The Ultimate Coaching Question

During our recent 2015 Blanchard Summit, we were lucky to have Mike Rognlien from Facebook conduct one of our client sessions. Mike said a couple of things that really stuck with me, including how if you see a problem, it is your job to solve it. If all you do is complain about it, you are part of the problem. He also explained that at Facebook, management is a service position, like being a coach!

My favorite thing he said was something that reminded me of a story I heard Sheryl Sandberg tell a couple of years ago on one of her Lean In videos. In her role as COO at Facebook, she was faced with a big decision. She looked to CEO Mark Zuckerberg for input—but instead of giving her his opinion, or even an answer, he asked her, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” I was thunderstruck. I wrote it on a sticky note, put it on my bulletin board, and have used that question to guide my decisions ever since. At Facebook they have it on posters all over the campus.

What would I do if I weren’t afraid?

Here is why I love it so much: it is the ultimate coaching question. Because it cuts right to the fact that most of us are afraid most of the time. Afraid we don’t have enough information. Afraid we don’t have enough education. Afraid we aren’t smart enough, creative enough, or simply enough.

Afraid we haven’t gotten enough advice, or the right advice, or advice from the best person. Afraid we will make the wrong decision. Afraid we will make the right decision but our boss won’t like it, or our people won’t accept it. Afraid that our mother, sister, father, or spouse will laugh at us. Afraid that the climate will shift so radically by the time we can get the decision implemented that it will all be moot.

I’m kind of kidding on that last one, but kind of not, too. There is so much to be afraid of—big things and little things; rational things and absurd things. But, as leaders, we can’t let this stop us because mostly, we make decisions.

So the next time you aren’t sure, and you are thinking of asking someone what you should do, stop and ask yourself the ultimate coaching question. See what your answer is.

About the Author

Madeleine BlanchardMadeleine Blanchard is the co-founder of The Ken Blanchard Companies’ Coaching Services team.  Since 2000, Blanchard’s 130 coaches have worked with over 14,500 individuals in more than 250 companies throughout the world. Learn more at Blanchard Coaching Services. And check out Coaching Tuesday every week at Blanchard LeaderChat for ideas, research, and inspirations from the world of executive coaching.

5 thoughts on “The Ultimate Coaching Question

  1. Hi Madeleine, great question and one that is not so easy to answer. What would I do if I wasn’t afraid? Video my blog, introduce myself to those that I really admire, zip line through the Costa Rican rainforest . . . thanks for inspiring today!

  2. Pingback: Five Blogs – 22 October 2015 | 5blogs

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