The late Peter Falk mesmerized audiences for decades as everyone’s favorite bumbling TV detective on the classic series Columbo. For Boomers, who can forget the cigar-smoking, trench coat-wearing, old car-driving detective? The detective who used seemingly random questioning methods to uncover the truth of a criminal’s actions. Falk would famously exit the room after endless questioning and come back in asking, “Just one more thing…”

I loved two things about Falk’s role: The Power of Curiosity & The Power of Presence.

You might conclude that Peter Falk is obnoxiously curious. As a leader, your coaching methodology may seem foolish to some as well. But coaching others is both an art and a science.

This year, I’m intentionally studying the art of asking good questions. Questions others embrace. So, I was intrigued to be introduced to an unorthodox leader recently who leads a group called Box of Crayons. Box of Crayons develops 10-minute coaching skills for leaders. The leader’s name is Michael Bungay Stanier. See in the questions below how he uses the Columbo method in coaching by asking the “AWE Question” among his top 7 coaching tools:

  1. What’s on your mind?
  2. The AWE Question: And what else?
  3. The Focus Question: What’s the real challenge here for you?
  4. The Foundation Question: What do you want?
  5. The Lazy Question: How can I help?
  6. The Strategic Question: If you’re saying Yes to this, what are you saying No to?
  7. The Learning Question: What was most useful for you?

The Power of Curiosity

Bungay’s questions underscore The Power of Curiosity. How does this apply to your role in Coaching? Well, here’s an example from a training I led by sharing major donor engagement best practices with leaders of Christian non-profits.

Several leaders and I walked through time-tested principles, including how to apply them to people, as well as projects and ministry patterns they faced. I began the afternoon session with the broad question, “What’s on your mind?” I gave them a choice to share what the Holy Spirit was saying to them about applying biblical stewardship in their ministry context. They relaxed.

We discussed a crucial conversation one of them needed to have the next day with a disgruntled staff member. I asked the follow-up, “And what else” question. This question gave them a green light to explain more in depth how the staff member was negatively affecting the whole staff. I didn’t tell them what to do. I felt like a giver, not a fixer. They determined the next steps themselves.

The wisest King who ever lived mused, “Though good advice lies deep within the heart, a person with understanding will draw it out.” Asking key questions. Leaving the room. Smoking cigars…well, perhaps the cigars were not vital to the process! The Power of Curiosity.

The Power of Presence

I love the idea that the root of the word “Question” is “Quest.” Coaching as a leader is a journey with someone or a group. Thinking about The Power of Presence in coaching involves being “all there” for those you’re serving. In fact, hard-working service alongside staff or friends conveys true caring and opens hearts to be vulnerable about their own spiritual or vocational journey.

A group of millennial leaders with The Navigators in Portland, Oregon exemplify this coaching practice. Intentionally moving into an economically depressed area, God led them to coach through The Power of Presence in what they call Nav Neighbors.

They have become patient listeners with a heart to learn. Neighbors responded to their offers of friendship…then they responded to the Gospel because the young Christ-followers asked questions to find out their stories and struggles. May their Tribe increase!

Asking questions with great curiosity. Being intentional to serve in love and offer your presence. Powerful indeed.

How does this apply with your staff?

Photo Credit: Ian Farrington