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Learning & Development

53 powerful coaching questions to nurture employee growth & inspiration

Leapsome Team
53 powerful coaching questions to nurture employee growth & inspiration
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It may shock organizations that are eager to make their way out of the Great Resignation and hang onto their top talent, but our recent report found that a third of professionals are planning to change jobs within the next year. The most significant driving forces behind that reality are an unhappy workplace culture, a lack of development opportunities, and poor employee-manager relationships.*

Indeed, encouraging managers to integrate coaching practices into their roles — and investing in training to that end — is one way to proactively fight against turnover and foster an enjoyable work environment where team members thrive. However, many organizations don’t know how to facilitate that without creating thorough internal development materials or investing in fully-fledged external training, both of which take time and resources.

We’ve put together this guide to help managers begin integrating the coaching managerial style in their day-to-day work. We’ll discuss why coaching questions are so effective and break down three of the most-used coaching models in the business world. We’ve also included a free list of 53 excellent coaching questions you can download and use in your check-ins and meetings right away.

*Leapsome Workforce Trends Report, 2023

🦾 Effective coaching empowers employees

Put our selection of 53 coaching questions into action in your development meetings and guide reports toward their professional goals.

Download our questions

Why should managers ask coaching questions?

In the current world of work, employees want managers who act like coaches rather than bosses. According to Gallup research, there are three key distinctions between the two:

  • Empowerment — Coaches focus on giving team members what they need to succeed and prioritize their engagement, whereas bosses simply tell employees what to do.

  • Team management — Coaches excel at identifying individual employee strengths and leveraging them to obtain great results, whereas bosses focus on supervising.

  • Performance — Coaches establish clear expectations and proactively nurture a culture of continuous feedback, where bosses wait to speak up until someone’s performance needs improvement.

In addition, our 2023 Workforce Trends Report found that 75% of professionals want more feedback and recognition from their managers. This represents an important opportunity for team leaders to rethink the way they interact with their reports and renew their focus on individualized development and growth with more intention.

One effective way to become a better manager and embody a coaching management style in your professional life is to integrate coaching questions into 1:1 check-ins and development meetings, like those we outline below.

Free download: Top 53 coaching questions to ask employees

When considering how to best coach your team, a great place to start is coming up with an extensive list of coaching questions you can use in your discussions with individual reports. That way, you’ll be able to pick and choose which questions best fit the situation and align with the employee’s needs and preferences. We’ve put together this list of top coaching questions to give you a head start.

💭 Need help structuring your coaching sessions?

With our extensive list of 53 example questions, you can approach employee development conversations with confidence.

Download our questions

3 effective coaching models for people-centered managers

A photo of a professional talking to a colleague in a coaching session.

The GROW model, the CLEAR model, and the OSKAR model are three popular coaching models that can provide frameworks for managers’ 1:1 coaching sessions

There’s no single best way to coach employees. However, the following three coaching models are some of the most widely used in the business world. They can certainly act as useful reference points or sample frameworks when team leaders aren’t sure where to begin.

All these models are largely based on asking questions and listening within the context of coaching sessions. That spirit is worth keeping in mind as managers delve into their coaching journeys because, as Jonas Nienau wrote in an article for Medium, “Leadership is about enabling others. By asking, ‘How would you approach it?’ rather than ‘Do it like this!’ you give your peers a chance to think for themselves, build critical thinking skills, and learn.”

1. The GROW model

The GROW model is one of the most well-known frameworks for coaching, goal setting, and problem solving in the business world. The four-step approach was developed in the late 1980s and early 1990s by Sir John Whitmore, Graham Alexander, and Alan Fine and reached wide audiences as a result of Whitmore’s 1992 book Coaching for Performance

According to Certified Professional Coach John Polemis, the GROW model is ideal for helping team members improve their performance, resolve issues, make more effective decisions, learn new skills, work toward their professional goals and aspirations, and even develop leadership capabilities.

GROW is an acronym, which stands for

  • GoalWhat do you want? The manager and their report collaboratively establish a clear, specific goal. It should be precise, realistic, and relevant. 
  • RealityWhere are you now? Leaders and employees work together to assess their current circumstances. They identify the context they’re working within as well as consider any potential resources, challenges, and obstacles they have access to or may encounter.
  • Options What could you do? In some versions of the GROW model, this stage is called “obstacles.” Managers and team members come up with potential ideas, solutions, and options to help the report navigate their challenges and progress toward their objectives.
  • Will What will you do? This stage is sometimes referred to as “way forward.” Leaders and reports develop a concrete action plan that outlines the specific things the employee should do to work toward and ultimately achieve their goal.
💡 Teams may benefit from using the SMART goal framework (as well as our free, downloadable template) if they need help establishing clear, specific goals within the context of any of these coaching models.

