How often have you come across a situation where the answer you provide often falls on deaf ear. It is not the answer they like. “You don’t understand my/ our situation” are the unspoken words behind the non-acceptance.
Good leaders, consultants and advisers know this and hence often do not provide a direct answer. They instead ask questions as an answer to the question. Asking a powerful question is a trait. One needs to empathize, step into the shoes of the opponent, feel the situation and feel what the person is going through.
There are cases where people already know the answer; just that it’s not clear in their mind. They need a bouncing board to validate or reaffirm. That’s where no answer suits them, as it does not match theirs.
“Most of the times we slip delivery deadlines, what do you think we should do?” If that’s the question someone asked to you, would an answer like “fix your processes” be a right one?
How much do you know about the situation and potential causes or a root cause of the problem? It could be processes, it could be people unable to honor commitments, it could be a too demanding customer, it could be too many change requests, it could be lousy tools, it could be a new technology or it could be something else.
How would you know what is the right solution unless you know what is the real problem? And who else other than the person deeply involved will know it? Possibility is he/ she may already know the answer, except being sure that is it ‘THE’ answer. Asking a question that clarifies the answer in their mind, makes it a powerful answer as it doesn’t come from you, it comes from them.
So, the right answer for many such situations is the following set of questions.
1) What’s missing? –This question shifts the focus from what’s not working to what could be the cause. A series of questions-“is this something that’s missing” and “no, not this” would lead to an area that reveals, yes “it’s this that’s missing”. The rest is simple, fix it.
2) How would it be if it’s not this (missing deadlines in this case) – In situations where the 1st question fails to unearth the real cause, this one would certainly not fail. This question comes from a state where things are ideal, working well. What is it that is making it work or creates an ideal situation? A series of points emerge and reveal areas or attributes that make it work. And then you have got the options to validate against the situation and fix it.
Even in cases, where the person or the organization really doesn’t know the answer, the above set of questions still work. Try it out and the results will surprise you!!
Not sure? What’s your question?