Four little words. I ask this question of certain candidates typically in an initial conversation. As most job searches are propelled by salary, opportunity and geography- It’s a fairly direct question any job seeker should know the answer to. And I rarely receive a direct answer.
How often are we faced with unpleasant circumstances, a job search, dilemmas, bad days and surprises and we become so wrapped around the problem that we can’t step back and ask the obvious question- What do I want? What one thing could immediately improve or solve this problem? What one resource or person could change the course of this problem?
With 7 billion people on the planet, there is no problem, no circumstance unique to one person. As special as we may think we are, statistics show there 7,000 people just like you. (A very humbling yet overly-generic thought).
I recently had a conversation with a friend who has ventured into a new business. He has a deadline looming, an enormous quota to meet all while balancing the challenges of developing a small national sales team in its infancy and bootstrapping the entire company. What he’s achieved the past 18 months is nothing short of spectacular. Yet, he is staggering on a precipice if the next set of enormous challenges isn’t achieved by March 1, 2014. (Same day, different story for any small business owner or entrepreneur).
After a nearly 7 minute monologue of listening to the challenges, frustrations, fear, hopefulness and legitimate facts surrounding his problem(s), I asked, “What do you want?” He actually stopped talking for a few moments. I repeated my question and then asked, “What one thing do you need to accomplish by March 1?” He responded that x number of units needed to be sold. A simple solution to a complex problem. The challenges with the sales team, cash flow, the exhaustion of being on the road 5.5 days a week- All of that was less than relevant when compared to solving the biggest problem in the room.
We did the math and calculated the number of units which needed to be sold November – February 2014. The next hour was devoted to creating the most cost effective, simplest and fastest solution to increasing sales without adding responsibilities to an already fragile and marginal sales team. Every time he started discussing the challenges, the problems, the consequences of failure, the challenges he was facing with his current resources, I countered with “What do you want?” And by the third time I asked the question, his mantra had shifted to a simple solution with a clear deadline.
Our stories, our problems and projected consequences are often so overwhelming and debilitating we can’t imagine moving forward with a calm, confident and simple process. Knowing what we want, being brutally honest with ourselves and with our fellow stakeholders, (leadership, colleagues, personal partners, etc.) is a vulnerable process- Even if we only admit it to ourselves. Asking, “What do I want,” opens the door to failure, disappointment and to understanding what will be required of ourselves .
By replacing the interior monologue of our problems with the most responsible question, “What do I want,” we can chart a course and move forward. Simply, with clarity and self-reliance. Enough talking about the problem….What do you want?