Discovery is the act of learning about something for the first time. You meet a new person, you read a new book, or you visit a new city. These are all forms of discovery. I love discovering new things about myself and others. I like to learn about people. I enjoy reading biographies and autobiographies about leaders in history. I have read many enjoyable books about leaders such as George Washington, Lyndon Baines Johnson, Winston Churchill, Steve Jobs and others. It gives me a sense of who they were, their motivations, interests, strengths, and weaknesses. People fascinate me. They come in all shapes and sizes, different degrees of intelligence, different personalities, etc.
When I first entered the sales profession in the financial services industries, I was taught the importance of asking questions. I learned to ask questions that would lead me to discover a need or desire on the part of the prospect or customer. I learned to ask questions in a certain order. I didn’t start the conversation with “what is your net worth”? I usually started the discovery with “tell me about you”. Helping others to feel safe in the discovery is important.
The other thing I learned early in my career about discovery was to ask open questions that started with who, what, where, when, how, and sometimes, why. These open questions allow people to share their stories, experiences, hopes, dreams, and fears. To get people to open up, I learned to ask questions that started with “tell me about…” and the client would share information openly. I also learned to ask closed questions that were answered with yes or no when I did not have the specifics about a certain topic. For example, I may ask “tell me about the steps you have taken for legacy planning” and then get more specific with a closed questions such as “do you have a will?”.
The fun part about asking discovery questions was that it led me to a destination of being able to make a recommendation to the prospect or client. Sometimes, the recommendation may be “you are in good shape, there is no need to do anything at this time”.
As a coach, I find that I go through a very similar process as I did as a financial advisor. I build rapport with the client by starting out with questions to get to know the client. As I get to know the client and build familiarity, I build trust with the client throughout the discovery process. As a coach, I have also learned to go deeper in my questions. I like to explore the client’s thoughts, emotions, perspectives, beliefs, assumptions, and behaviors through the process of discovery. Of course, it is important that the client has complete confidentiality in exploring their motivations and experiences.
What is the biggest difference in the discovery process between financial services and coaching? I know longer make the recommendations. I allow the client to select what they want to do going forward based on the discovery process that we have experienced together. Clients make their own recommendations for next steps or moving forward. At the heart of discovery is the ability to ask questions so that you can gain a better understanding of the other person. Discovery in coaching allows others to learn more about themselves. It is important to listen with interest and be curious about the other person and what they are sharing with you. Discovery allows us to explore and learn about ourselves and others.