The top 10 coaching questions


An effective coach is someone who allows the learner to reflect and identify their gaps through a series of open ended questions. All too often coaches are strapped for time and have too much information to review in that period of time to effectively ask the right questions when coaching to self-discovery.

Coaching using open ended questions takes time and practice, it’s not something that you can learn overnight and to be highly effective at it you must always be open to self-reflection and feedback. During my first few coaching observations as a manager, I found that many of my supervisors weren’t asking the right questions to get their agents thinking for themselves or they would simply answer their own questions rather than waiting for the agent to answer. What surprised me the most was the amount of supervisors that lacked this skill, some of which had many years of experience.

So, what are those top 10 questions you should ask and why should you ask them?

  1. Prior to moving forward, what was our last coaching session about and how are you applying it when talking to customers?
    Why: This question is important to ask because it ensures that your previous coaching was implemented and allows you to get a good understanding of how the agent is applying it to his/her calls
  2. What motivates you?
    Why: Until you know the answer to this question, it will be very hard to get through to your agent. Understanding the WIIFM (What’s in it for me?) gives you the ability to relate the coaching directly to the individual so that they have a reason to achieve their goal
  3. What do you feel is the reason you are not achieving (KPI HERE)?
    Why: You will often have a good idea of what the agent is struggling with after listening to a few calls however incorporating the feedback from the individual themselves is just as important. They can provide additional insights that you might have looked over
  4. Why do you think that happens?
    Why: Asking why is very important to get to the root cause of the problem, don’t stop at the first answer given. Always dig deep deeper by asking multiple whys until you have identified the root cause of the problem and a tangible item to action
  5. How can we overcome this problem?
    Why: This question will be followed by a coaching session to teach the agent a new technique/behaviour to overcome the problem identified
  6. What would you like to set for a goal prior to our next meeting?
    Why: Having your agent come up with their own personal goal whether it be numbers based, behaviour based or both is key. If you give your agent a goal to achieve, they won’t be as bought in to it as if they came up with the goal themselves.
  7. Can you achieve this goal that you set? Is it realistic?
    Why: Ensuring that your agent is confident that they can achieve this goal is important. If they don’t believe the goal is achievable, they won’t strive to meet it. Another good way to ask this question is to have your agent rate the achievability on a scale of 1 through 10 and anything less than a 10 means you need to go back to the drawing board to understand the hesitations
  8. What specific actions will you take to achieve your goal?
    Why: This is the tricky part, when you ask this question do NOT break the silence and give an answer or any hints. The agent must reflect on what they need to do differently in order to be successful. If the silence becomes unbearable, you may ask a different question to get the agent thinking about their learning style or what they’ve done in the past to be successful but do not give them the action itself. Giving you agent the action means that when it doesn’t work, it’s your fault not theirs.
  9. What is your commitment going forward?
    Why: Getting your agent to make a commitment to you is one of the most important parts to a coaching session. The commitments can vary but ultimately if you have the right buy in and found the WIIFM for the agent, they will be motivated to meet their commitments to you.
  10. What do you require for support from me to help you achieve this goal?
    Why: Coaching is a partnership and failure to hold up your end of the bargain could result in failure to meet the coaching plan. You need to show an investment in your agents and accountability as their leader to help them achieve their goals.

And there you have it. These questions are a great starting point but there are so many other important questions that can be included and used to find information and coach your agents to self-discovery. The questions will vary depending on the type of coaching and personal style of your agents but what’s important is that you are asking questions.