As leaders, we often view ourselves as knowledge providers. So we teach, tell, or advise and, in this way, pass on our knowledge to someone else. The instruction process requires the other person to listen as we share our knowledge. The assumption is that what we have to say will be the key to solving the other person’s problem, or will help them achieve their goal.
This is sometimes helpful, but knowledge, even the knowledge that worked for us in the past, isn’t as powerful as generating insight in the other person. We own what we discover.
Don’t get me wrong, I love studying what’s already been said and done on a topic. That information is invaluable. However, it is only one type of learning. I believe there is deeper learning that goes beyond existing knowledge and how others have applied it. Deeper learning actually creates new ideas, applications and actions that neither the coach nor the coachee were aware of before.
Creating something new requires engaged and reflective thinking. This is where powerful questions come in. Asking the right questions promotes reflection more effectively than merely providing knowledge. Coaches use questions as a primary tool in working with others. Questions help stimulate thinking, broaden perspective, and generate new options for actions.
Let’s look at the difference between knowledge and questions: