01 May A secret to finding the right answer.
A secret to finding the right answer.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever needed to solve a problem at work, but then got stuck as you were trying to come up with the right answer.
(Okay. You can put your hand down now… people are looking.)
Or… maybe as as a leader… there was a time when you were trying to help a team member to find a solution to a challenging situation but as you worked through it with them… they just got more and more locked up.
Ever been there? I sure have.
Recently, I was facilitating a leadership training called “The Mentor Manager.” (In this session, we talk about incorporating specific coaching and mentoring strategies into your leadership approach.)
During a break, a leader approached me with a situation just like this. She said…
Recently, a team member was having some issues with a client. I was really wanting her to think through the situation and come up with a solution herself, because I’m wanting her to learn and develop more autonomy.
I asked her to walk me through the situation and she did.
Once she was done, I simply asked her… ‘What needs to be done here? What do you need to do to make it right?’
But then she got locked up. You could tell she was thinking, but she just couldn’t come up with anything. She got stuck. What should I have done?”
I think I surprised her with my response.
I said, “You could introduce the power of might.”
She looked at me like I was a little crazy (which is a pretty normal for me). In fact, because of my reference to “might,” I would imagine that she was thinking that I was referring to intimidation or scaring her newer team member.
But that’s not where I was going at all.
See… one of the things we stress as we introduce mentoring and coaching strategies to leaders, is how simple but powerful it can be to just change a few words when we ask questions.
For example, striving for absolutes too early can lock people up and shut down innovative, solution-based thinking. So if we ask a person for their ‘best solution’ or the ‘right answer’ immediately… it can strip the gears on their creativity. Instead of thinking through options, they jump to finding the “right” answer or the “perfect” answer too soon.
So when the manager from my workshop asked her young team member, “What needs to be done here? What do you need to do to make it right?” her team member got overwhelmed and locked up.
The power of “MIGHT”
So when you’re wanting to promote innovative thinking and new solutions, try interjecting the word “might” into your first questions. By doing so, you open up possibilities. You’re freed up to explore options before deciding on the “right answer.”
Then after you’ve talked through options… help them to clarify which would be the best option for them to try first.
Here are some examples…
- – What might be a good next step in this situation?
– [After listening] Out of these options, which do you want to try first?
- – What might be the solution here?
- – [After listening] Now that you’ve come up with some possible solutions, which do you like best?
- – What might you want to focus on next?
- – [After listening] Great! Which one seems like the best fit?
Sure… as a leader, you might be tempted to just give them the answer. But if you are striving to create a sense of autonomy within your team and inspire more ownership… give the power of “MIGHT” a try and see what that does for inspiring more creativity and solution-based thinking.
Plus, watch to see if the power of “MIGHT” helps people to get unstuck and find the “right” answer for the situation.
Oh… and let me know how it goes. Join in the conversation. Comment with questions about this concept and/or offer some of your own power of “might” questions. I’d love to hear from you!
Keep bringing your awesome,
PS – You can sure use the power of “MIGHT” questions when you’re working on solutions for yourself too. So if you’re navigating some big decisions, try throwing in a “MIGHT” into some of the questions you’re asking yourself to help open up possibilities.
Then later, use a follow up question to narrow the focus. Here are some bonus questions for you to use personally.
- – If we were to move, what might be some great options for us?
- – [After listing some options] Of these… which do we get the most excited about?
- – If I was to change jobs, what might be fun to try?
- – If I was to change jobs, what might be a better fit?
- – [After creating a list (some might be crazy)] Which of these resonates the most? Which would I want to explore more?
- – I stood my ground more in this situation, what might that look like? How might I do it?
- – [After thinking through your options] Which seems like the best option to try now?
mitch matthewsPosted at 15:50h, 01 May
By the way… for any wordsmiths (or nerds like me) out there… “might” and “may” are what they call a “modal axillary verb.” That means they’re used together with other verbs to talk about permissiion, possibility and/or suggestion. Although some might argue that “may” is to be used in the present tense… and “might” is to be used in the past tense… this has become more of a guideline instead of a rule.
Plus, I think if you use “may,” and you say something like, “What MAY you do in a situation like this?” you almost need to ask it with a British accent. (Which could be really cool, if you can nail it.) But if you just want to go with “MIGHT,” I’m with you.
Give it a try and see what happens.
(Yeah… I’m a grammar nerd and proud of it!)
Erin 'Rodvelt' AldridgePosted at 17:09h, 01 May
Thanks Mitch! This came through my news feed at just the right time. Our management team has been struggling with this very situation involving an employee.
mitch matthewsPosted at 18:21h, 01 May
Glad to hear it hit at the right time Erin! Hope it helps!
Lisa SmithPosted at 17:31h, 01 May
This was fantastic to read today Mitch! Thanks!
mitch matthewsPosted at 18:21h, 01 May
Thanks Lisa! Great to “see” you sista!
Anne Bodee-GalivanPosted at 04:20h, 07 May
I’m in a place right now where I’m asking God, “what comes next, what do I do next/now?” I like this aspect of thinking of what I “might” do, because yes, I’ve been feeling very “locked up.”
Mary VaughanPosted at 13:06h, 06 October
Life Coaching was an answer to the “might” question “What might I do as a new career, truly helpful to others, and make a living?” I think I’m on the right track, but have a great deal to learn! I live in a remote area, so attracting clients is key part of the training. I plan to rework my business card, (already have a business), talk with psychologists, ministers, friends, family, give presentations, use a website, etc. I have a few unpaying clients during my training. Will be interested in learning what works best for others.