Moving from Problem Obsessed to Solution Focused: The 5 Most Important Questions You Need to Be Asking

As a leader (formal or otherwise), do you sometimes feel your office is a revolving door?

One problem and one complaint after another? Do you feel your office is a dumping ground for problems? Do you feel you’re left to clean up other people’s messes (and you’re busy enough with your own core work?) That by the end of your day, you have no energy left, you feel deflated and you worry all your effort isn’t leading to lasting sustainable change.

If this describes your workday, and if feels like every day is Groundhog Day, I’ve got a fix for you.

I want to share with you an evidence-based tool that will allow you to respond in a way that people feel they’re incredibly well supported without you feeling you need to pick up the pieces for them. It’s a solution-focused approach that originally came from the therapy world, but moved into organizational development and coaching. As a professional coach, speaker and trainer having introduced this to thousands of leaders, I can share first hand the transformative effect just five questions has had for busy middle managers.

As one individual shared on a recent evaluation” “If I had only learned this 20 years ago when I became a manager, I would’ve saved myself a lot of time and enjoyed my job more.”

So what are these questions? I’ll share the below and you can download them here:

1.What do you want?

When you think about yourself in a problem-solving situation and you’re trying to find solutions, is the first thing that you discover the best idea? For most people, they need to ask or be asked that same question repeatedly because typically, the first thing that we think of comes out of our mouth first. Ask what else, what else, what else? Then you will truly understand what the person wants.

2.What is already working?

This can be a tricky question to ponder if people are in the middle of a negative vortex, but there’s always something that’s working and again, consider, what else, what else, what else? Soon you will see the many things that are working.

3.What is possible?

Helping people see what they most want and what is already working, the possibilities open up and expand so we begin to offer solutions and problem solve. If you’ve ever tried to talk to someone about something that you’re frustrated about, you will know how annoying it is to have them try to solve the problem when all you needed was a listening ear. Instead, if they asked you, ‘what’s possible’ and ‘what else’ they’re demonstrating that you are the most resourceful person in the room.

4.What resources and knowledge do you already have available?

In other words, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. What could you tap into? It is incredible what people come up with…”what else, what else, what else?”

5.What is the one thing you’re going to do next?

This question helps the individual decide the most important next step to make progress. It’s a relief to not have to come up with the “strategy” but rather one step forward. Even the most overwhelmed person can decide one next step.

It’s incredible to me when I use this in coaching conversations or in front of an audience, how people get clear on the one next step and the hope and energy they feel as a result. They know it’s going to stop the revolving door of people complaining and negatively impacting your day.

And if you want to go one step deeper, understanding how to use this in the context of people who complain a lot, while you are over on my website downloading these questions in poster format, why don’t you also download the exercise “Complain, Complain, Complain”. All of these resources are designed to help you save time and enjoy your job more!

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“There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread.”

– Mother Teresa

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