Coaching Essentials: The Components of Powerful Questions

(This blog post is Part II in the Coaching series focusing on Coaching Essentials. For other posts in this series, go here: Part I – The Client’s Role, Part III – The Use of Accountability Tools, or Part IV – The Coach’s Use of Body Language)

I hate listening to know-it-alls. They probably hate listening to me when I act like a know-it-all. Executive coaches use a proven strategy to avoid the know-it-all effect.


Executive coaches ask questions. Simple. Right? Yes and no.

Below you’ll find a few components of powerful coaching questions:

1) Powerful Questions are Open Questions (why or how)

Open questions eradicate the know-it-all effect. They require a response. They put the responsibility in the other person’s hands.

These questions invigorate conversation rather than ending it. Try using the words “how” OR “what” before all your questions for one day.

2) Powerful Questions Use the Client’s Words

People want to be heard. Effective coaches utilize the client’s own words to demonstrate effective listening and to allow the client to hear what they said.

3) Powerful Questions Reframe Issues

When coaches reframe questions using words the client has used, the client often corrects the coach or agrees with the coach. Reframing helps the client to think about the same issue in slightly different terms. Reframing helps the client to hear their words out of someone else’s mouth.

4) Powerful Questions Clarify

Coaches push clients towards clarity. Using questions, coaches not only facilitate their own understanding but force the client to speak about their goals, challenges, or action steps with precision.

5) Powerful Questions Dig Deeper

Life is busy. Coaches serve their clients by creating a safe space to dig deeper into the issues that mean the most to them. This can give the client freedom or permission to go deeper than they would normally have time for.

What else makes a question powerful? How could you implement one of these five components in your daily life, work, or coaching?