Coaching (leading, teaching, parenting) is NOT about powerful questions

Phillip Cave
Published in
3 min readJul 4, 2021


Fish in a fish bowl above the ocean
Metaphor of fish in fishbowl floating in hot air balloon above the ocean — Canva Pro

You’re excited to begin your coaching journey and a little nervous. You may wonder to yourself and out loud to others, “how do I do this powerful question thing I keep hearing about?!”

You try not to panic or “mess it up” the first time you ask “powerful questions” with a client.

Or, you are the adventurous, somewhat arrogant type who wonders to yourself, “I got this, no problem!” Powerful questions for you are “second nature.” And so you rattle off one question after another. Sometimes you compound questions to show your “brilliance.”

Or, you are the “coaching formula” person who believes that all you have to do is stick to your preferred coaching model. The model will “save you,” you think.

Wherever you are in your coaching arc experience, the perspective I offer here is… let go of your “powerful questions.”

I am someone who is a reform(ing) “I got this” coach. Letting go has been and is a journey.

Like many things in life, grasping and clinging to concepts or constructs is where we “get in trouble.” Whatever “get in trouble” means.

And that is the point — discovering what <fill in the blank> means.

We, humans, live in metaphor. We humans predictably make meaning “all the time.” Whatever “all the time” means.

When you let go of “powerful questions,” questions become powerful.

Why? Because you stop focusing on the construct, and you focus on the human in front of you.

The human in front of you is a “gift” and offers their own metaphorical constructs — The manufactured meaning (inner world) in which all humans live.

Your task, should you choose to accept it, dear “coach,” “leader,” “teacher,” “parent,” is to wonder about that metaphorical landscape. Marvel in it, reveal it, and ask the human in front of you to make sense of their landscape. (This message will self-destruct in five seconds).

This writing is “chock-full” of metaphor. Tap into the human metaphorical world. You don’t have to manufacture metaphors as part of your coaching either; the human in front of you is doing it all on their own.

Coaching asks us to be real in our humanity. It’s ok not to know. It’s ok to be silent. It’s ok not to be the brilliant coach. It’s ok to wonder and get it wrong. Whatever “get it wrong” means.

When we let go of our grasping, the natural wonder of being human with another human presents itself. We move from “expert” to “co-partner.” Coaching has us be someone who is a “reflective inquirer,” a “partner,” and someone who loves the human right in front of us.

Consider dropping all your powerful questions and instead call forth the human’s world, so they see it, make sense of it, and in the sense-making, invite them into conscious action.

If someone had said that last paragraph to me in coaching school, it would have made no sense to me :-)… So ya gotta practice tuning into YOU — your metaphorical landscape.

Question your constructs, your inner world, and create your own “aha moments.” In what metaphorical landscape do you dwell? Pay attention to your language as you speak it. Wonder about every word that comes out of your mouth (in your thoughts). Begin “coaching” yourself and question your manufactured meaning factory that you call “you.” When you feel ready, then practice with other humans. A universe opens up to you to reveal your client's (student’s, team’s, child’s) world in service to their wisdom.

Good luck! (whatever that means)

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Phillip is someone fascinated by the animal that calls itself human. And so he leads a practice that he calls DearHuman.LIFE. Dear Human serves the purpose of writing, podcasting, teaching, and guiding humans on the nature of being human. So that all humans live into their own sense of freedom from the constructs they enslave themselves to.