What happens when a Coach is challenged to supply an answer ? (As posted by me on Linkedin )

In most training programs for peer coaches and mentors the curricula focuses on their ability to understand and support the peers, partners and clients with whom they interact. A common element of most coach training manuals, for example, is an emphasis on listening skills and an admonition to stay in the listening role and refraining from giving answers or advice.

But what happens when the partner or client directly asks, “What would you do if you were in my shoes?” “How would you handle this situation?” or “What do you think I should do about this?” In other words, what happens when the peer coach or mentor is being challenged to supply an answer or some advice? How would you handle it personally ?

Renouned Coaches and Trainers in their own right have shared their insight on this question :-

Answers :
 Ray Miller
 (Energy expert, educator, award winning sculptor)

If it is really not a good idea to give an answer and it really is best to have the coachee work it out themselves I usually say something like, “Well describe for me the options in detail, with the pros and cons laid out.
Often during that process the light will go on for the coachee and they know what they need to do.
If it is acceptable for me to give an answer I do. BUT typically not one.
In these cases I often offer a couple of options AND their pros and cons and work with the coachee to still have them make a choice.
If I am still pressed for an answer I have actually said on a couple of occasions, you get paid for the answers, I get paid to train you to know what the answer is. IF you want me to answer I will but then I am doing you job and would appreciate getting your salary………

Scott Byorum
(Author, Artist, Director of Business Development)


I think it is ok to pass out a little opinion or direction in certain conditions, but a more effective way is to ask a question to the question in order to steer the decision making process back to the person being coached:

Q: “What would you do if you were in my shoes?”
A: “Well, let’s examine the facts of the situation again together so you can come up with the best course of action…” (state facts and ask their opinion about each one… the idea is to help them break the situation down into the steps that lead into a solid decision)

It would be prudent to point out that this is their decision ultimately to make to avoid from them resorting to your opinion in the future or retaliating against you for bad advice.

– Scott
 Bjorn Martinoff
(Senior Executive Coach, Global Trainer & Consultant)

Here are some options you have as a coach, and all will depend on the situation, no two coaching sessions are ever he same and that’s the beauty of coaching. There is always something new.

1) Acknowledge the question and make the coachee aware that it is much more powerful for herself to come up with the answer. As a coach I don’t want my coachee to become dependent on me giving the answers. Coaching is asking good questions. Giving advice is not bad however its not coaching. A mentor could give advice or a friend could give advice.
As coaches we have a distinct role to fulfill.

2) Check the emotional state of being of your coachee. He/she may not be in a powerful and resourceful state of being at that moment and this in itself than presents itself as a coaching opportunity. Get them into a more powerful state and than explore the question again

3) Check the level of confidence of your coachee and help them access a confident state of being. Again this is a coaching opportunity.

4) The bottom line is that as a coach I see my clients as whole and complete and capable of answering any question. My job as a coach is to guide them through questions in filtering out that one answer that will work for them. In the end the coachee is the expert in her life and her career and I am an expert at asking good questions. When at the end there is an answer that the coachee has chosen powerfully and that will work in her life, than we have succeeded.

Please remember that after a coaching session the coachee should not only have clarity but also more confidence in himself.

If your coachee is already in a powerful state have him lay out all the options at hand than explore the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats for each option.

You can even go as far as ranking each area in terms of importance and add them up. This will provide much insight, clarity, confidence and power.

Barry Goldberg

(Executive and Leadership Coach/ Team Catalyst)
Hello Shalini,

I think you have gotten some good counsel here, so I will address the question from a different point of view.

To my mind, this is a very dangerous question. It is either an indication that the client does not understand the nature of a coaching relationship or that s/he does not have proper respect foer the boundaries. It is, in short, a test. Answering it directly changes the relationship I have with my client (sorry, but I despise the term “coachee”). If I answer the question, I fundamentally undermine the integrity of the coaching relationship- and I turn myself into a consultant. Answering undermines the client’s trust in their own judgment and shifts the accountability for answers to the coach. It mya relieve the client’s temporary stress and feed the coach’s ego- but the longer term effects are much more damaging. So, what would I do?
I would vary my style for handling these things depending on the nature of my history and relationship with the client, but here is the path I would walk down:

1. Remind the client that his answers are the ones that matter- perhaps by asking what he wants to learn from what I would do.

