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11 October, 2016

The Most Powerful Questions You Can Ask in Coaching Conversations

In the end, all question types are variations of 2 types of questions – open and closed questions.

The difference between the two is that open questions elicit information while closed questions confirm information. Closed questions confirm information by eliciting a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ response, or a very short and specific response.

What’s interesting is a surprisingly large number of managers frequently use closed questions, when they would be better served by using open questions. There’s a real problem which is caused by using closed questions to elicit information – which is that they limit the response you get.

Realistically, people will often answer with more than a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ to a closed question, but it will restrict the amount of information that they provide.

What this means is the most powerful type of questions you can ask are open questions, and they start with words like ‘what’, ‘how’, ‘who’, ‘where’, ‘when’, ‘why’, and ‘tell me about’. For example, you might find a manager asks a staff member who continuously arrives to work late a question such as ‘do you understand why you need to be at work on-time?’ This will get a much more restricted answer than open questions like ‘remind me why it’s important for our entire team to be at work on-time’, or ‘what’s the reason we expect everyone in the team to be at work on-time?’ or ‘how does everyone being at work on-time benefit the entire team?’

So, if want to ask powerful questions, focus on getting good at asking open questions.

Next time we’re going to talk about why it’s important for you to follow-up your Coaching Conversations, and how you can do it.


To get our report “The #1 Most Costly Leadership Development Mistake Businesses Make, and What to do About It”, which shows how to make sure you get the increases in employee performance and engagement you’re wanting from your leadership development program, for more profit, click here.


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