BLUECASE in Forbes: 14 Important Questions To Ask Your Business Or Career Coach

March 05, 2018

Originally published on Forbes.com on February 22, 2018.


If you've ever found yourself struggling on your professional path, you may have considered hiring a business or career coach to help get you on the right track. A good coach will listen to your concerns, give you an honest assessment of your weaknesses, and help you leverage your strengths to maximize opportunities.

If you decide to hire a coach, you've taken the first step toward greater professional fulfillment and success. However, this person isn't a mind reader; you must be willing to work with them, and part of that is asking the right questions.

Based on their experiences with clients, 14 members of Forbes Coaches Council each shared one important question to ask your business or career coach to get the most out of your relationship with them.

14 Important Questions To Ask Business Coach
All images courtesy of Forbes Councils members.

1. 'In What Ways Am I Resistant To Coaching?'

Those who progress most quickly in coaching are those who are most willing to be coached. It's a high-level skill to hear feedback and apply it quickly. Often it takes clients months to "get over themselves" to hear real feedback. Seeing your own blind spots is one of the greatest benefits of coaching. Those who are really willing to take a look advance more quickly in any endeavor. - David Butlein, Ph.D., BLUECASE Strategic Partners

2. 'How Can You Help Me?'

There are a lot of business and career coaches out there, which makes it hard to differentiate between the good and the bad. A good question to ask is, "How can you help me?" The reason to ask this question is to have an understanding of their skills and capabilities in working with clients. You also want to know what outcomes they've been able to achieve. - Dr. Venessa Marie Perry, Health Resource Solutions, LLC

3. 'Can You Tell Me About A Time When You Pushed A Client Out Of Their Comfort Zone?'

One of the questions I think is critical is about being direct and providing useful feedback. I have clients who have asked me how I will call them out on their inaction. They are not looking for a coach who is just "nice." They want someone who will push them. Ask your coach how they will be direct and if they can provide some examples of a time when they had to really push a client. - Kathy Lockwood, Blue Water Leadership Coaching

4. 'Have You Worked With People In My Business Universe?'

A great coach asks questions and listens carefully to understand you, your blind spots and how to best help you "pull up the window shades." Business coaches who understand your industry and your company's place within its larger ecosystem can be huge assets by prompting you to see things in a usable way and combining your instincts, your experience and their knowledge from the field. - Karyn Gallant, Gallant Consulting Group

5. 'How Many Businesses Have You Helped Create?'

The business coaching field is oversaturated with people who may or may not have been successful in their own businesses. It's really easy to get caught up in pretty pictures and branding or guarantees that they will help you make six figures in a few months. I see so many people fall into this trap only to find that the coach has no real background in building businesses other than their own. - Kerissa Kuis, The University of Wellness

6. 'How Do You Define Success?'

It's important to understand how your business or career coach defines success. Credentials, background and experience are important, but so is understanding what defines success. Is success a metric or a feeling? Some coaches offer a tangible report card while others are more driven by feelings or surveys -- understanding how your coach defines success is important. - Maresa Friedman, Executive Cat Herder

7. 'How Would You Handle Telling Me I'm Wrong?'

The beauty of having a coach is that they are the one person in your life who cares more about what you want for yourself than your comfort. Your coach is the person who shines a light on your actions and can point out your blind spots. This can be uncomfortable and even make some clients mad at times. A powerful coach is someone who pushes you out of your comfort zone so you can grow. - Aaron Levy, Raise The Bar Consulting

8. 'How Did Coaching Change Your Life?'

Knowing how coaching has positively influenced your coach's life is a fantastic way to better understand their approach, passion and engagement in their own development. To understand how their own life has changed strengthens the coaching/client relationship in powerful ways, keeps humanity at the center, and empowers both client and coach to consistently practice their development. - Tonyalynne Wildhaber, The Courage Practice

9. 'How Will You Know If I'm the Right Client For You?'

We frequently assume that only the client screens for the right coach. However, a successful coach also screens for the right clients. They know the type of client with whom their method works best and the type to avoid. Ask them about the personality and communication style with which they work best. Inquire about their deal-breakers and their ideal client. Screen for a match on both sides. - Loren Margolis, Training & Leadership Success LLC

10. 'What Can I Do To Change?'

This one's really hard for people to ask and it's even harder for them to do -- make meaningful, positive changes. But that's why essentially you hire a business or career coach. Your career coach cares and wants the best for you. Now if that's the case then welcome the changes your coach asks you to make and work on them. They may not be easy but they will be worth it. - John M. O'Connor, Career Pro Inc.

11. 'How Will You Help Me Define Success For Myself?'

If you're working with a coach to advance your career or business, you likely want to be more successful. A good coach will support you in clarifying how you want success, what it looks like for you and why you want it. These insights are the bedrock of a positive and productive coaching relationship. Asking a coach how she'll help you tackle those questions will tell you a lot. - Carroll Welch, Carroll Welch Consulting

12. 'What Is Your Process?'

A suitable business or career coach will have a defined process for how they intend to work toward your goals. If the coach is unable to answer that question with a documented, strategic plan to get you where you're looking to go or on to the next step in your development, this may not be the right choice. Continue your search, there are some great coaches out there. - Kenneth Johnson, East Coast Executives

13. 'Can I Speak To Other Clients About Their Experience With You?'

Ask for contact information of previous clients. Why? So you can find out what the actual experience of their clients was and the results they received. It's like doing your due diligence. Contact at least three previous clients. Ideally, they have recommendations on their LinkedIn profile and you can contact those people directly. - Christine Hueber, ChristineHueber.com

14. 'Can You Tell Me How To Best Manage My Personal And Professional Life?'

An average person spends an inordinate amount of time achieving, directing and chasing deadlines, presentations, meetings, and so much more. In the process, they forget to manage their most important asset: their life -- both the work and the non-work aspects of it. Nothing is more important because people who are good at managing their lives and themselves invariably do better at work. - Gaurav Bhalla, Author of Awakening A Leader's Soul: Learnings Through Immortal Poems