Guest Post by Myriam Callegarin

Developing a Growth Mindset is essential for leadership and organizational agility, but where do you start? In this post I’d like to share with you a simple and yet highly effective strategy for building an agile, growth-oriented culture and by-pass resistance from (‘Yes, but…’) co-workers who keep blaming others and whose favourite comment is “This will never work here”.

Use one simple question to trigger the search for possibilities

Any time your team or organization is facing a challenge that you want to overcome, ask your team one single, open-ended question that stimulates the search for solutions.

For example:

“What is the opportunity here?”

Then stop talking. Let the question sink in. Wait.

If anyone argues and starts drifting off, gently re-focus their attention on the question. If anyone comes up with ‘Yes, but…’, gently answer with something like ‘I hear you. I see that’s an issue. So what could be the opportunity here?’

Be patient, and the answers will come.

You may be surprised by the multitude and depth of insights that emerge from your people. Or maybe from you, as you ponder this question yourself.

Then ask the next single question

Depending on the situation, move the process forward by asking a new single question that keeps people focused and stimulates them to explore further. Another question could be:

  • What do you want to do about it?
  • If we did X, what could become possible for us?
  • Considering the purpose of our team / Business Unit / organization, what do we need to do differently in order to re-align with that purpose?
  • If we were the best, smartest, bravest company in the world, what would we do that we are not doing now?
  • What else is possible?

Why this works

From a purely neurological perspective, such a single coaching question by-passes the protective fear responses that are usually activated in the brain by the amygdala due to subconscious beliefs, such as negative past experiences or others blockers. Instead, they trigger the prefrontal cortex in the brain, where smart and innovative ideas emerge. Here is an example.

Scenario: You are leading a team meeting and one of your most extroverted co-workers keeps dominating the conversation and never allows others to speak.

Option 1 – Feedback (or Blame in disguise): “Tom, I notice you keep talking and the others don’t get a chance to contribute.  Please let the others talk as well.” – Despite your efforts to sound calm, your question can trigger Tom’s amygdala and activate a defensive response, while creating a slightly wary atmosphere in the room if the others are already annoyed by his behaviour.

Option 2 – One single coaching question: “Tom’s comments are useful. It would be good to hear other perspectives as well. (Pause) How can we ensure that everyone gets a chance to contribute?” – Stop and wait. This way, you trigger your team’s prefrontal cortexes and everyone in the room will forget to think about the problem, because their brains will be focused on finding ways to make sure that everyone contributes.  New neurological connections start firing, while solution-oriented thinking unfolds.

This is how you can trigger a sense of Possibility vs. Impossibility / Blame / Stagnation. That’s how you can stop a blame culture and start building a more agile, inclusive, growth-oriented culture that allows individuals to fully utilize their internal resources and the team to tap into their collective intelligence. Thus, you and your team learn to face complex business and organizational challenges faster and more constructively. You all keep moving forward, venturing to new unexpected possibilities, growing and evolving together.

That’s the power you can have as a leader. Using one conscious question at a time.

Myriam Callegarin is a Global Executive Coach and Leadership Consultant. She works with executives who want to upgrade their ability to bring out the best in themselves and their teams, so they can add extraordinary value to their companies and customers. She combines an extensive corporate and business experience with a deep passion for coaching as a tool for personal, leadership and organizational development.   You can connect with Myriam on LinkedIn.


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