This is the second of Michael Bungay Stanier’s seven essential coaching questions. This is a question I struggle remembering to ask, let alone repetitiously embrace. Stanier’s purpose is to help us all engage in curiosity for longer than how we have been conditioned.
So much of what we are taught from a young age is based on the core construct of taking initiative, i.e., be number one, “the early bird gets the worm,” “if you are not first, you are last,” “speak now or forever hold your peace,” and “fake it till you make it.” These constructs can be useful when applied consciously and judiciously in the right context. However, they become unruly problematic when they are the primary behaviors by which we measure our success, utility, and dominance.
When I coach someone, I am very compelled by the prospect of being useful by giving someone tools that I overlook the simple, elegant, and rare value of holding space for someone to uncover their own insights and solutions. I, too, am guilty of wanting to be seen as smart that I end up missing opportunities to actually be more helpful, let alone coach like.
Even in friendly conversation, we hear something that resonates with us or that we relate to, and we are off to the races to add our perspective. This isn’t problematic but it does undermine the possibility of being AWED by continuing to stay curious about what else our friend chooses to share. Often friends say, “I never knew that about you” or “how come you didn’t tell me?” The common response is “you never asked…” However, a more accurate answer is you didn’t remain curious for long enough.
Engaging in wonder is tough because the outcome is purposefully uncertain. Similarly, asking “and what else?” removes all certainty other than the certainty that you’ll get better at being curious and becoming more coach-like.
This is certainly difficult; nonetheless, a fantastic way in which to train myself to let go of the control I have convinced myself I need in order to be effective.
If my WHY is to equip people to become extraordinary lifelong learners, then I am obligated to commit myself to this pursuit of staying curious longer.
I INTEND to ask “and what else” every time I get the inkling to jump in and provide an answer that I presuppose is necessary for me to showcase my subject matter expertise.