Here are several example questions that would fit within the GROW coaching model:

Goal questions

  • What specific goal would you like to achieve?
  • What’s the bigger picture here?
  • Can you describe your goal in clear and measurable terms?
  • What’s the desired outcome you’re aiming for?

Reality questions

  • What’s your current situation or status in relation to your goal?
  • What resources or strengths do you possess that can help you achieve your goal?
  • Which obstacles or challenges are you facing in relation to your goal, if any?
  • What have you already tried in pursuit of your goal, and what were the results?


  • Without filtering them, what are the first options or ideas that come to mind in the pursuit of your goal?
  • What possible strategies or approaches could you implement to reach your goal?
  • Are there any limiting beliefs or assumptions that might be holding you back from achieving your goals?


  • When will you start taking action, and what will your first step be?
  • What are three actions that would make sense for you to take this week?
  • Do you need any support or accountability to help you stay on track with your goal?

2. The CLEAR model

The CLEAR coaching model was a product of Dr. Peter Hawkins’ work as a Professor of Leadership at the Henley Business School and expert in leadership development and coaching. It’s now especially popular in the world of executive and business coaching. The five-step framework focuses on goal setting, but works best for deep, transformational changes and mindset shifts rather than simpler short-term objectives. It’s meant to be used over a series of coaching sessions that last between 45 and 60 minutes.

CLEAR is an acronym, and each letter represents a different stage in the coaching process. Let’s break them down:

  • Contract — Managers and team members align on the goals, expectations, ground rules, and duration of the coaching sessions, which becomes a kind of ‘agreement’ or ‘contract.’
  • Listen — The coach prompts the employee to speak honestly and candidly about their goals, challenges, circumstances, and perspectives. They listen actively, ask open-ended questions, build rapport, and facilitate a psychologically safe environment where the team member feels comfortable speaking freely. 
  • Explore — Now that the manager better understands their report’s current mindset and situation, they can further discuss the individual’s strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities and brainstorm potential strategies or initiatives that would help them reach their goals. This stage may involve self-assessments and self-reflection questions as well as open-ended discussion prompts.
  • Action — It’s time to put all that discussion and reflection into action. Both the coach and the employee work together to come up with a solid action plan the team member can implement to work toward their objectives, including detailed steps, timelines, and resources.
  • Review — After the employee has started implementing their action plan, they should organize regular check-ins and assessments with their coach to monitor their progress and keep themselves accountable. The manager and the team member might use these meetings to evaluate how well the action plan is working and tweak it if need be, as well as exchange feedback and celebrate successes along the way.
💭 Pro tip: Leapsome’s Instant Feedback module empowers both managers and reports to exchange meaningful, candid feedback about goal progress and professional development goals outside the framework of performance reviews or formal coaching sessions.

Let’s take a look at some example questions that would fit in with the different stages of the CLEAR coaching model:


  • What are your specific goals for our coaching sessions?
  • What outcomes do you hope to achieve through coaching?
  • How often would you like to meet for coaching sessions, and what’s your preferred duration for each session?
  • What do you expect from me as your coach, and what can I expect from you?


  • Can you tell me more about your current situation and the challenges you’re facing?
  • What does success look like for you in this particular area of your work?
  • How do you feel about your progress toward your goals so far?
  • What emotions or thoughts are coming up for you as you think about your goals and challenges?


  • Have you encountered similar situations in the past, and if so, what strategies worked for you?
  • Can you think of any potential options or approaches to explore that would help you make progress?
  • Are there any underlying beliefs or assumptions that might be influencing your perspective on this issue? What are they?


  • What specific steps will you take to move closer to your goals?
  • What potential obstacles or challenges do you anticipate, and how will you address them?
  • Who can provide you with support or accountability as you work toward your goals?


  • What successes or achievements have you experienced since our last coaching session?
  • Have there been any unexpected challenges or setbacks, and how have you responded to them?
  • Based on your progress and feedback, is there anything you’d like to adjust or modify in your action plan?

3. The OSKAR model

Two professionals sitting down and talking in an informal coworking space.

