Cliche Alert: There's no such thing as a stupid question in effective coaching and mentoring


A blog by Luke Thomas, Performance Coach & Director of Spring

One of the most critical elements to delivering successful change programmes is the ability to uncover and allow naive questions to flourish throughout training and coaching sessions.

I came across a brilliant article here discussing the value of naive questioning in coaching, which is well worth a read.

This was reinforced recently, when our team worked with a group of regional sales managers from a national UK high street retailer.  The programme was focused on Remote Management Development and Leadership.  It’s too good not to share!

In between workshops, we undertook a process of in-field paired and trio coaching, and encouraged the development of naive questioning with them – to deliver some surprising results and realisations.  Simple yet powerful.

How did we do it?

* Working in pairs, each regional manager worked with another in the morning and then swapped to a different region in the afternoon to practise some new word patterns, behavioural techniques and mindset magic!

* We encouraged them to ask naive questions of each other, enabling each one to see their commercial world through fresh eyes

* To reinforce this, we co-coached them ‘live’ throughout the day, to create new perspectives and a significant change of perception

What happened as a result of these coaching techniques?

One of the biggest results was a shift in Average Transaction Value (ATV) from each regional sales manager during the day and for the following week.  Increases of between 8% and 30% were reported following our work with them.  They are now embedding it into their BAU activity.

The encouragement of asking naive questions also forced them to step outside of their ‘sales, service & operations’ mentality, where they’d been used to going in-store with an approach focused on explaining, advising and telling.  (Even though they adamantly believed they were using a wide spectrum of coaching methods.)  Instead they developed a ‘Masterclass’ approach by rolling up their sleeves, where they demonstrated and ‘walked the talk’ with their teams – then consolidated and honed it further before leaving.

Essentially, it enabled a new way of thinking to emerge, whereby the regional sales managers entered as people developers NOT operators. The shift was profound.  The identity change, altered their behaviours entirely, as it generally does.

We’ve always found that teams are more self-sufficient when they’re allowed to think for themselves, practise and apply new approaches and witness the tangible difference it makes… instead of only being left a list of actions to do once the regional has left.

If you’d like to have a chat about how this coaching technique I’m happy to run you through it, get in touch here.