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Step 1: Identify the problem or challenge

Dionne Jude April 17, 2020

Before you can begin to coach someone, you need to discover what the problem or challenge is that they would like to overcome. This is not always as obvious as it seems, as sometimes people present what they believe is the problem, but what they are experiencing is something deeper or unexplored.

I distinguish between problems and challenges, which can be internal or external;

Problems are long-term barriers, with deeper antecedents that the coachee might find difficult to move beyond.

Challenges are short-term barriers, that can be caused by problems but can be overcome more easily and with less effort.

Key Questions

  • What brings you here today?
  • What would you like to be different?
  • What are you struggling with and how long has this been happening?
  • How do you know it is a problem?
  • What have you done about it so far?
  • What would you like to get out of this conversation?
  • What is your ultimate goal?
  • Use the 5 whys to get to the heart of the problem of ask’ for what purpose’ questions.

Once the client has answered, seek to gain some clarity on what the problem or challenge and the help they require.


Challenge: You are finding it difficult to complete your project Reason: because you are lacking motivation Desired outcome: you would like to find ways to help you get things done.

Challenge: You are anxious about work Reason: because you are unhappy and believe everyone is against you Desired outcome: you would like to find ways to feel more confident and to get on with your team

Challenge: You are unhappy in your relationship Reason: because you find it difficult to communicate how you feel Desired outcome: you would like to find a way to be heard with offending your partner

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