If you follow Alan Fine, you know he got his start on the tennis court—starting with teaching children and ending up coaching Davis Cup champions.
In June of 2014, my colleagues and I had the opportunity to work with Alan on the tennis court—it was a true InsideOut Coaching clinic.
At one point, there was critical exchange that my teammates and I still recall today. It went something like this:
Question: “So when a person is holding their racquet sideways, that must be a time to use an outside-in approach. They need some knowledge. Right?”
Alan’s response: “Not necessarily.”
We came back to the question later when we stopped playing. Here is Alan’s explanation. “Think about the message you send to that person by doing that. What are you going to say? ‘Hey, dummy! Don’t hold your racquet like that! (Alan motions with the head of the racquet parallel to the court.) Hold it like this! (Alan motions with the head of the racquet perpendicular to the court, in the proper position).
Question: So, how do you handle it?
Alan: “I would ask a question. The conversation might go something like this. ‘So, how’s it going?’
Player: ‘Not so well.’
Alan: ‘So what are you noticing?’
Player: ‘I’m noticing that when I hit the ball, it isn’t going in!’
Alan: ‘What do you think is happening?’
Player: ‘It’s connecting with the side of the racquet, not the strings.’
Alan: ‘Isn’t that interesting?’”
As leaders, we greatly benefit if we believe in the natural wisdom inside of everyone. By adopting a coaching approach based on asking versus telling, we help others get in touch with that wisdom and reach their potential.
If you want to support higher performance, take a tip from Alan. Ask more and tell less. Why? When you provide others with the opportunity to self reflect, they typically self-correct.