Listening & Questioning – Keys to Good Executive Coaching

At the heart of good executive coaching is the art of listening and questioning.

However, research has found that a third of coachees believe that their coaches do not ask insightful questions and 26% stated they do not listen well and build upon their ideas throughout the conversation.




Listening patiently, attentively and objectively is a core skill in the art of coaching. Coaches who do it well considerably enhance the quality of the conversation with the coachee and therefore guide the process of discovery.


In order to do this well it is imperative to eliminate external and internal distractions and be present for the coaching.


Listen to what is said all of the way through before going on to something new.


Make sure that the coaching takes place where there are no interruptions and the person being coached doesn’t feel that there is a queue of people outside waiting for the coach’s attention.


The coachee’s agenda must prevail which means that even though the coach may identify an insightful topic to be explored, the coachee may not be interested in going there at that time and therefore the matter should be left until he/she is ready.


Silence is one of the great tools of coaching and the use of silence allows the coachee time to think which in itself is a key point of coaching.




Excellent coaches are passionately curious about their coachees but they also know the right questions to ask at the right time in the conversation.


The following are just some of the types of questions that may be useful in coaching.


Questions are often categorised in to the open, which illicit open ended answers, and the closed questions, which are from a definitive responses.


Situation questions are those that are fact gathering that usually begin with one the following six; what, when, why, how, where and who?


Motivational questions seek to understand the coachee’s motivations. What is important to them, what was their motivation priority etc.


Ideal outcome questions seek the coachee to look at an ideal future without constraints and to dream again.


Implication questions see clients to explore what would the consequences be of the coachee pursuing a particular line of actions.


Source: Terry Bacon, Laurie Voss. (2012). Adaptive Coaching. Nicholas Brealey International, London


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