Day 5 of How to Start a Coaching Conversation Like a Master Coach (The Mixtape):

By Toku

Five Questions I Stole from the World’s Best Coaches, Why They Work, and How to Use Them to Start Powerful Coaching Conversations Today!

Today our little OPEN phase series on how to start a coaching conversation like a master coach comes to an end, with my favorite question: “What would you like?”

I had to answer this question at the start of almost every single coaching conversation I had with my coach Jeff Riddle. Part OPEN phase question, part DROP question, I learned to love and hate it as client and as coach. But in learning why the question worked and how to use it, I also learned how to avoid the pitfall we see almost every single coach make when they first enter the Dojo…

Master Coaching Awesome OPENs Track / Question 5: What would you like? (Carl Bucheit)

Why it works: If you ask 100 coaches what the point of coaching is you’ll get 100 different answers, but when you boil those 100 answers down, you end up with a few simple concepts, central among them being Freedom. Our jobs as coaches is to help our clients get what they want. Of course sometimes they don’t really want what they say they want, but this is beside the point. It is almost impossible for a coach to do their work if they don’t know what the client wants.

And yet I can’t even tell you how many sessions I’ve watched where neither the coach nor the client knows what the client wants. Now don’t get me wrong. You can certainly sit in inquiry and discover desire. There’s a lot of coaching that’s very much this.

But at the end of the day I would bet that 90% of bad coaching is a coach and client wandering around inside a client’s mind without direction or a coach shoving a client through a system or process without really knowing what the client wants. And sort of like a computer if you put junk into the coaching process you tend to get junk out.

This is why this question is my favorite OPEN/DROP question of them all. It works on two simple principles:

  1. If you want to know what someone wants, ask them.
  2. We tend to add extra energy to words like want, need, crave, desire, but when we decide what we would like, we merge both the lean of desire with the softness of discernment.

This question takes the stance that life is like ordering off a menu. Anything is possible on the menu, we simply have to decide what we would like.

In addition it works so well because most people are great at telling people what they don’t want (stress, their partner to complain, 10 lbs of fat, etc.) but they are less good at saying what they actually do want.

This questions starts the client at the simple place of desire and asks them to choose. Of course the process doesn’t stop there. Jeff would often follow this question with questions like:

  • What would having that do for you?
  • What might you lose that you value when you can have what you want?
  • And what would having that do for you?

But “What do you want?” gets the ball rolling in a powerful and simple way.

Why I love it: Every single bad-to-mediocre coaching conversation I have ever watched would have been improved by the insertion of this simple question. A coach and client lost in the weeds can be returned to reality by the question, and a process gone deeply off the rails can be returned to the tracks with this question.

It is so simple and so foundational, and yet creates an opening wherever it goes. Providing of course that you actually get the client to answer the question, which at times might take entire sessions.

But the lightness of it embodies so much of what I love when I watch a master coaches. Watch any great performer. While it may be the flashy moves that stand out, it’s the complete mastery of the fundamentals that lies as foundation of their practice. And this question serves as a keystone of any master coach’s skill set.

How you can use it: Just start asking it at the beginning of the coaching conversation and don’t choose to create a DROP until you have an answer. If you are a new coach, I urge you to take on this practice as an absolute for 6 months to a year. It’s not that there aren’t naturally intuitive coaches that can skip over this step, it’s just that most people who claim they coach by intuition look more like they’re trying to bowl with bumpers, but someone put the rails down.

Of course any answer to this question won’t be complete, but it is a good place to start. As you deepen your practice you’ll learn to hold the tension of accepting and starting with what the client says they want, while also probing and discerning what the client actually wants.




If you loved it, I’d love if you comment on it, share it, or email me and tell me what you liked about it. If you’re confused by any of the points, please don’t hesitate to ask me some questions as well.

I also want to point out that the level of analysis I offered in these questions was only possible because I used the simple but powerful tools of the Coaching Canvas to study these master coaches. We created the Coaching Canvas to help coaches learn how to study, improvise, recreate, and vastly improve the way they coach. Get your free copy here.

If you want to learn more about how to make your coaching sessions as powerful as the world’s best and most successful coaches, on Tuesday, November 27, at 3pm Eastern, join us at the Micro-Dojo Webinar called:

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(How to prevent brain dead coaching sessions that go nowhere.)

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