Three Questions to Ask Yourself When You’re Feeling Stuck

Three Questions to Ask yourself when feeling stuckIf you’ve read my book The Coaching Habit, you’ll know that I’m all about asking questions. Asking questions instead of providing answers and advice provokes productivity and learning, and helps employees develop. It’s the key to effective coaching. What I don’t always talk about is how helpful it is to ask yourself these same questions when you yourself are feeling a little stuck.

First, it’s important to figure out why you’re feeling the way you do. Is it because of a project, a person or a pattern of your own behaviour? These are all areas in which we might get stuck.

Once you figure out where you’re stuck, the three questions outlined below will help you figure out exactly how you’re stuck — and how you can get yourself unstuck.

1. What’s the (real) challenge here for you?

As a coaching question, this helps slow down the rush to action. When you ask your employee this question, you spend time figuring out the real problem they are facing. When you ask yourself this question, you do the same thing.

Start with asking yourself what challenge you currently face. Then think about your answer. It’s probably a little vague. So ask yourself again, “What’s the real challenge?” When you dig a little deeper, you’ll likely come up with the issue that matters most. Then really focus. What’s the real challenge here for you?

It’s easy to mull over abstract challenges, but when you pin down an unambiguous challenge and discover how it affects you specifically, you’re more likely to figure out why the challenge is exactly that — a challenge.

2. What do you (really) want?

Often we don’t really know what we actually want. Maybe your initial answer to the question of what you want is “I want to get unstuck.” But that answer is difficult to follow up on when you ask yourself, “Okay, but what do I really want?”

The good news here is that since you’re asking yourself this question, you’re responding to yourself and to yourself only. So don’t be shy; really think about it and answer honestly. It’s difficult to ask this question of an employee, and it’s just as difficult to ask it of yourself, but the answers will always help everyone involved get down to business.

Yes, it’s a hard question, but you just might uncover some good answers.

3. And what else?

So now that you’ve asked yourself, “What’s the real challenge here for me? What do I want?”

ask yourself, “And what else?” This is the best coaching question in the world because it presses for more answers and options, and likely the best answers and options. Our first ideas are rarely our best, and this question demands more!

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So when you’re feeling stuck, remember, there’s probably more than one thing that’s making you feel the way you do. Why is that? What’s the real challenge here for you? What do you really want? And what else?

Try it. Force yourself to answer yourself. You’ll be surprised at how many ideas you can generate as you get clearer and clearer on the challenges you face.

And guess what else? By asking yourself these questions, you’ll be practising your coaching skills, becoming a better coach to others, while getting unstuck at the same time.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not of The HR Gazette or its team members.
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Author: Michael Bungay Stanier

Author of The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever, Michael Bungay Stanier is the Senior Partner of Box of Crayons, a company that helps organizations do less Good Work and more Great Work. It is best known for its coaching programs, which give busy managers practical tools to coach in 10 minutes or less.

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