What is an awkward question?
Usually it’s the one that you’re a bit embarrassed to answer. There could be numerous reasons for this. Perhaps the night before was a bit “heavier” than expected? Maybe you’re recalling a younger version of yourself that wore some questionable fashion items and listened to a very popular band (popular at the time at least). Or maybe, as the summer holidays come to a close, you’ve been bombarded by questions from younger members of the family that have decided to expand their own knowledge of the working world. Some of those questions really can lead to awkward conversations!
For me, an awkward question is one of the most powerful tools available. It’s not that I want to make people feel uncomfortable, nothing could be further from the truth. For me, it’s when we face into the awkward question that we are really presented with a chance to focus on something that we really need to change but are afraid to do so.
Working with people is by far the best part of the job. When I’m with customers I get to see that moment where something clicks, and you can tell that they are ready to make a change. At that point, learning has taken place, or a commitment has been made to be different. These are the things that we see in motivational videos, the end result, the moment where someone has achieved their aims. The road to getting there though can be a little more challenging.
When I set up the business I was perhaps more organised than I’d been in my life. So many to do lists, so many spreadsheets and trackers had been put in place to make sure that everything was ready for go live. It paid off and I hit the ground running on the date I wanted to. Success!
Over the next few weeks I worked hard at building contacts, securing work and delivering the best results I could for my customers. This felt great.
However, whilst only a few days into working with a new customer I remembered something very important. Once I’d completed this work I needed to be responsible for finding the next customer to work with and the one after that too. It wasn’t that I hadn’t thought of this before, but I had got caught up in the excitement of starting the business and now I needed to start work with my new reality and create my day to day activities. How? I asked myself some awkward questions.
Fundamentally, I like me. There are those that don’t and that’s fine, but I think I’m pretty much ok. I like to think that essentially, we’re all the same. You will always be your biggest fan, or should be, and will always be the one to pat yourself on the back at a job well done.
Here was my biggest problem. If I was pretty much ok and great how could I have not focussed on what was next in line for the business? How could I not have identified the next customer and started to prepare to deliver for them? That didn’t make sense to me, I wouldn’t do that. Actually, I was right. I wouldn’t, however this was a new experience and I was learning!
Whenever I work on a 121 basis with a customer I advise upfront that I will ask some awkward questions and using questions will help them unlock their own potential. It occurred to me that if this was something I was helping customers to do, and indeed expecting them to work with me and achieve their goals, I too had to face some uncomfortable moments and identify what changes I needed to make.
Interestingly the answer to what I needed to do, or rather that the question that triggered the right action came from an unexpected source. I was sat with one of the younger members of the household and they were taking an interest in the business and asked:
- What do you do for your company?
- How do you get people to give you work?
- If people you know don’t have work for you, what do you do then?
3 very simple questions and 3 questions that deserved an answer. The first 2 were very straightforward. However, in the spirit of a good coaching session, silence was used to great effect until I had an answer to the 3rd. In answering though, I had my own moment of change and new goals and actions were built leading to further development of the business.
It’s not a comfortable experience to be asked a question that you don’t readily have an answer for. It’s even harder when you can’t think of a response at all. However only through embracing this “awkwardness” can we look to make lasting impactful change.
I’d encourage everyone to take some time out and ask yourself the question you don’t want to answer. The results can be truly amazing.
If you decide that you’d like some help in feeling awkward feel free to get in touch.