It’s impossible to coach someone to discovers facts that they just don’t know. As a coach, you can guide a coachee through the tools and techniques they have available to discover answers, but you can’t unpick those answers themselves.
This situation most often occurs in an organisational context, or when you are applying coaching methods in a management role. The example I tend to use is a manager who’s working with a direct report and is discussing some recent annual leave. In this scenario, if the coachee does not know what the holiday policy is, then no amount of coaching will bring them to enlightenment.
In this situation, there are a couple of options. If it’s urgent, then you can choose to break out of coaching and share some information. This isn’t the ideal solution, but it can drive you past a sticky point and allow you to switch back to the coaching mode.
You can also choose to step through the coachee’s thinking, and seek to find appropriate options to empower them to discover the relevant information. In the case of policies, that may involve things like contacting HR, research on the corporate intranet or reaching out to other colleagues. Selecting one of these options and reporting back the findings might be an excellent small outcome for the coachee, which also gives them more autonomy in the future.
As a coach, watch out for the times when there is definitely a right answer. That’s the time you should pause, review the conversation and find a way forwards without getting stuck in the mud trying to bring a coachee to a factual solution they are not equipped to discover.