Guest Post by Karen Ziegler

As a Life Strategist and Coach for Women Leaders my clients often end up in a session with me because they are frustrated and stuck in a particular area of life or career.  The issue could be anything from a personal goal they are trying to achieve but can’t seem to get traction on; the search for a new business idea that will take their company or department to a new level; or creative ideas for developing their people who are not performing optimally.

Whether it is a personal goal, a team issue or a larger company initiative I always start with 3 simple questions. Below are the 3 questions and a little detail about digging deeper in answering them.  If you have an issue you’re stuck on grab a notepad or journal now and starting applying these questions to your issue.

1. What’s working?

Getting really specific about what’s working is very important.  Drill down as many levels as you can go asking “WHY” what’s working is working. You are looking for the why’s behind the what here. Here are a few reasons why answering this question fully will benefit you and get you moving in the right direction.

  • What’s working is a window of hope.  When facing a tough challenge it’s energizing to recognize that there are parts of the issue that are in fact working. When we uncover the why behind this what, then we begin to understand the strength with which we can move forward.
  • As a leader identifying what’s working for a direct report, team or the company as a whole gives you a source for inspiring and encouraging your team to keep up the fight.
  • What’s working identifies a sweet spot or special skill set.  When you begin to look at what is working and asking a few why’s to take the thoughts deeper you’ll discover the special skills or sweet spot in yourself, your direct report, team or company.  Knowing the sweet spot or special skill set is great ammunition for tackling the problems which you identify in questions #2.
  • What’s working are the very people, tools and skills that you need to leverage. Leveraging these strengths will maximize the outcome and speed the resolution.

2. What’s NOT working? 

Getting really specific about what’s not working allows you to uncover the missing pieces of a strategy or goal. Drill down as many levels as you can go asking “WHY” what’s not working is not working. Again, you are looking for the why’s behind the what here. Here’s why asking what’s not working can get you unstuck and get the wheels of progress turning again.

  • What’s not working identifies the weaknesses – what’s missing totally or what just might not be the perfect fit.
  • What’s not working identifies the people or areas that need to be adapted or unfortunately sometimes eliminated.
  • What’s not working identifies what reinforcements need to be brought in. For personal goals this could be anything from a counselor, to a personal trainer to a Life Coach (like me). In business it could be an indication for staff changes, the hiring of a consultant or the outsourcing of work that your team is not skilled to handle.

3. How can we make it better? 

The answers to this question really flow from the answers you recorded for questions #1 & #2.  As you were specific in the above questions it is likely that light bulbs began to go off with answers to this question.  Still stuck after this question then here are a couple considerations.

  • Is the goal, individual or project not right for your vision or is the misalignment of the two what is causing the frustration or lack of progress.  When the objectives we desire to accomplish line up with our goals and vision then truly nothing is impossible. When they don’t line up there is rarely anything that will make it work.  Determining early this misalignment will allow you to ditch tasks quickly, with less man hours/expense and far less guilt.
  • Like with #2 being unable to answer this question will help you to identify the need to bring in reinforcements. It could be as simple as a brain storming sessions with peer groups outside of the area you are focused on or the hiring of various professionals.

So your turn to test it out.  Pick a area of life or work, perhaps a particular problem that has come up this week and grab and pen and pad and work through these 3 simple questions.  I guarantee you’ll improve your leadership and your life.

What simple tips or questions do you use to improve your leadership? Would love for you to share them in the comments below.

KarenZielgerHeadShotKaren Zeigler  is the Founder of  National Association of Christian Women Leaders and author of Created to Lead. She spent 20 years in the financial industry before pursuing dream to write, speak and coach. Married 32+ years to high school sweetheart and mother to one awesome daughter. When Karen’s not behind the computer she can be found hanging with the family or in the saddle on her favorite horse. You can follow Karen on Twitter You can also follow the National Association of Christian Women Leaders on Twitter.


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