Trying hard to not know the answer

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Seen the same problem before? Thought through how the conversation is going to go already and can’t see why we don’t just shortcut to the end? Unable to see why someone is seeing such a difficulty in a situation? You already know the answer.

Anyone who has performed a management or coaching role; or, more often for me now, debriefed a 360 feedback report, will recognise the burning instinct to give someone the answer. People with problems or questions themselves often wish to get that answer too and it can feel great to give them what they are looking for.

If you are biologically predisposed to provide solutions as I appear to be then holding back, listening, exploring, asking questions can be very difficult. Yet it is critical. While there is no need to overcomplicate unnecesarily, the temptation of the simple answer leads to false starts and moves responsibility onto the coach. The proponents of the GROW model of coaching will recognise how hard it can be to explore and clarify the Goal, understanding the Reality and explore a variety Options rather than simply leap to the solution / Way forward.

360 feedback reports often provide a fantastic input into a conversation. But the recipient of the feedback has so much history, experience, capabilities, challenges, know-how on the ground that as a debriefer you cannot know the answer to what the feedback is saying or what should be done. It is really worth trying very hard to not know the answer.


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