How to use the power of right questions to gain clarity

5 self-coaching questions to guide you

Do you know what is the one skill people ‘with all the answers’ lack?

You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions.

Image Courtesy: Sebastien Marchand/


The ability to ask the right questions.

I have been coaching healthcare professionals for some time. Much of my coaching is about Improvement Science. So they can improve how patients are cared for. But you can’t help it – some of what I share trickles into people’s personal and professional outlook. It can’t help but inspire them to become better, nudge them to ask for more from themselves.

In fact, the person most positively affected by the coaching process is myself. Because teaching is the best mode of learning. When I share, I reinforce what I know, gain clarity on muddy-points and re-evaluate my assumptions.

I have had the privilege of receiving coaching from some really exceptional people. They have influenced my thinking, not by directing me down a certain road, or by “advising me what to do”. They have shone the light by asking me the right questions.

Recently, I attended a training program where I internalized the power of coaching questions. As I listened to each question, a flurry of thoughts would arise and take me down a path of deep reflection. As a result of this process, a few things happened:
1. I was able to distinguish between the essential and non-essential when evaluating any situation.
2. I engaged in possibility-thinking instead of problem-thinking.
3. I gained more clarity on my long-term priorities (so as not to be blinded by the tyranny of the urgent)
4. I was able to stand back and look at things I didn’t know that I didn’t know.

Let me share a few of those coaching questions with you.

When you come to a crossroad, struggle with a decision or run into a problem, use these questions as flashlights to show you the way forward. While I cannot guarantee that you will find a solution immediately, you definitely will broaden and deepen your ability to think. And that should surely take you eventually to your solution.

The Miracle question:

“Imagine you wave a magic wand and turn your situation around, and now the solution or right decision has magically appeared. What’s the first thing you would notice, that would tell you the solution has appeared?”

This question helps you crystallize the picture of the ideal destination you seek.

The Scaling question:

“On a scale of 1- 10 with 10 representing the complete solution and 1 represents the problem at its worse, where would you say you are now? If you are a 7, what does an 8 look like? Why aren’t you a 4? What have you done to be at the number you are at? What would be different if you were 0.5 or 1 point higher?”

This question provides insights into the path you are travelling and how you are progressing.

The Transition question:

“What’s the first thing I can do right now that’s in my control?”

This question is helpful in moving from endless speculation and debate into constructive action. Taking action….some action….any action…solves half of all problems.

The Elegant ‘Instead’ question:

When you find yourself in ‘shouldland’ (“I should be doing this; I should not be doing that”), insert an “instead” and ask, “…So how would I like to be/ do instead? What would I be/do instead?”

This question puts control back in your hands by pointing to your power of choice.

The Suppose question:

“Suppose an outsider were to see your situation (in its current state or as solved), what would he notice as a third person?”

This question really gets you to step outside yourself and see your situation from a new perspective. Without the tinted glasses of your emotions. It brings objectivity to your thinking and helps make much better calls.

Use these questions to the problem, challenge or situation you are facing right now. Make them your thinking tools.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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