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Challenging and Requesting

A considerable part of a coach’s job is to challenge clients. If they do not stretch, if they do not take chances and try to move out of their comfort zones, there will be little scope for the sort of profound change that most people claim they want when bringing a coach into their lives.

However, what constitutes a challenge to a client? Martha Lasley puts it nicely: “If your clients say yes to your challenges right away, you are probably not challenging them – you are making simple requests. If they gasp, sit up taller, or fall out of their chair, you are probably on the right track.”

Amy Ruppert has drawn together an excellent primer on some of the most common areas in which coaches can challenge their clients, along with some questions and challenges that can bring about the sort of shift that means real change.


  • Is that true?
  • Who says that is the way it has to be?
  • What evidence do you have to support that?
  • I am going to request you find evidence that says YOU CAN do this!
  • I am going to request that you make up the rules about what you believe versus letting someone else do that for you.


  • Do you know that for a fact?
  • Has he/she told you that themselves?
  • Do you know what it is going to take or are you just guessing?
  • I am going to request that you stop assuming and start KNOWING.
  • I am going to request that you let facts guide your decisions versus guesses.


  • From what I am hearing, this sounds like the same way you approached it last time. Is this the same approach and just a different situation?
  • Are you expecting a different outcome from last time?
  • I am going to request that you move out of your comfort zone and into what scares you a little.
  • I am going to request that you stop clinging to what is familiar and be bold with a whole new direction!


  • Are you perhaps over-promising?
  • What are you basing it on that you/she/he cannot do it?
  • I am going to request that you act as if you believe in yourself/her/him and THEN decide what actions a person might take who thought that.
  • I am going to request that you under promise and over deliver instead.

Narrow views or focus

  • What might you NOT be seeing or taking into account?
  • If you pushed down the walls of how you are looking at this, what would you see?
  • I am going to request that you broaden your viewpoint of this.
  • I’m going to request that you look at this through the eyes of _____________ .

Martha Lasley includes an important reminder: “A challenge is for the benefit of the client, not the coach. So it is not about challenging your kids to pick up their socks, or your direct report to complete the project by Friday because that is about you and your needs. To make the challenge about the client, you let them know you see their dreams, their full potential and your belief in them. That is how you take their breath away because they start to see themselves anew.”