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Parents finding themselves in situations where their young child has made a mistake are often inclined to say ‘it’s all part of growing up.’  However, when the child becomes a young adult and the ‘mistake’ is somewhat more serious, like causing a car accident, our immediate response is far from positive!

That is what happened to me recently, with my son.  My immediate reaction was ‘how could you be so careless?’ Such an approach is not just judgemental but the assumption of carelessness may not necessarily be accurate and definitely did nothing to progress the situation.  Rather, it made him immediately defensive, thereby negating any opportunity for a constructive dialogue.  Every manager will note the parallels in business finding themselves in these situations almost daily. It is imperative that these situations are reframed to ensure positive rather than negative outcomes.

I really should have switched mode from that of a parent to a coach!  Then I would have enquired why it had occurred? The more important question.  Certainly it would have led to a positive dialogue and a learning experience for all. When coaching, the three tips I offer to reframe the questions are;

  • Being the Board:  Rosamund and Benjamin Zander in their book The Art of Possibility suggest dropping the addiction to finding fault with yourself or others.  Rather we should accept responsibility and become a player, rather than victim, in the broader Board game, asking ‘how?’ instead of ‘why me?’
  • Changing the assumption: The assumptions we make in any situation are often based on past experiences or knowledge that may be imperfect.  This can lead to erroneous judgements.  Stepping back and questioning those assumptions can lead to developing questions that will inform your learning mindset.
  • Switching questions: Rather than a line of questioning that is judgemental, devise questions that take you down the alternative learner’s path.  Switch to learner mode and ask questions such as ‘what different views are there?’ This invariably leads to a positive learning experience.

Being a parent is indeed just like being a coach.  And I would have done well to remember that!  In a business environment, the outcome from adopting the above approaches is that asking different questions will enable you to reframe each difficult moment, and in doing so almost certainly create growth opportunities.  So many are missed because of the immediate judgements made.

If you need assistance in helping your team reframe questions when difficult moments are faced, give us a call to see how we can assist you.


Ted Doraisamy