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Examples of Limiting Questions

By Martha Lasley, Virginia Kellogg,
Richard Michaels & Sharon Brown

Coaching for Transformation
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Close-ended Questions

Are you going to be able to fix it?

Can you get more resources?

Do you have any influence?

These questions ask for a yes/no response. An open-ended question generates new ways of thinking. Examples: How can you fix it? What can you do to get more resources? What infl uence would you like to have?

Informational Questions

How many employees do you have?

What did you study in college?

Who else was in the meeting?

All of these questions give us information that we don’t really need. Even if we don’t have the entire context, we can still coach effectively.

Why Questions

Why didn’t you take action?

Why did you do that?

Why are you going to get help?

“Why” questions ask for the story, the logic, the thinking behind the choices, and they oft en imply judgment or criticism. “Why” questions can become mental rehashing of old beliefs. Avoid judgmental questions including “why” questions in coaching, so that you honor the needs of past choices and can stay open to celebrating new choices in the future. Of course there are exceptions, such as, “Why is this important to you?”

Leading Questions

Don’t you think you ought to…?

Have you tried…?

Wouldn’t it be better if you…?

All of these questions are thinly disguised forms of advice, which is not as empowering as helping people discover their own solutions. Likewise, don’t bother asking questions if you already know the answer.

Judgmental Questions

Do you consider that normal behavior?

Who does she think she is?

Did you expect to get away with that?

Curiosity is the opposite of judgment. To be curious is to be in a state of openness.

Shrinking Questions

Aren’t you taking on a little too much?

Are you sure you can handle all of this?

Do you really think you’re ready?

Out of a desire to protect people from possible failure, beginning coaches sometimes encourage people to shrink. Masterful coaches help people expand their vision, but still address potential barriers creatively; e.g., “How can you get past the barriers?”


Excerpt from the book Coaching for Transformation: Pathways to Ignite Personal & Social Change by Martha Lasley, Virginia Kellogg, Richard Michaels and Sharon Brown. As faculty at Leadership that Works, they certify coaches who offer personal, organization and community transformation. Check out the free Power of Coaching teleclass.

Coaching is life-changing, world-changing work. The coaching programs at Leadership that Works go beyond theories and models and work with clients on a deeper level. You learn how to coach the whole person: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Whole person Transformation.

Leadership that Works

Transforming the world.
One heart at a time.

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