For impactful coaching sessions, managers need to make employees feel comfortable being honest and vulnerable about their current situation and future aspirations

The OSKAR model is one of the newest frameworks on this list. Organizational theorists, coaches, and authors Paul Z. Jackson and Mark McKergow put it forward in their 2002 book The Solutions Focus: Making Coaching and Change SIMPLE. It’s a five-step, solutions-focused approach that’s often used for managerial and organizational coaching. Some regard the OSKAR coaching method as more conscious than other solutions-oriented models as it centers on helping people bridge the gap between where they are and where they’d like to be. It also emphasizes behaviors and ways of working just as much as actions.

Once again, OSKAR is an acronym, and the different letters represent different coaching stages:

  • Outcome — The coach facilitates a conversation with the employee so they can express what they want to get out of that specific coaching session. It should be stated in positive terms.
  • Scaling — Managers and reports use a scale from 1 to 10 to further narrow down, understand, and set employee objectives. The scale is an effective tool that illuminates where people are in relation to their goals and what they feel progress and achievement would look like.
  • Know-how — Coaches and employees work together to determine the skills, capabilities, and resources the individual currently has, as well as what they’ll need to achieve their goals.
  • Affirm and action — This stage is designed to give the employee confidence about their current circumstances and increase their motivation and drive to move forward toward their aspirations. Here, they should also establish the specific action steps they’ll take next.
  • Review — Team leads and reports get together to reflect on and monitor progress, discuss how to overcome challenges, and determine whether the action plan needs any adjustments.

Let’s consider some example questions: 


  • How will you know that this session has been successful?
  • How will it feel when we’re making progress?
  • How will you know that you’ve achieved your goal, and what will be different?
  • What positive changes will this outcome bring to your life or work?


  • On a scale from 0 to 10, where 0 represents no progress, and 10 represents you successfully achieving your outcome, where are you currently?
  • What would need to happen for you to move one step up on the scale?
  • What factors or indicators would let you know that you’ve made progress toward your desired outcome?
  • How confident are you in your ability to reach your goal on a scale from 0 to 10?


  • What knowledge or skills do you already possess that could be helpful in working toward your goal?
  • Can you think of any past experiences or successes that are relevant to this situation?
  • Who do you know that has faced a similar challenge, and what can you learn from their experiences?
  • What resources or support can you access that’ll assist you in achieving your desired outcome?

Affirm and action

  • What are you already doing that’s working well?
  • Tell me about a time when you successfully tackled a challenge. Would you approach a similar challenge the same way now, or differently? Why?
  • How can you apply your past successes and strengths to work toward your desired outcome?
  • What specific actions are you willing to take in the next week to make progress toward your goal?
  • What are the first five things you need to do to progress toward your goal?


  • How has your progress been since our last coaching session?
  • How have you done things differently since we last spoke?
  • What specific actions have you taken, and what were the results?
  • On a scale of 0 to 10, how has your position on the scale changed?
  • What adjustments or changes do you think might be necessary as you continue working toward your outcome?
✨ Pro tip: If you’re interested in expanding your repertoire of career development questions alongside coaching questions, we’ve got a dedicated article for that, too. It includes considerations you may want to discuss or ponder with employees, your organization, and even yourself.

Coach & develop your people with Leapsome

A screenshot of a Leapsome team dashboard interface.
Leapsome’s team dashboard overview means managers and team leaders can get a quick read on their coaching progress

All in all, coaching is a powerful approach to management that not only supports and guides team members toward their goals, but also fills in gaps in terms of what professionals are looking for in the current world of work. Employees are craving wider development opportunities, a more well-rounded approach to performance management, and richer, more individualized feedback and appreciation. Integrating elements of coaching — and coaching questions — into managers’ leadership styles can provide all that and more.

With holistic people enablement software like Leapsome, making the coaching management style a regular part of leaders’ day-to-day work can be both easy and streamlined. Namely:

  • Our Meetings module provides structure for 1:1 check-ins, empowers managers and reports to collaborate on agendas, and syncs conversations with established goals and recent feedback.

  • Our Instant Feedback module means employees can prompt colleagues for feedback that relates to their objectives to get a more nuanced view of their development.

  • Our Goals module allows managers and team members to establish goals collaboratively, track progress, and determine how they align with big-picture company objectives.

Because Leapsome strives to make work fulfilling for everyone, and enabling people to work toward their professional aspirations is a big part of that mission.

🦾 Coaching empowers team members to reach their goals

Leapsome has the tools managers need to effectively coach employees and support them in their personal and professional development.

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Leapsome Team

Written by the team at Leapsome — the all-in-one people enablement platform for driving employee engagement, performance, and learning.
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