The Power of using How questions

power of how questionsRecently, one of our mentoring clients was coaching on our group mentoring call, and we noticed a very powerful thing occur. The coach (thank you Laura) was using a lot of “How” questions.

The client was able to articulate her perceptions, behaviors, future self, and actions (to name a few). Karen and I were both struck by this, and wondered why we hadn’t been highlighting the power of using How questions sooner! Such is the life of continuous Learners!

We then looked to the PCC Markers (as we also do for the foundations of MCC skill level) and noticed many markers that benefit the client by asking How questions. Here are two markers and example questions:

Powerful Questioning: Marker 1, Active Listening: Marker 6

“Coach asks questions about the client; his/her way of thinking, assumptions, beliefs, values, needs, wants, etc.”

“Coach inquires about or explores how the client perceives his/her world.”

The intent of these two markers is similar; find out the thinking, assumptions and perceptions the client has about themselves, in their world.

Some examples of How questions

The great thing is most questions starting with How get to the internal thinking of the client, which we call the Who. This is an essential focus for those improving their PCC skills, and even more so for those moving toward the MCC credential skill level.

How do you stay motivated when you feel overwhelmed?

How has your thinking about this situation changed your behavior?

How does your perspective now fit with your core values?

How do you do that?

I hear a lot of your strengths at play in that story. How do you use them more fully?

I heard more energy in your voice as you said that. How does that inform you about your self-doubt?

How is the anxiety you describe, and your procrastination, related, if at all?

So when you are able to overcome your anxiety and get things done, how do you do that?

How does what you just shared relate to your desire to be a fair and firm leader?

How do you successfully solve a problem when under the pressure of a deadline?

So how did this get to be a gigantic problem, as you put it?

How do you measure success for yourself?

How do you decide when you’ve had enough?

How do you keep the fun alive in your team while meeting tight deadlines?

How would you generate more of that feeling of success for yourself?

How would you know when you’ve done your best work?

How would you remember to do that?

How long will you need to assess if the initiative is a success?

How far did you get toward your outcome versus where you started this session?

In Closing…

We hope you fall in love with asking more How questions as much as we have! Of course, many of these questions could begin with What. We invite you to experiment with both and notice the impact on your clients.

Are you preparing for your first or next ICF Credential?

Do you want to “Sharpen the Saw” as a Coaching Professional?

Start early with your mentoring requirements in the year of your renewal, especially if you plan to submit for your next credential instead of renew your current one. You will need to submit your application by mid August in order to accommodate the 18 week ICF process.

Our Mentor Coaching Group is approved for 23.5 ICF Core Competency CCE units! (including 10 hours of mentor coaching)

You can learn more here


Carly Anderson and Karen Boskemper offer an awesome mentor coaching group and individual program that has many exclusive offerings for our participants. Both have been trained by the ICF to assess using the new PCC Markers. Carly also assesses for the ICF MCC and ACC credential.

One of those offerings is an extensive library of MCC, PCC and ACC coaching sessions for our participants to listen to, evaluate, debrief, and learn from, along with The Target Approach to demystifying the ICF core competencies. These are incredibly valuable learning tools, and will accelerate your understanding of competency distinctions.

Carly has created products to more deeply understand Establishing the Coaching Agreement and Ten Characteristics of MCC Skill Level.

Here’s where you’ll find more about The Mentor Coaching Group