A Life-Changing Question!

I love puzzles. In kindergarten, I was a whiz at jigsaw puzzles. I would complete mine with lightning speed, and with good intention in my heart, move on to finish the puzzles of all the other classmates.

Mrs. B, my not so nice teacher (the antithesis of the quintessential kindergarten teacher!) repeatedly chastised me for this behavior and sentenced me to the worst punishment of all…to return to my seat and keep my mouth shut. It was pure torture. I was just trying to help!

As a coach and trainer, I now know Mrs. B had an easy fix. Just give me a more complex puzzle that would challenge me and take more time.

My intense desire to solve puzzles has served me well and not so well. Why? Because my team and family aren’t always up for a collaborative session to determine root cause analysis or a brainstorming exercise to weigh various solutions. They are in search of a safe place to vent. They want me to listen. They know how to fix their own problems. They want to feel my touch as I hold their hand or shelter their tears.

In the New York Times article, “When Someone You Love is Upset, Ask This One Question” by Jancee Dunn, she shares that teachers (the good ones!) ask this miraculous question when a student is upset, Do you want to be helped, heard, or hugged?”

I think this question is pure genius for two reasons.

  • In our company’s culture, our consultants are trained not to make assumptions and instead, ask the big hairy scary questions of each other and our clients. Questions free us from making assumptions. Do you want to be helped, heard, or hugged enables the responder to share exactly what he/she/they wants. No assumptions!
  • Whether you are a leader or individual contributor, there are only so many problems you can solve in one day. Many leaders I coach feel pressure to don a superhero cape no matter how small or big the problem. By asking this question of others, it builds their problem-solving skills and allows you to stay in the present and just listen.

I would be remiss as the President of Compass, an Organizational Performance Consulting firm, to mention that in most company cultures, hugging is frowned upon. But not always. When my husband passed away this year, my team and friends physically embraced me and that is exactly what I needed to survive such intense grief. You should ask if it’s okay to touch another human and read both the verbal and nonverbal signs. Use your judgment.

Helping and hearing our clients comes in many forms at Compass. Here are just a few ways we work with our clients:

  • Leadership and Executive Coaching
  • Employee Surveys and Engagement Work
  • Investigations and Employee Relations Support
  • Culture Transformation
  • Training and Development in The Compass Lab®

Please email me at alisa@wearecompass.com for more information. 

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