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Everyday Coaching: Using the AWE Question

Two women in front of colorful mural being coached in business.

Believe it or not, you’re coaching people every day. Yes, it’s more than being a Little League coach. If you’re a MOPS mentor mom, Toastmasters leader, manager, business owner, parent, or a maternal-child nurse, you’re coaching. Is there a simple technique you can use to enhance good outcomes?

Yes!

Earlier this year, when I became certified as a Business Made Simple Coach, it took me awhile to realize that I’ve been “coaching” for years. There are several techniques to use, when coaching, but here’s a simple technique you can start using today.

The AWE question

Consider reading Michael Bungay Stanier’s book, The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever. The book highlights the AWE question:

And what else?

Stanier says, “With seemingly no effort, [the question] creates more – more wisdom, more insights, more self-awareness, more possibilities–out of thin air.” 

What the AWE question accomplishes

The AWE question makes you sound curious and helpful, rather than sounding like a “fixer.” (I admit, as a seasoned clinical nurse specialist, my urge to “fix” something is probably in my DNA.)

The AWE question means you don’t need to worry about being wrong.

Using the AWE question enables you to stop struggling to get all the facts. You can relinquish pressure that you must provide all of the answers. You don’t need to be the expert.

The AWE question helps the others to get their own answer. What could be more empowering than finding one’s own answer?   

When we ask, “And what else?” we automatically empower the person.

What the AWE question avoids

People often ask, “Should I do A or B?” And we have the tendency to weigh the pros and cons of A and B. But as I learned from Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work this binary thinking — it’s only A or B — is very limiting.

By asking “And what else?” we help the other person to automatically avoid the trap of binary decision-making.

I’ve published posts on the importance of good communication, so I won’t belabor that here. But my main point is that good communication is more about listening than about talking.

The AWE question helps you to avoid being the talker and instead, helps you to listen. Who doesn’t love being listened to?

Think of your subordinates, your volunteers, your kids, or anyone else. Don’t they all crave being listened to? Shoot, read The 5 Love Languages and you’ll see that for some people, being listened to is a fundamental way in which they feel loved.

I’m a big believer in the Pareto principle, otherwise known as the 80/20 rule.

The AWE question practically guarantees that you’ll be doing 80% of the listening and 20% of the talking. (Try it!)

Add this technique to your repertoire

If you’ve already taken my Communication for Lactation Consultants course, maybe you’re already implementing techniques like reflective listening.

By all means, continue to use any and all communication techniques you’ve already acquired.

Integrating a simple coaching technique like asking “And what else?” doesn’t require a lot of heavy-duty learning. It just needs to be done.

Acknowledge to yourself that you are a coach. You coach all the time. Make it easier on yourself.

In what ways do you see yourself coaching? Do you already use the AWE question? Share your experiences in the comments below.

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