All too often, when someone in the workplace says “I can’t do this”, the response from a well meaning other is to say, “Of course you can” or “It’s easy, I’ll show you how”. The response comes from a well-intentioned place, but the helper hasn’t really understood what is preventing the individual from being able to do this thing. For example, “I can’t write this report”.
There can be a range of reasons why someone feels unable to write a report. Those reasons might link to:
• a broken laptop (which relates to an environmental factor)
• it is the first time they have ever attempted such a report (they don’t have the strategy or skills needed)
• they doubt they have the ability to do so and lack confidence (it’s a belief issue)
• they don’t want to drop colleagues in the ‘proverbial’ because the report will contain damning evidence (in which case it’s a moral dilemma and is therefore about values)
Understanding the level at which a blockage is happening is crucial to coaching them through it without rescuing them and therefore disempowering them.
Here are the two magic questions to use:
1. What specifically can’t you do?
2. What is stopping you?
The responses to these questions will determine the level at which the problem is operating, ie is it:
Environmental eg their PC doesn’t work
Strategy eg they need help with a process or structure to the report
Beliefs eg they have a lack of confidence in their ability to write reports
Values eg they need to explore the moral dilemmas before they can write the report.
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