Jonas Salk, Nobel Prize winner and developer of the first successful polio vaccine, said, “What people think of as the moment of discovery is really the discovery of the question.”A good question is a portal for new insight and a new future in a way that advice isn’t.
But will any question do, he asks rhetorically? Of course not.
Closed questions–where the answer is Yes or No–have their place, but are more about certainty than insight. Some questions aren’t even questions. “Have you thought of …?” is just advice with a “?” added on. Good questions are often short, typically start with “What…” and are followed by silence as you listen to the answer.
But one question rises above them all. One question is The Best Coaching Question in the World. It’s short, just three words. And, conveniently, its acronym is AWE:
“And what else?”
And why does “and what else?” work so well? Two reasons.
Number one is because the first response to any question is never the only answer, and it’s rarely the best answer. “And what else?” is a way of taking a good question and then supercharging it, so you get more bang for your asking buck. Here’s an example:
“What’s the real challenge here for you?”
“And what else is a real challenge?”
“And what else?”
“OK … so what’s the real challenge here for you?”
Can you feel how the conversation deepens?
The second reason is because “And what else?” is a powerful self-management tool. When you ask a question and get a response, the habit many of us have is to then leap in with our own ideas, suggestions, points of view, and solutions. If you resist that and ask the AWE question instead, you’ll find them doing the work and having the insights, while you get to work less hard and have more impact.
Coaching is simple enough: A little more curiosity and a little less advice giving. “And what else?” might be the easiest way to start building that muscle.
It can be a challenge to get your employees to provide the most thoughtful responses to your questions. Discover how coaching can enhance your management career by exploring AMA's seminars and resources.