The why behind the “WHY”

Had an interesting conversation with a group last evening, on why asking a coachee “why” specific questions isn’t the most effective strategy. For example: why did you do that?

The rationale is pretty simple, “why” questions put the coachee (or anyone else for that matter) in the spotlight. And guess how they would react? Of course, they’ll get defensive. An experienced coach would avoid the “why” and instead focus on the “what” and “who” to probe reflective thinking.

Of course, the idea isn’t restricted to just coaches but also applicable to leaders who incline slightly towards a coaching style of management. (There’s still no hope for tyrants, I’m sorry!)

That said, it’ll be foolish to ignore the power of “why” questions. Parents get a lot more insight using “why” questions and as a leader or coach, you can’t practically avoid the “why” anyway. But most of all, “why” questions are the most powerful when it comes to self-discovery.

A coach/leader is better off asking the “why” behind a team or organization’s mission, vision or even their sheer existence when things seem to be off track or hazy. A powerful “why” question is a great way to align/realign a team or individual’s objectives/purpose/intent.

Simon Sinek has been talking about the WHY for years now. But as leaders and coaches, we’re better off using the “why” to initiate a self-discovery process not to coach someone. The distinction is too narrow and thus quite important for us to not miss.

You start with a “why” but always end with a “what” and “who” to unleash someone’s true potential.

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