Mike Holmes ‘gets it’: he understands how to ensure his protégés learn. He does this by employing a technique his Dad used.

Larry King also knows the secret to stand out from the crowd.

It is so simple and easy, but (speaking from experience) it can be so difficult.

And you don’t need to be a superstar to get it right.

Let me explain…


When asked what the most important question was, Larry King answered:

“’Why?’ is the greatest question because you can’t answer it in one word, and it forces the other person to think.”

Toddlers use the ‘why’ question all the time. They are curious and trying to learn about the world around them according to a study done at the University of Hawaii. Your answers to their ‘why’ questions are filling in the gaps in their knowledge and helping them see a ‘bigger picture’.


Our curious toddlers then turn into demanding kids (and teens). Let’s face it, kids haven’t changed all the much over the years: they’ve always pushed for instant gratification. And parents always pushed back.

What has changed is that most people, (not just children), now expect instant gratification: they want the question answered, the goods delivered or the problem solved immediately. They don’t want to learn how to avoid the situation, navigate the challenge or reason out the answer. They don’t have time (or so they think).

The problem with this instant gratification approach is that it creates dependence. And in the long run it wastes much more time.

Our parents had a strategy to handle the quest for instant gratification AND we HATED it. They tried to train us to be self-sufficient by asking questions to make us think rather than just giving us the answer.

Great teachers, trainers and coaches use this same approach and ask questions such as, “what do you think?”  “why do you think that happens?” or “what would you do if this happened?”  Answers to these sorts of questions will fill in gaps in knowledge and will give your students a ‘bigger picture’.


So what does that have to do with you, now that you are a professional? Well, if you are training or coaching, it makes it harder.

People pay you for your expertise, if you are a salesperson, consultant or a speaker. You are very passionate about your ‘craft’ and you love to give in-depth detailed explanations that prove you are an expert.

Here is the hard part: in order for your students to learn and be self-sufficient, you have to withhold the answers. Let your audience reason through alternatives and possibilities. Instead, show your expertise by leading your audience to the answer by giving them additional information or asking additional questions.


Many ‘masters’ have received their training at the hands of a very patient, intelligent trainer or mentor. One such person is Mike Holmes.

Mike’s father used the ‘Show and Tell’ technique. But it probably is not what you think.

His father SHOWed him how to do something. Then he’d ask Mike to ‘TELL’, by asking him “Why: Why am I doing it this way?”

After a demonstration or explanation, what a great technique to ask questions of the audience to make them think.

If you are training people, before you let them go ‘hands-on’, ask some questions. Start with the ‘why’ question and follow up with some ‘what if’ questions. And ALWAYS be prepared to deflect the question to another person or bail out the audience if they don’t have the confidence to offer an answer.


You too could be a superstar, just like Mike or Larry.

Enhance your training approach by withholding the answers and by questioning your audience:

  • Challenge your audience with an unexpected ‘why’ question.
  • Rebound a question to gather more information and expose a participant’s thinking with a question such as ‘why do you ask?’
  • Emphasize an answer from your audience with a question similar to ‘why is that answer so important?’

Like the Chinese proverb says,

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for lifetime.”


Of course, I have to caution you: if someone asks you a question and there is an imminent safety risk or it is a contentious topic, then use common sense and consider just answering the question.

WHY SHOULD YOU THINK LIKE THAT? Perhaps you could tell me? 😉

Until next time…


If you are not familiar with Mike Holmes, he is a builder, renovator and a celebrity HGTV host and who has received recent pop-icon status. He uses his notoriety to help educate (and help) homeowners. (Not to mention he has set up the Holmes Foundation a charitable foundation that promotes and supports the training of youth in the skilled trades.) You would probably recognize Mike or his trade marked phrase:  “Make it Right”. Please click here for more on Mike Holmes.


Postal Why Poster — Flickr Creative Commons Image by *USB*

Mike Holmes — Flickr Creative Commons Image by John Bollwitt posted by Rebecca Bollwitt