My Favorite Coaching Phrase

February 19, 2024

In The Art of Coaching workshop, we talk about the five “Coaching Survival Phrases.” The last of those is one of my favorite questions to ask a client:  Is there a question that would be helpful for me to ask you right now?


This question invites a client to step into their own expertise. When you ask this question, your client will likely share both the question and their response to it, making your job even easier. It’s also a great question to ask when you feel like none of your coaching strategies are working, you’ve asked every question, you keep hitting a brick wall or your client pushes back on your questions.

Here’s what this can sound like:


Teacher: I’ve tried everything with Tyrell! I’ve consulted with our special ed teachers, I’ve talked to his mother so many times, I’ve talked to his elementary school teachers also, and I’ve given him extra attention. I just don’t know what else to do. In my 18 years of teaching, I’ve never felt so challenged by a student. And he’s so far behind. I can’t imagine how he can catch up and be ready for 7th grade math. I don’t know what to do!


Coach: I’m curious what you hear yourself saying.


Teacher: I guess I’m hearing that I’m really struggling. That I’m frustrated. That I’m surprised that I’m feeling challenged like this.


Coach: What else are you hearing?


Teacher: I’m hearing that I’m sad. To be honest, I’m hearing that I’m heartbroken. That I feel powerless. I love Tyrell. He’s funny and sharp and a brilliant artist. I don’t know what to do.


Coach: Is there a question that would be helpful for me to ask you right now?


Teacher: Maybe you could ask me what else I could do? No, that’s not right. I feel like I’ve tried everything so don’t ask me that. Maybe you could say, “can you accept that you’ve tried everything and this is really hard?” Maybe you could ask me if I could take a few deep breaths. And yes, it would probably help if I took some deep breaths. And if I accepted that I have really, really tried to help Tyrell. And if I accepted that yes, I’ve been teaching for a long time and I’m still going to be stumped at times by how to help students. I guess I thought I knew so much that I won’t have this kind of challenge again.


Coach: How does it feel to ask yourself those questions?


Teacher: It’s hard. And also a relief. I think I need to take a step back and look at this situation with a little perspective.


Coach: What else?


Teacher: I didn’t realize how angry I was feeling—with everything. And how that might be affecting how I work with Tyrell. I’m just so frustrated with things in our district, and in our country, and maybe I’m feeling a little burned out on all of it. I think I overreacted about his mother. I know I snapped at Tyrell on the field trip—or I guess I should admit, I yelled at him. I probably would have done the same if a teacher had screamed at my kid.


Coach: That’s a lot. What are you hearing in what you’re sharing?


Teacher: I’m hearing that I need to slow down. Maybe even take a day off and get my head back on straight. I feel like I’m getting lost. This isn’t who I want to be.

In this dialogue, there are also a couple of my other favorite questions (“What do you hear yourself saying?”). And what you just read is an excerpt from my forthcoming book, available around August 1. 

More Blogs

View All Blogs

Do You Struggle with Disengaged Learners?

July 15, 2024

Years ago, I used to get really annoyed when I facilitated PD and saw people browsing Facebook during an activity or while I was giving instructions. Sometimes, they were shameless: I’d hover next to them, hoping my proximity would redirect them, but they didn’t stop. I’d ruminate on their rude behavior and design coercive strategies to try to control them, but those rarely worked. 

Read Article

Are You Avoiding the Conversation?

July 8, 2024

Many people experience fear when discussing equity. This fear is usually rooted in fear of loss of connection, which makes sense. 

Read Article

How to Savor Your Holiday

July 1, 2024

Researchers have found that the happiest people savor the good moments in life. By taking the time and spending the effort to appreciate the positive, we can experience more well-being. 

Read Article

Build a Stronger Team with One Move

June 24, 2024

Learn one move that will help strengthen your team.

Read Article

Bright Morning Podcast

View Podcasts

How to Coach Behaviors: The Gaps Framework

July 15, 2024

Coaching Behaviors: Planning for the Conversation

July 8, 2024

How to Coach Behaviors

July 1, 2024

How to Coach Beliefs: Coaching Demonstration

June 24, 2024

How to Coach Beliefs: Create New Beliefs

June 17, 2024

Coaching Beliefs: A Simple Three-Step Tool

June 10, 2024

How to Coach Beliefs: The Drama Triangle

June 3, 2024

How to Coach Beliefs: Five Things You Need to Know

May 27, 2024

Coaching Conversation: Coaching Core Human Needs

May 20, 2024

How to Coach Towards Agency

May 13, 2024

How to Curb Your “Fix It” Tendency

May 6, 2024

Core Human Needs and Coaching Conversations

April 29, 2024

How to Coach Ways of Being

April 22, 2024

Building Strong Coach/Admin Relationships

March 18, 2024

Sneak Peek #1: Inside Elena’s Newest Book!

March 25, 2024

Sneak Peek #2: Inside Elena’s Newest Book!

April 1, 2024

Sneak Peek #3: Inside Elena’s Newest Book!

April 8, 2024

Sneak Peek #4: Inside Elena's Newest Book!

April 15, 2024

What to Do When You’re Not Feeling Compassionate or Curious

March 11, 2024

What You Need to Know about Classroom Walkthroughs

March 4, 2024

How to Set Up Meeting Process Observers

February 26, 2024

Coaches of Color, It’s Time to Honor Your Needs

February 19, 2024

How to Use the Ladder of Inference in Your Coaching Conversations

February 12, 2024

I Don’t Want to Co-Sign THOSE Feelings.

