Whether I’m helping an organisation to address a corporate challenge, a coaching client to deal with a professional conundrum or a friend to work through a personal dilemma, there’s one killer question that never fails to cut through the noise and to show us what we’re really dealing with.
Whatever the circumstances, the conversation invariably begins with the challenge in question and what the organisation or individual is looking to achieve. Fair enough. We may talk, too, about the scale of the challenge and how important it is that we find a way to overcome it. That’s interesting, too. Important, even.
But it’s not really the issue. And it’s certainly not why they’ve called me.
This is where my killer question comes in. Because once we’ve identified what the problem is and why it’s vital that we find a way to overcome it, I ask simply: “What have you tried already?”
The answer, you may be unsurprised to hear, is invariably one of silence. Followed, eventually, by some kind of grudging admission that, well, we haven’t actually tried anything yet.
And now we’re getting somewhere.
Because the actual problem frequently isn’t the challenge itself, but rather the organisation’s or the individual’s inability or reluctance to do something about it.
There are, of course, many reasons why this might be the case. And we can explore them in time. But the important thing is to recognise that they exist. Because there’s little point working with someone to design a solution to a problem if they’re not actually going to go ahead with it.
It’s a waste of their time. It’s a waste of my time. And it doesn’t help anyone.
Yet all of this can be avoided with one simple question.