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Borrow my favourite coaching questions

Coaching is everywhere… 

Everyone does coaching in everyday life some way or other, whether they know it or not.

I know many of you have (or should be having!) coaching conversations (even if that’s not how you would describe them) with your teams, peers and sometimes even your families and friends.

So, to help make your coaching conversations easier, I’m sharing the coaching questions from one of my favourite toolsREACH. It offers a sophisticated yet simple approach to guiding coaching conversations to help empower individuals and teams to reach potential.

REACH stands for:

  • R = rapport: build a foundation for engagement and trust
  • E = explore: deeper questions – possibilities rather than problems
  • A = action: identify opportunities and determine the way forward
  • C = clarify: clarify what is important and worthwhile in the change
  • H = honour: support self-belief and that change is possible
A screengrab of the REACH pocket reference intro. Iyt says: 'FIRE UP Coaching developed the REACH model in response to the need for organisations (initially in Health) to have a holistic and humanistic approach that was sophisticated but simple. REACH gives leaders and coaches a robust approach that can be utilised powerfully for individual clients or organisational roll outs.'

My 10 years of REACH

When I decided to add leadership and career coaching to my business, the first thing I did was ring my own coach, the fabulous Corrinne Armour. I asked her where she had done her training. Corrinne led me to the equally fabulous Kathy McKenzie, the founder and CEO of FIRE UP Coaching.

I did my coach training with FIRE UP Coaching in 2013 (or thereabouts) and have been using the REACH framework for coaching conversations ever since.

Kathy developed REACH in 2008 for a large health sector client that ‘needed a coaching model that was sophisticated enough to enable the depth of conversations that arise in the health context but practical enough to roll out on a large scale’.

At the time the GROW model (goal, reality, options and wrap-up) had been the popular coaching conversations tool for almost two decades. FIRE UP’s health sector client noted that ‘the model jumps straight into goal setting without acknowledging how critical rapport is to the success of a coaching relationship’.

Today, REACH and GROW are both popular coaching tools.

I'm standing in front of a large, white notepad on a standing writing the 'ground rules' for a workshop. You can see the back of my curly head and arm. I'm wearing a black dress with little white flowers.

Questions you can use to improve coaching conversations

You can pick and choose which questions to use, depending on the situation. Although I do think it’s important to start with ‘rapport’ as it is the foundation for creating engagement and trust.


The rapport-building stage is where you agree on the conversation’s direction and ideal results.

Any kind of rapport is underpinned by your own self-awareness, the ability to focus on them. The key is genuine curiosity and authenticity. You really want to know how the person is and what’s happening with them. You might also share how you are feeling and what you are up to as well, as sharing builds rapport.

Go-to questions:

  • How are you?
  • What’s happening in your world?
  • What’s going on for you right now?
  • How are you feeling?
  • What’s the best use of our time today?


As I say to most of my clients or potential clients, my role as a coach is to ask a lot of questions!

The ‘explore’ part of the coaching conversation is about going deeper. The quality of the questions determines the quality of the answers. The best questions are solution-focused – possibilities rather than problems.

Go-to questions:

  • What does success look like for this challenge?
  • What do you want?
  • What are some ways you could get it?
  • How would you need to be different to get what you want?
  • How will you know if you’ve got it?
  • What will a clear outcome look like, or feel like?


After exploration – identifying possibilities and opportunities – it’s then time to determine the way forward. Goals should be SSMART – or as SSMART as possible.

For example, I recently had a discussion with a client about balance and increasing the focus on self and learning. Their SSMART goal was to leave work at 5pm on Tuesday and Wednesday to go to (a) a ‘shut up and write’ session and (b) yoga class and to send me a photo of something on their walk to each of these activities.

What is SSMART?

  • Stated in positive language: ‘what do you want?’, rather than ‘what you don’t want?’
  • Specific: easily understood and so specific it only has one interpretation
  • Measurable: has a concrete measure that’s tangible
  • Agreed: something you agree to, rather than something put to you*
  • Realistic: able to be done and fits with values
  • Time bound: has a date to be done or review the action or outcome

*Note: the ‘A’ in SSMART has a number of different interpretations. I use ‘agreed’ as I think ‘achievable’ is akin to the ‘R’ in SSMART (realistic) and it helps to ensure buy-in.


Help them recognise their value and the benefit in the changes they are planning. This clarifies what is important and worthwhile in the change.

Go-to questions:

  • What is really important about achieving this goal/outcome?
  • What is the value in achieving this goal/outcome?
  • What are the consequences of not doing anything?
  • How will your life be different if you achieve this?


Great coaching is about supporting self-belief. Support them in believing change is possible. Listen deeply to connect and validate. Honour who they are and their willingness to grow and learn. Their answers may not be what you expect.

Go-to questions:

  • From the conversation we had today, what is your fresh thinking?
  • What has been most useful about our conversation today?
  • I know you have it in you to do…
Have you used coaching in everyday life?
If so, I’d love to hear from you. And if you do give my favourite coaching questions a go, don’t forget to tell me about it. Let me know what did and didn’t work for you. I’m always looking for feedback and ideas.

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