I had the pleasure of travelling to Switzerland last week to witness a machine being tested. The clients were from Turkey and it was the first time they had seen such technology. I was there as the ‘expert’, having had experience of operating and maintaining a similar process.
Over the two days of trials, they asked many questions, both of the machine manufacturer and of me. I was prepared for the deep technical questions, and had done my research when preparing for the trip. What struck me was the simplicity of the questions that inevitably were at a very fundamental level. The usual ones started with ‘Why’, and as they developed some familiarity they asked the ‘What’ and the ‘How’ questions. They demanded more of me as I was searching for answers based on first principles rather than advanced technology. I made an assumption that they knew something when in fact they were coming to this with no prior knowledge and a great deal of curiosity.
As I reflected on this, I wondered about my coaching clients and how much we all assume. I may assume the client is keen to think about a particular topic, yet all the time is avoiding the most important one. The client may assume that they know themselves really well, when their ‘blind spot’ is obvious to everyone. So I learnt a lot over those 2 days, both as a professional engineer and as a professional coach. Never assume anything. Ask the right questions to test assumptions, and most of all, always have a sense of curiosity and wonder. It makes for a great learning mindset!