"I played for a football coach in college that always asked the same question, 'What were you thinking?'
Now, when he asked it, he usually had a hold of my face mask and he was screaming. It was a lot less question and much more of a statement. I learned really quick that he wasn't looking for an answer; but that question - 'what were you thinking? - Is a great coaching technique. But it's not a way to grab attention or make a point. It's a good way to teach.
You'll coach people through things they've done, they are doing, or they're about to do. And I want you to remember, thoughts trigger emotion, and people act on their emotions. So that question, what 'were' or what 'are' you thinking? Is one of the most important questions that a good coach and a good teacher can ever ask, because it holds people accountable for their thoughts. And you can help them think, and feel, and act more productively.
If they messed something up. They were guided by ineffective thinking, and you can use their mistake, their misguided thoughts, as a learning opportunity, but you have to know what the misguided thought was.
If they're looking for your guidance, you want them to share their thinking first, too. If they're thinking about the situation the right way, give them positive feedback, because you'll build their confidence and reinforce that productive thought. If they're off base, help them plan and prepare with more effective thoughts. This is a good way to coach every generation, but especially Gen-"X" and Gen-"Z". They want to learn and be treated with respect, and this is a very respectful way to coach.
I also want you to remember that you can ask the question differently, and you should practice different ways of asking it.
- 'How were you thinking about this?' Or, 'how are you thinking about this?'
- 'What options did you consider?' Or, 'what options are you considering?' '
- 'What were you worried about?' Or, 'what are you worried about?
- 'What were you trying to accomplish?' Or, 'what are you trying to accomplish?'
You can ask the question in the past tense, the present tense, or the future tense.
Don't grab their face mask, don't raise your voice and listen intently. And if you do, you're going to seize a great coaching opportunity."
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