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Seek counsel and consultation

Sura Shuraa verse 42:38. And their rule is to take counsel among themselves.

Reflection: This sentence in verse 38 is part of a passage that describes the people for whom the Hereafter will be so much better than the world. One of their qualities is that they seek counsel from one another.

Islam recommends that believers seek advice from each other, and discuss things to get the opinions of others.

Why: When we are in the midst of a situation or a problem, it is often challenging to see the big picture or reflect on how our behaviour is playing out in the situation. Our own self interest and ego often results in tunnel vision, which leads to actions not in our ultimate best interest.

Seeking counsel and consultation from a spouse, a good friend, a trusted colleague or a trained professional at such a time can be hugely beneficial. (There is a reason that the most successful CEOs and leaders all have personal coaches and consultants . . .)

This sounds like a modern idea, doesn't it?...

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How to use and ask the Questions

Over the last couple of weeks, we have been exploring the wisdom in The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever.

The book really helps the reader recognize how we can be "advice giving maniacs" and how we often don't even know what the problem is, but we've got some thoughts about how to go around fixing it. (it is SO easy isn't it – to give advice on how to fix problems we don't know much about!!)

I hope that you have been playing with the questions at work and at home and are beginning to explore the power of these simple questions to make us effective in our interactions and communications with others. Once we begin 'playing' with the questions (however imperfectly) and notice the power, we are likely to want to do more of it.

In the book, Stanier offers great suggestions on how to use the questions in what he calls "Question Asking Master classes" and on how to practice the questions so that they become a habit. If you are looking for what...

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The Learning Question

I love love love Stanier's learning question. The learning question is a great way to distill the wisdom from every interaction and leave people with real value for their time and yours.

The learning question allows us to gain insights from both successes and mistakes. It turns every conversation into a self growth moment.

The learning question is this: "What was most useful to you about this conversation?"

There is solid neuroscience embedded in the learning question. In Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning Brown, Roediger and Mc Daniel say that the most important thing about learning is to "interrupt the process of forgetting". They explain that forgetting starts happening immediately, so by asking this question at the end of a conversation, we create the first interruption it that slide towards "I've never heard that before".

Apart from helping us remember the major takeaways from an important conversation, the Learning Question does two other important things:

...

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The Strategic Question

In The Coaching Habit, Stanier distinguishes between great work (the work that you love to do, has meaning, is connected to your purpose and makes an impact) versus all other 'good work' (the work that you've got to get through, the everyday tasks, 'this is my job description' kind of work).

(For parents and family members, this also applies to us. Great work of relationship is connection, intimacy, support, influence, legacy – that kind of thing)

Stanier recommends asking the Strategic Question before accepting to do more busy, 'good' work that has little impact. The Strategic Question is this: If you are saying YES to this, what are you saying NO to?

This question is especially useful for those of us who have a very hard time saying no. (Remember the DailyWisdom on Pause Before You Promise?)

When we cannot say no, our schedules tend to get full of busy work and priorities which are not our own.

Stanier puts it very beautifully when he says: "A Yes is nothing without the No...

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The Lazy Question

This week we are continuing exploring leadership coaching questions from The Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Stanier.
 
I don't know about you, but I sometimes get stressed when I am trying to help someone. I may begin to feel like I am trying harder to come up with solutions than they are. I find myself trying to figure out in my head what they need most at this time. It can be very tiring when we feel that we are working harder than the person whose problem it is.
 
Well, Stanier has a simple solution to this kind of overwhelm. He calls it the Lazy Question: "How can I help"?
 
What is so brilliant about the lazy question is that it forces the one with the problem or issue to make a direct and clear request. It helps the person who is asking for support to get clear on exactly what they are asking.
 
Secondly, it stops us from thinking that we already know how best to help the other and stops us "from leaping into action" and trying to rescue someone when they are...

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The Foundation Question

The Foundation Question is: "What do you want?"

In The Coaching Habit, M.B. Stanier says that he sometimes calls The Foundation Question the "Goldfish Question" because it often elicits that response: slightly bugged eyes, and a mouth opening and closing with no sound coming out.

This simple question is often difficult for many people to answer. Firstly, because it is easier to articulate what we DON'T want rather than focus on what we DO want. Secondly, because even if we are able to figure out what we really want, it is less than easy to ask for it.

So when you ask this question, be prepared for the goldfish response. And then ask it again: "What do you want"? To be even more effective, you can follow up the response with: "What do you really want"?

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The Focus Question

Have you ever found a brilliant solution to a problem that did not fix the problem because you realised that what you solved was the wrong problem!

This happens all the time in relationship consulting. Couples will often come with a list of complaints that seem easy to solve. When issues are resolved, they realise that it was not the real issue. 

It takes some experience and training to figure on that it is more helpful to focus on the real problem, not the first problem.

In The Coaching Habit, Stanier suggests that a simple and effective way to get to the real problem is to ask: "What's the real challenge here for you?"
 
The question as is it written pins the question to the person you are talking to rather than having abstract discussions about what the issue is. It brilliantly focuses on how the issue is impacting the person who is looking for a solution.
 
I find that this is also a great question to ask myself when I am struggling with an issue. It truly is "The...

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The AWE Question

The next question that Stanier talks about in The Coaching Habit is even simpler than the first.

It is the AWE question: And what else?

"With seemingly no effort", he explains, these three little words "create more – more wisdom, more insights, more self awareness, more possibilities out of thin air."

Asking this question a few times, allows the real issues to rise to the surface so that you are working at a level that will make a difference. He suggests that you ask it one more time than you think you need to! The question allows more options to surface which lead to better decisions and solutions.

And What Else? The quickest and easiest way to create new possibilities. Try it.

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The kickstart question

Stanier in The Coaching Habit writes that "Coaching for development is about turning the focus from the issue to the person dealing with the issue, the person who's managing the fire."
 
Such a useful concept! What this means is that as leaders our job is not to know how to solve all problems. It is not even realistic to be able to solve all problems, is it? The person who is asking the question often is closer to the situation and has more information about the issue than we do.

(As an example, think of your 6th grader who is dealing with a math problem. He has attended the class recently and heard the teacher's instructions. Who knows more about the situation – him or you who has not attended a math class in several decades?)

So our job as a leader may be simply to help people uncover the answer that they already have within themselves.

This process is so much simpler than trying to solve or pretend to know the solution to every problem that others are having. So when you...

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What do I really really want?

What do I really really want?

This is a great question to ask ourselves regularly.

So very often we chase something that we think we want, and then when we get it, realise that nope, that was not really our hearts desire. It is as if, as Steven Covey puts it, our ladder of success has been leaning against the wrong wall. Only once we have climbed the ladder we realise, oops, wrong wall!!

Many of us are connecting to our wants and desires these days and getting ready to ask from the King of Kings in these blessed and holy nights of Shabaan.

And this is a really good question to get us aligned with our big picture wants and get us in touch with what we truly want with our heart and soul.

The most effective way to use this question is to ask it several times and keep writing down what comes up. It takes a few moments for the conscious mind to settle and for our deepest longings to come bubbling up to the surface.

The first few (or several) things you will write will likely be immediate...

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