2. Confirm that I will not answer in order to sustain the integrity of the relationship.

3. If it is not clear, prompt for distinctions about the emotional upset. Why is this issue so much harder than others? I often find that the root of such a stymie is a client’s attempt to address an emotional issue with logic or some other disconnect of domains. I want to be certain that the client understands the real challenge(s).

4. Once we have addressed the anxiety of the challenge, then we can begin to break the issue down in a practical coaching manner, maybe by brainstorming possibilities.

Good luck

 Frank (Francesco) S. Adamo
The Godfather of Effective Communications

Interesting, I was mentoring someone and she asked “What should I do?” I had been waiting for her to ask “What would you do?” She never did. I would’ve done something different.
If the person is a personal friend who is asking for advice, then I might consider saying what I would do, but even then, I would be very careful how I would offer my advice.
But to answer your question, I would say “I can’t answer that question,” especially if you’re being paid as a coach. First, if you say what you would do and he/she decides to do what you would do and the results are not good, could he/she take legal action against you? I’m not sure. That’s one reason I would refrain from answering the question.
Secondly, I would advice him/her that I do not know the actual people and the exact situation you are involved in, and what I would do may not and most likely would not be proper unless I was in your shoes. I then would continue to say that as your coach, I’m here to help you to clarify your situation and help you to decide what you want to do. If I interject what I would do, I would not be acting as your coach. I’m here to assist you in finding your own solution.

Hope that helps a bit.
 Ramon Ruiz
Senior Sales and Leadership Techniques Expert Designer.

I do one of the following
A. I give the answer.
B. I give him that kind of look, like saying “we both know that you know… please, c’mon”.
C. I say “I don’t know, it’s your business, not mine.”
D. I tell an example of another client in his same situation that has already solve the same problem.


Clarification added 8 hours ago:
…and please, don’t follow exactly what in those trainings tell you.
Build your own style with your clients, with your practice.

 George Anderson, MSW, BCD, CEAP
Anger Management/executive Coaching for Physicians


This is quite common. The answer comes with experience. It is critical that the coach is at all times in charge of the coaching session.

Regardless of the clients questions, it is the coach who determines the response. It is best for the answers to emerge from the interaction between the coach and the client rather than a direct response to the participant.

Coaches who are clinically trained interviewing have many opportunities to develop skills in art of listening and assertive communication.

Thanks for your question.

Akash Chander
Country Service Manager at LogicaCMG, Coach and Trainer

As a coach, it is easy for me to get into a counselor`s or a consultant`s role. And that`s a trap. I have come across this situation plenty of times and I handle it in the following ways:

1) provide a direction but not the answer
2) ask more questions and help the coached to get more aware of his/her dilemma
3) find out how the coached could find the best person to answer the question
4) last but not the least, if it does mean giving an answer in the best interest of the coached, then go ahead and give it! no rule, method or process is as important as the interest and well being of the coached!
 Maria Marsala
Motivational Business Speaker & Business Strategist

Well, now you know why I added consulting to my ‘bag” of offerings.

The answer to the question, IMO, using coaching terms is: If you did know what to do , what would you do? or throw it back… If you were in my shoes in this situation, what do you think you’d do.
I do offer clients the situations I’ve been in and what I’ve done… or situations of clients (w/o using names, places, etc) and tell them what they’ve done.

And then I always say, it’s up to you.

Seem to have worked these past 9 years.


Author: Shalini Verma

Hi ! I am Shalini Verma and I help people to Achieve continuous inspiration and success , aid them to FREE energy from patterns and programmes that no longer serve them , partner with them to CREATE energy by putting into place regular work and life practices that are inspiring and sustaining and to MOBILIZE energy by taking intentional action into new oppurtunities and adventures . If you are ready to make inspiration and success your daily reality......then we are ready to go !

One thought on “What happens when a Coach is challenged to supply an answer ? (As posted by me on Linkedin )”

  1. Very lemony blog….

    “Hitting a stone repeatedly at the same place, so as to chisel it but, not break it”

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