playing detective

car damage

It was a special night. Celebration time out with the love of my life and good friends. New and delicious foods. An especially friendly and capable waiter attending to our needs and making us laugh. Our stomachs were full after just the appetizer, but we proceeded to stay through coffee and dessert, enjoying the flavors and the company. A treasure of an evening.

… and then everything changed.

Out in the parking lot, we began to say good-bye to our friend, but as we walked over to our car, we saw it… Someone had sideswiped our car while we were in the restaurant! Ugly scratches clearly displayed the damage all along the side panels. Ugh! It was a “hit-and-run” as there was no apologetic note with contact information on the windshield and no-one nearby ready to claim responsibility.

We began to piece together the evidence… red in the scratches gave a clue. Placement of the damage indicated a small SUV rather than a sedan. As we pondered next steps, another couple exited the restaurant, and added that they witnessed the collision, but paid little attention, other than to mention that the car they saw was a… maroon-red SUV.

I’m not sure why, but our eyes began to scan the parking lot for red SUVs… and one caught our eye right across the lot. A quick investigative walk across the lot confirmed our suspicions – grey paint in scratches on the hood at the exact height location! We quickly archived pictures of the license plate and scratches in our phones.

In this day and age, a direct confrontation is not wise, so we called the police for backup. An officer arrived and – although they don’t usually get involved in minor parking lot incidences – quickly joined the case because of the clear evidence and the still-present guilty vehicle.

What kind of person hits a car, discretely drives to the other side of the same lot to park, and then enters the restaurant to eat dinner like nothing happened?

We waited watching the customers as they exited and walked to their cars. Is that the one? Do they look guilty? Nope, never mind, they are walking the other way…

One group of people initially strolled towards the direction of the SUV, but then turned. We lost interest. All of a sudden, the policewoman bolted towards the SUV! Someone had sneaked back to the SUV while we weren’t looking, and, in her peripheral vision, the officer had just seen the car door open. She caught them as they were trying to get away!

The others in the group drove away and left a young woman alone to attempt an unobserved escape. So sad! She nervously tried to blame someone else for the accident and moving the car, but turned over registration and insurance information anyway. Another witness said that drinking by the others may have been an issue.

We took a moment to pray for the officer and the others involved. Case closed.

I am still surprised that all the details came together, and at least we will not have to pay for the repairs, but I can’t stop wondering about the people who would do these things… hiding, blaming, abandoning.

What causes someone to act like that?

And, then… how often do I do the same thing… try to hide my guilt or pass the blame or leave someone else to defend my mistakes?

How about you? Ever had to play detective? Ever been the guilty party?


questions for a destination

Roundabout SignageHave you ever had a conversation with someone that went around and around in circles and ended without any resolution, next steps, or action plan? That might be OK for some informal or ideological discussions, but a coaching relationship helps the client make progress towards a goal.

An effective coaching process begins with the client (or spouse/child/co-worker/friend) choosing a personal or professional goal, and then discussing options and barriers with the help of open and probing questions from the coach. Once the client chooses their best option, it is time to move the conversation towards action steps.

I recently learned three types of questions that the coach can ask to help the client move forward: Direct, Revealing, and Ownership.

DIRECT Questions:

Good direct questions focus and challenge, but do not threaten or judge. They are neutral and inquire without using guilt. They avoid the word “why”. They ask for action or decision and point toward a positive outcome.

“What will you do?” “Do you want to focus on XXX or on XXXX?”
“What investigation have you done?”
“What might you need to do to ensure a good decision?”

REVEALING Questions:

Revealing questions help people “get out of the box” when they feel stuck and unable to move forward. They help the client discover the limitations (physical limitations, finances, fear, priorities, lack of information, etc) they view as unchangeable obstacles and look for creative alternatives.

“What if you thought outside of the normal structure?”
“Who else could help you?” “What could you do differently to free up new resources?” “What if you had four extra hours in your day?”
“If that difficult person wasn’t there, what would you do?

Another option is to help them imagine a new situation without the barrier… “What if you had all the time you needed, what would you do?” “If you couldn’t fail, what would you try?” “How would your perfect job look?”

OWNERSHIP Questions:

Ownership questions help people avoid blaming others and take responsibility for the action. They help take away justification, excuses, and passivity, and instead lead to growth opportunities.

“What might you have done that contributed to the conflict?”
“How can you make things better?” “What might you do differently?”
“Which step do you want to take?” “How do you want to do that?”

A last helpful tip or two… When your client talks about action steps, help them be as specific as possible and include timelines.

Usually, in a coaching situation, the coach is simply helping the client recall or use their own existing information and knowledge. If, as the coach, you feel the situation requires your input, ask permission before you speak!

“Can I challenge you on that?”
“Would you be open to hearing a different perspective?”

These questions can help us get out off of the roundabout and on to our destination!

Which of these questions might be most helpful to you?


Many of these questions and more can be found in Leadership Coaching by Tony Stoltzfus. I highly recommend the book!