This entry is part of a week-long series on powerful coaching questions.

Right after a client has had a major “ah-ha” moment– that breakthrough insight, like God just woke them up and made everything clear– they will usually state it: “Now I know what I need to do… THIS.” And they describe their breakthrough.

Whenever a client has that kind of “ah-ha” moment, the next question I always ask is, “What action steps can you take in the next 30 days that move you toward THIS”? And for THIS, I make sure to use their exact phrase.

A good portion of the time, I’m not even sure what they meant when they said, “THIS.” But it’s obviously quite clear to them. I don’t ask them to tell me about THIS or describe THIS. That just sidetracks them and makes it about my understanding, not their course of action. Instead, I ask them about their action steps: “What action steps can you take in the next 30 days that move you toward THIS”?

That question from me is almost always followed by the client saying, “That’s a great question.” (Which, as you may remember from a previous blog entry, is ALWAYS to be followed by silence from the coach.)  Then the client is able to identify 1, 2 or 3 steps that they can take to help them start moving.

Notice that I didn’t ask them, “What steps can you take to accomplish THIS?” That’s usually too monumental and overwhelming. I’m only asking for a few steps, that can be taken in the next 30 days, that can move them toward THIS. Coming up with action items like, “I could buy this book and read it,” or, “I can sit down and make a list of…” helps people get unstuck and begin making progress, even if it’s just initial progress. Then next time you get together, celebrate their initial progress, focus next steps and they’re on their way!