I’ve been coaching business owners, executives, and managers for almost twenty years now. In the last few weeks, there’s been a common theme with nearly every coaching client.
I’m not sure what I should do.
What should I do about reopening, social distancing, and overall safety? What should I do to support my employees and colleagues who are hurting? What can I do about the injustice that I see in my community? Should I send my kids back to daycare or summer camps now that restrictions are lifting?
People don’t want to do the wrong thing. They don’t want to say the wrong thing.
No answers. Just questions.
Each session I strive to help them create new awareness and clarity on how to address these challenges. I don’t have any advice on what is the right course of action. Sometimes I wish I did, as I’d love to know how to prevent their struggling. But that’s not my job as a coach to dole out advice.
What I do instead is ask thoughtful questions that help them find the answers that are right for them. Because they are the experts in their own lives. When they reflect deeply, try on different perspectives, and explore the pros and cons of various options, the question, “What should I do?” becomes a lot easier to answer.
Here are some examples of thoughtful questions:
- What is most important about this decision?
- How would you know if you made the right decision?
- What makes this difficult?
- What would make this decision easier?
- How do you want people to describe you after making this decision?
- Fast forward to a month from now. What do you want to be able to say? What about a year from now?
- What will you regret not doing?
The great thing about thoughtful questions is you don’t need a coach, you can ask them of yourself. And you can ask them of others. The goal is not to find the “right” answer, but rather to increase your own or your team’s awareness.
Be okay with not having the answers!
One of the reasons I love coaching is that it’s ok to not know the right answer. During a coaching session, clients will often not know the answer to the question right away. And that’s how I know it’s a thoughtful question… because they have to think!
For me, there are a lot of things that I don’t have answers to right now.
I work with teams in conflict where it’s helpful to be in person to see the underlying dynamics and to build trust. What can I do?
I believe in Black Lives Matter and want to be a part of the solution. What can I do?
God willing, my daughters’ generation will have better answers to the challenges facing our communities than mine did. What can I do to make sure they are up to the task?
I don’t have the answers yet. And that’s ok. My goal right now is to remain curious and look at things from as many perspectives as I can. To stay open to influence and new awareness. For right now, questions are the answer.
So if you are feeling stuck or confused on what you should do, that’s okay. Ask yourself some thoughtful questions, lean into the unknown, be patient with yourself, and the answers will come. They always do!
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