Asking Empowering Questions

Empowering questions are open-ended questions that invite students to consider, notice, and discover so that they form insights and engagement. Empowering questions lead to clarification, consider a new perspective, generate movement, elicit feedback, and connect to the student’s needs.

Setting Goals

  • If you knew you’d succeed, what else would you do?
  • If you were to raise the bar, what would it look like?
  • What’s the big picture?

Breaking Down Barriers

  • What’s stopping you?
  • In an ideal world, how would you face this problem?
  • What would motivate you to change?
  • What would it cost you if things remain the way they are?

Expanding Options

  • What is possible?
  • What impact would you like to have?
  • What are your choices?
  • What would be possible if you did not censor yourself?

Eliciting Wisdom

  • What might you do differently next time?
  • When you’re at your best, what’s different?
  • What do you really want?


  • What do you want?
  • What’s important about that?
  • What are you excited about?
  • What is your intention?
  • What are you overlooking?

Clarifying Values

  • What do you care about in this situation?
  • What value does this experience have for you?

Getting Support

  • Who can help you with that?
  • What can you delegate?
  • What request can you make?
  • If you knew they’d say yes, who would you ask for help?

Managing Feeling Overwhelmed

  • What can you stop tolerating?
  • What are you doing now that’s working?
  • If you only focused on one thing, what would it be?
  • What can you say “no” to so that you can make room for what’s important?

Validating Student’s Experience

  • I hear what you’re saying.
  • That’s a really good point.
  • I can see why it felt that way.
  • I’m hearing you say this, am I am understanding you correctly?

Building an Action Plan

  • How can I help? How do you plan to achieve that?
  • How can you break that down into smaller steps?
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how committed are you to this plan?
  • How can I help?

Adapted from “Coaching for Transformation: Pathways to Ignite Personal & Social Change” by Lasley, Kellogg, Michaels, and Brown. As faculty at Leadership that Works, they certify coaches who offer personal, organization and community transformation. Check out the free Power of Coaching teleclass.

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