Asking Questions

March 4, 2013

Coaching Tips, Leadership Insights, Self-Improvement

Good questions lead to amazing answers — answers that can astound you and the person you asked, and can lead to leaps in success — yours, theirs and the organization’s.  Bringing a coach approach is easier than it may sound, and leads to enormous gains.  Here’s some helpful tips:


  • Ask open questions — in other words, questions that require more than a “yes” or “no” response. This leads to dialogue without an accusatory tone and builds a comfortable rapport.  To watch this technique in action, watch an experienced journalist on a panel news discussion.
  • Ask questions one at at time — when we get into an interesting stream of thought, our questions pile up.  But, asking more than one at once can confuse the listener, and can lead them down our path of thinking, rather than theirs.
  • Be curious — don’t fish for an answer.  Bad questions fish for the answer you want, really good questions are based on curiosity.  It helps to start the question in your own mind with “I’m curious about….”
  • Be comfortable with silence — being asked an insightful question often requires time to articulate an answer.  Compassionate silence leads to great insight.  If your question was based on curiosity, the silence will be compassionate.  If the question was fishing, the silence will be accusatory.
  • Interject with another question when necessary — sometimes you’ll face the opposite of silence — the other person will begin to ramble.  Try interrupting with a thoughtful, curious question.  Most people don’t mind interruptions that allow them to continue talking and help them focus on the issue.
  • Repeat back what you’ve heard — it shows the other person that you are engaged and listening, and it confirms you are both on the same page.   This is when you may use a “yes” or “no” question to make sure you’re understanding.

Experienced executive coaches use insightful questions to help their clients achieve great things.  Bringing a “coach approach” of asking questions to your organization can help do the same thing.

Patrick O’Reilly, EDGE 3 Contributor

Patrick is a Certified Executive Coach and Owner/Principal Consultant of Padraig Coaching & Consulting based in Winnipeg, Manitoba.  For more information, visit