Darryl Stewart
By Darryl Stewart
Open books on top of one another

The best coaching question ever

In his book, The Coaching Habit, author Michael Bungay Stanier claims to know the best coaching question in the world:

And what else?

Bungay Stanier says that most coaching conversations end far too quickly and with a poor result. Two things tend to happen, says Bungay Stanier, once we get a topic open for discussion but don’t encourage enough reflection and disclosure:

  1. We articulate two ways of dealing with a situation and then spend the rest of the conversation choosing between them.
  2. The coach hears just enough about the topic to get their advice figured out, then gives the advice, and the conversation ends or is stunted by the coach’s now firmly entrenched solution.

Instead, Bungay Stanier suggests we keep asking: “And what else?” followed by silence and listening. This tends to encourage the other person to disclose more information, verbalize more options, and truly get it all out on the table.  In the process, the employee is likely to reach their own conclusions and/or solutions, ones they now feel ownership of.

I have previously blogged about the “Kickstart Question”: “What is on your mind?”. The thing to do is use the Kickstart Question to get the conversation going, and then use “and what else?” to get people disclosing more information and thinking the matter through for themselves.

We have all had the experience of sharing out loud what we believe is an amazing solution, only to discover it had serious flaws. Since I have started giving people more space to talk and have spent more time listening, I have seen people work things out for themselves. How much more powerful is that than me jumping in and pointing out all the shortcomings that they were just realizing for themselves? Asking “and what else?” takes this even further. It encourages the person to keep probing their own thoughts and it moves things toward a good resolution without inserting our own bias into the conversation.

I am seeing strong results from adding “and what else?” into my coaching. I highly recommend it.