What?, How?, What if? – Questions we should all ask


Using Questions to Enhance Performance

Questions, curious questions, insightful questions, inspiring questions, powerful questions… We all ask questions. Our questions define us and can either illuminate the darkest reaches of our inner lives or close the door to possibility.

Our powerful questions unleash untapped potential, solve intractable problems and quiet the most unsettled mind. Our ego based, biased and judgemental questions block progress, limit potential and narrow our thinking.

When we get right inside the development process it’s our questions that can bring about the most exceptional results.

What are some of the things that you could do to …?

How can we get more of …?

Imagine what other ways …?

Open-ended Questions

These questions open the mind to alternatives, foster a change in perspective, inspire insight and make us more resourceful. We perform best when we are most resourceful. Open-ended questions are the most effective at opening the mind to possibility, which is what makes us resourceful. Open-ended questions tend to lead to solution focused answers.

Open-ended questions can also be strung into a logical format like this: “What are some of the many ways that you could achieve ‘X’?” or “Why is that important to you? And what else?” or “How will you know when you have attained ‘X’?”. A string of open-ended questions and the responses in between are the foundation of a ‘coaching conversation’ that helps to guide the coachee toward discovery of productive solutions to challenging problems.

Questions are the foundation that we build on to create the difference that sets us apart from the rest.

Neurology and Questions

Some of the best questions being asked today are being asked about our brains.

Where does neurophysiology end and consciousness begin?

What is the role of consciousness?

What are some of the many ways that this goldmine of understanding can be used to improve sport performance? Some practical applications of recent discoveries in neural function are showing promising results:


A field of study that combines neuro-physiology with biomechanics with the aim of more completely understanding human movement. Franz Bosch is doing some extensive work in this field with rugby and football players.

Neuro-bio Feedback

Is a process where neural and other biological information is collected electronically and displayed to the user. The user then adjusts normally involuntary behaviours by using the feedback information. Dr. Penny Werthner at the University of Calgary in Alberta is doing extensive work in this area.

Solution Focused Coaching

A process that builds on the findings of neuro-linguistic programming and the work of psychologists such as Milton Erickson to create an environment where questions are used to focus development efforts on making productive changes using the client’s inherent resources. The International Coaching Federation provides leadership in this area.

All of these development modalities are founded on the assumption that consciousness is primarily inhibitory and real change in performance can come from accessing the unconscious.

Putting Questions in the Frame

Once the picture of successful performance is available along with the process to get there, the conscious mind can take this new understanding and work with it. This allows a greater scope for performance by following the route of the imagined performance. For us in the world of performance, the unconscious is where all the good stuff happens. Learn how to easily tap the unconscious through the magic of the open question as noted above and the boundaries of performance will be greatly expanded.

More on Questions

A very large body of knowledge now exists to confirm the performance gains that are generated through a coaching relationship where the coach has mastered the art of the question. I recommend that you give it a look if you’re after something that will make a difference to the performance levels of your athletes.

Why not give it a try? These works might be a good place to start:

The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More and Change the way You Lead Forever – Michael Bungay Stanier

Coaching Questions: A Coach’s Guide to Powerful Asking Skills – Tony Stoltzfus

Keeping the Brain in Mind: Practical Neuroscience for Coaches – Shawn Carson and Melissa Tiers

The Art of Asking Essential Questions – Richard Paul and Linda Elder


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