What Are The Hard Questions?


On my home page I refer to “hard questions,” but what do I mean? Hard questions are the ones that we politely avoid most of the time. They are the questions that, when asked, upset the apple cart, demand that we change. They challenge assumptions, require honesty, make us sit up straighter, and bring us together.

For example: You are leading a meeting at which you are discussing implementation of Plan A. There is no energy or enthusiasm in the room as you assign action items. Suppose, instead of forging you asked, “What are we really trying to achieve and will Plan A get us there?” and then invited participants to weigh in. Scary? Maybe. Bold? Definitely. And if Plan A cannot withstand this questioning, it ain’t worth executing. Additionally, this open dialogue brings the team together and validates the experience and insight of the team members, and you either end up with a better Plan B or you get buy-in from your team on Plan A. Or take this example from the home front: You and your spouse are planning your week, discussing logistics, who will take the car into the shop, what nights you need to work late, negotiating over when you will have your “date night.” What if you put down your Blackberry and asked: “What do you want from our relationship, and are you getting it?” Gulp. This, too, is a hard question, taking you out of details and into the Big Picture. Imagine how much more interesting the conversation gets from there. Each of us needs to ask these questions of ourselves, our colleagues, and our partners if we are to succeed in our professional and personal lives. We shy away from them because we are afraid that the answer may demand change or may reflect something about us that we don’t like. Instead, we should welcome them because they open the door to achieving what we really want, whether it is a successful business or a truly harmonious relationship. Otherwise we are plodding along in a sham security.

For much, much more on the subject of what Susan Scott calls “interrogating reality,” check out her book, Fierce Conversations. I’m reading it now. Or check out www.Fierceconversations.com.