5W & 1H – Another Coaching Tool?


I keep six honest serving men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who

Reproduced above is the opening paragraph of a short poem written by the British poet, Rudyard Kipling, which sums it all.

In the coaching and consulting space that quite a few of us work in, we all understand that a lot can be achieved by just framing our questions powerfully. I extensively use the 5W and 1H framework to create awareness in my coaching clients and to peel the onions around relevant issues in the consulting space.

I believe that if we can tackle the 5Ws and 1H Questions for each of the desired outcomes or compelling problems, Coachees would not only have achieved a great starting point by precisely defining the challenge for themselves but also a direction in terms of what needs to be done. When it comes to coaching, I like to expand the scope of these questions as follows:

  1. What does the Coachee want to be? – Clarifying goals or Desired Outcome
    • What is it that you would like to discuss today?
    • How can you frame that in a positive way?
    • Can you be more specific about your desired outcome?
    • Where do you want to be with respect to this goal?

  2.  Where is the Coachee currently? – Assessing the present situation
    • May I request you to tell me about your present situation?
    • I am curious to know more, what else would you want to share?
    • What has prompted you to have this discussion today?
    • What is the situation in relation to the current challenge?
    • What have you tried so far to manage this challenge?
    • What do you need to come out of this situation?

  3. Why does the Coachee need to change? – Creating awareness and desire to change • How are you feeling currently in the context of your challenge?
    • How is it impacting you?
    • How is it impacting your family, friends and colleagues?
    • Which is the one question you hope that I would not ask you now?
    • What is the choice that you want to make? (really effective when the Coachee is stuck)
    • What new opportunities could be unleashed once you achieve your desired outcome?

  4. How will the Coachee get there? – Creating options
    • What are you willing to give up or what will you have to give up, to achieve the desired outcome?
    • What are you waiting for?
    • What would you do if you had unlimited resources?
    • What’s holding you back?
    • If you knew the answer, what would it be?

  5. Who will help the Coachee get there? – Creating accountability
    • Who has the final responsibility?
    • Who can help you get there?
    • On a scale of 1 to 10, how committed are you towards achieving your desired outcome?

  6. When will the Coachee get there? – Identifying a time-bound action plan
    • What is the smallest action that you can take towards your desired outcome?
    • May I request you to list all the actions that you will take? Make these as precise as possible.
    • When will you get started?
    • How will you track your progress towards the desired outcome?
    • How often are you going to track your progress?
    • Who can help you track your progress?

I truly believe that the effectiveness of the above tool lies in its simplicity (simple concepts are the most powerful ones, almost always!) and in the universality of its application. Whether you are self-coaching or coaching a client or just working on a problem, use this framework and see for yourself, the amazing clarity it provides!

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