• Aaron Daffern

Beyond next steps


As a coach, I've navigated many coaching conversations. If I'm not careful, I'll find myself overusing a powerful but not always appropriate question to move the session toward the finish line.


"What are your next steps?"


Often, clients benefit from verbalizing action items they'll commit to and forward thinking is the right call. However, this is not always the case. When clients want to troubleshoot a problem or prioritize some competing initiatives, next steps might be the best move. Yet sometimes the conversation veers toward topics that don't always require immediate action. Sometimes clients need to step back and see the whole picture. Sometimes they need to dig deep and find their stake in a situation. It's limiting to go into coaching conversations with only one viewpoint - forward thinking.


If all I have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.


While coaching, sometimes it is appropriate to ask the client to look forward, visualizing their prospective actions.

  • What are your next steps?

  • What's the first thing you need to do to make this happen?

  • If you say Yes to this, what are you saying No to?

However, there are other directions that are just as powerful for coaches and clients to explore. Sometimes the best move is to look back, curating lessons from previous successes.

  • As you think back to similar situations, what has helped you before?

  • What have you learned from previous experiences that is influencing your thinking right now?

  • What successes from the past can you bring forward to apply to this current topic?

Other times, clients might benefit from zooming out and looking up. Myopic thinking can cloud any situation.

  • What patterns are you noticing as we discuss these elements?

  • What's the big picture here and how to you fit into it?

  • How does this situation fit into the larger story?

Finally, solutions sometimes come from looking within and examining the client's role in the current topic.

  • What's the real challenge here for you?*

  • What's your stake in this situation?

  • How are you showing up for this?

Coaches need a variety of tools in their interrogative toolbelt to best meet the needs of their clients. They can help their clients gain clarity by being able to quickly pivot in any direction.


*From Michael Bungay Stanier's The Coaching Habit

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