Ask, Don’t Tell

There’s a great YouTube video, which shows Sir John Whitmore, one of the founders of coaching, working with a novice golfer. He adopts a pure coaching approach, raising awareness and generating responsibility in the golfer he’s working with. He asks her what she notices as she hits the ball, and what further developments she would like to add to her golfing game. He asks her scaling questions (i.e. on a scale of 1-10, how does that feel), and paraphrases her language. By the end of the video, she was hitting the ball much better than when she started.

Next to Sir John, a more accomplished golfer works with another novice. He adopts a pure teaching approach, giving instruction and correcting technical faults. By the end of the video, this golfer was also hitting the ball much better than when he started.

The difference was in the ownership each golfer felt towards the process. How they had shaped the experience for themselves, and the resulting joy that came from that. If you’re working with someone and trying to help them develop a new skill, how might you give them ownership of their own development? Where might the opportunities be for you to ask, rather than tell?