How the ‘5 Whys’ self-coaching tool can help you get clarity in any situation

Well friends, it happened. I reached that milestone that many 30-somethings get to when they least expect it:


I opened my mouth and MY MOTHER’S VOICE CAME OUT!!!


My son turned 10 in the holidays and had a couple of friends over for a camping sleepover in the backyard. These weren’t the kind of friends that had their noses in devices and walked around in that zombie like tween mode, oh no! They were the loud, running, throwing, jumping, climbing, play-fighting mess-machine type, that wanted the ENTIRE neighbourhood to know whose farts smelled the worst. Urgh! Boys!

But, it’s what I did at 1am that was the most distressing part of the whole noisy situation. I leaned out my bedroom window and shouted:


“Boys! Stop clowning around and go to bed!”


Like my 74 year old neighbour Les when he’s yelling at kids to get off his lawn, I went into full-on grumpy adult mode- and it shocked me.

*Note, I was going to write ‘I was shook’ at the end of that last sentence but that feels like something that only young people say, so … 


Maybe it’s time to just face the facts and accept that I’m getting older and need to start considering a switch to Flora ProActiv – or – maybe it’s time to give myself a good talking to and really think about how I want to launch into the last half of my 30’s, on my terms and in my way. 


All of this got me thinking…

What are some of the things in our jobs that we’re accepting as facts, without even questioning them? Think of some of the things that you hear on a typical day at work like:

😡 These kids are so disengaged

😡 That new girl is so naughty

😡 The office lady is a miserable cow 

When we hear things like this, or use these phrases ourselves, we deprive our brains of an opportunity to explore what’s actually going on. You see, none of the above things are actually facts. A fact is something that everyone in the world can agree to: The sky is blue, ants are small, gin is delicious … and so on. We can’t do anything with facts but accept them- it just is what it is, and we can’t change it. 

But saying something like “That new girl is so naughty” that’s an opinion and we can totally do something with that, because there’s usually something waaaaay deeper going on. 


The Power of Why

I totally stole that line from Simon Sinek because I have a massive academic crush on him!


One of the handy-dandy tools that I have up my sleeve to help you self-coach your way through anything is the ‘5 Whys’. It is exactly what it says on the tin- when faced with an issue you simply ask yourself ‘Why’ 5 times and wait for your mind to be BLOWN! Here are two real life examples of discussions that I’ve had with teachers recently:


Example 1:

The new girl is so naughty.

       Why do you think that?

UUrrggghh, she has zero respect and ripped up another kid’s work today.

       Why do you think she did that?

Because she doesn’t care about anything or anyone.

       Why do you think that?

Well she’s new and I don’t know WHAT went on at her last school! She’s driving me nuts and she’s only been here a week. She hasn’t really had time to understand what we’re all about and hasn’t made any new friends.

       Why hasn’t she had time to do that?

Because we do all of that relationship building and treaty stuff at the start of the year and she wasn’t here. 

       Why does that happen at the start of the year?

To set the scene and bring all of the kids on board so they understand what the expectations are around how we communicate and behave … oh wow! Of course it’s not going well, she doesn’t know how our classroom rolls and why we do things the way we do them.


Example 2:

These kids are so disengaged.

       Why do you say that?

It’s like they just don’t even want to be here.

       Why don’t they want to be here?

I suppose that school has never been a great place for them?

       Why is that?

They’ve never really been successful.

       Why haven’t they been successful?

They just don’t seem to be able to retain anything.

       Why can’t they retain anything?

… Holy shit! Because they’ve never been taught in a way that works specifically for them!


Asking why 5X helped these teachers to find some possible root causes to their issues. They both managed to get to a place where they could have some influence over what is happening for these kids, rather than sitting back and admiring the problem and feeling helpless to change anything. 

The outcomes of these conversations we’re both massive light bulb moments for the teachers I was coaching, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that the problem is solved. Spending time on revisiting the class treaty or finding new teaching strategies may not fix these situations right away, but clearly, they’re much more useful actions than sitting back and just accepting the ‘fact’.

That’s what self coaching is all about = exploring all of the opportunities that are available to you.


Give it a go and ask yourself why 5X to get some clarity around an issue that you’re facing. Flick me an email to let me know if you have your own light bulb moment. 

If I don’t get back to you right away don’t worry, I’ll be down at the RSA playing bowls with my new mate Les. *wink*

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