else do you want to tell me about this? 
  • If you had a magic wand, what would beautiful look like if you did this? 
  • What implications/challenges are there for you in doing this? 
  • What will you commit to first? By when? 
  • What help do you need to make this happen? 
  • What is your key takeaway from today? 


  • What do you want to achieve now, next month, next year, etc?
  • What is holding you back?
  • What is within your power to change or influence? 
  • How will you know when you have achieved a good result?
  • What else do you need to get there? 
  • What else?
  • How can you get what you need?


Thank you to all the contributors above. If you’d like to add your 7 favourite questions, just get in touch!

Clare Smale




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