February 5, 2024

Try It On: Supercharge Your Learning

November 27, 2023

Try It On: Let Your Coachee Lead

November 20, 2023

Try It On: The Power of Silence

November 13, 2023

Try It On: A Question to Unlock Our Power

November 6, 2023

Try It On: A Question to Surface Underlying Beliefs

October 30, 2023

Try It On: A Confidence Building Sentence Stem

October 23, 1987

Try It On: Less Talking, More Impact

October 16, 2023

Try It On: Learn from Your Coachee’s Non-Verbals

October 9, 2023

Try It On: Improve Your Communication with Non-Verbals

October 2, 2023

What You Need to Know About Taking Notes During Your Coaching Conversations

September 25, 2023

How to Prepare for a Coaching Conversation in Five Minutes

September 18, 2023

How to Set Goals with Your Coachees

September 11, 2023

How to Introduce Yourself as a Coach

September 4, 2023

How to Introduce Coaching to New Clients

August 28, 2023

The Six Elements of Transformational Coaching

August 21, 2023

The Six Most Important Things to Know If You're a New Coach

August 14, 2023

Proactively Mitigating and Responding to Harm in Group Spaces

August 7, 2023

Facilitating PD: Post-Event Reflection

July 31, 2023

Designing PD: Reflection Before the Event

July 24, 2023

Designing & Facilitating Team Meetings - Part 2

July 17, 2023

Designing & Facilitating Team Meetings: Part 1

July 10, 2023

Navigating Contagious Negativity

July 3, 2023

Can I Coach Here?

June 26, 2023

When Someone Is “Too Far Gone” for Coaching

June 19, 2023

When “Equity” is Prohibited

June 12, 2023

Coaching Conversation: Finding Your Power

June 5, 2023

Coaching Conversation: ACE In Action

May 29, 2023

Three Resilience Boosters You Haven’t Heard Before

May 22, 2023

The Role of “Self-Care” for Educators

May 15, 2023

What do we mean by “every conversation is an equity conversation?”

April 10, 2023

Coaching When You’re the Boss

April 4, 2023

Responding When Emotionally Activated

March 27, 2023

How to Build Your Team’s EQ

March 20, 2023

How to Close Your Coaching Conversations

March 13, 2023

How to Determine Your Coaching Conversation Area of Focus

March 6, 2023

Transformational PD Part 3: Responding to Resistance

February 13, 2023

Transformational PD Part 2: Six Transformational Tips

February 6, 2023

Transformational PD Part 1: What It Is and Why You Need It

January 30, 2023

Coaching Resistance: Part 3 - Coaching Demonstration

January 23, 2023

Coaching Resistance: Part 2 - Preparing OURSELVES

January 16, 2023

Coaching Resistance Part 1: What is Resistance?

January 9, 2022

How to Set Yourself Up For a Great Year

January 2, 2023

In Conversation with Dr. Dena Simmons

November 28, 2022

Disrupting Racism at the Dinner Table…And Beyond

November 21, 2022

Disrupting Racism in Coaching Conversations

November 14, 2022

Why We Need Affinity Spaces

November 7, 2022

Microaggressions 101

October 31, 2022

Coaching Conversation: The Final Conversation

September 26, 2022

Coaching Conversation: Phase 4: Build New Practices

September 19, 2022

Coaching Conversation- What Happens when You Trust the Process

September 12, 2022

Coaching Conversation: Building Relationships and Trust in Phases 1 and 2 of Transformational Coaching

September 5, 2022

Transformational Coaching in Action - Phase 1: Surface Current Reality

August 29, 2022

Limited Series: Starting the School Year Strong - Setting Yourself Up to Coach

August 22, 2022

Limited Series: Starting the School Year Strong Considerations for a Thriving Coaching Program

August 15, 2022

Limited Series: Starting the School Year Strong The PD You Need

August 8, 2022

Starting Strong: The Power of Vision

August 1, 2022

Do What You Can: In Conversation with Sharon McMahon of @SharonSaysSo

June 27, 2022

What to Read This Summer with Dr. Kimberly Parker

June 20, 2022

Coaching Joy

June 13, 2022

Coaching Sadness

June 6, 2022

Coaching Emotions: Anger

May 30, 2022

10 Strategies to Shift a Mood

May 23, 2022

It’s All In the Details

May 16, 2022

When Things Don’t Go According to Plan

May 9, 2022

Powerful Facilitation Starts and Ends With You

May 2, 2022

The PD Book Sneak Peek

April 25, 2022

What to Say: Listener Questions- Asked & Answered

April 18, 2022

Designing Your Racial Equity Learning Journey

March 28, 2022

What to Say: It’s Complex - What to Say as a Person of Color

March 27, 2022

What to Say: Compassion, Curiosity and Boundaries

March 18, 2022

What to Say: Here’s What to Say

March 16, 2022

What to Say: Evaluating What’s Possible

March 14, 2022

What to Say: The Role of Power in Addressing Racism

March 11, 2022

What to Say: The Power of Purpose

March 9, 2022

What to Say: A Framework for Responding to Racism

March 7, 2022

What to Say: Reckoning with Our Past

February 28, 2022