‘I wish that our team was more collaborative’.  ‘I wish that we could find the solution’.

‘I wish that the business had greater growth’.  ‘I wish that the company was more innovative’.

Note how the word ‘wish’ tends to remove any sense of personal responsibility.  It views the problem as something external and beyond our control.  Our thinking is…wishful.

However, wishful thinking doesn’t have to be negative, particularly if used as part of this sequence of five powerful questions.

To begin this sequence, ask an individual or team the following.   ‘With no restrictions, no limitations…what is it that you really wish for’? Using this as the first question can generate some fantastic innovative and creative thinking.   It supports others in truly expressing themselves without fear of criticism.  The answer(s) at this point however may be quite broad.  For example,  ‘I/We want more autonomy’ or ‘I/We want to try a new potential market’.

Once you have completed this first stage, move on from the initial ‘wish’ question and ask them ‘why’?  This second powerful question encourages reflection.  Many of us individually and collectively wish for certain things but when asked ‘why’ it requires us to stop and think a little deeper.  Why are we really wishing for it?  This can really assist us in clarifying our real motivators and drivers.  It can assist in turning off our autopilot and reminds us that we are more than our habitual patterns of thinking and behaving.

Third in the sequence comes the powerful question ‘what is it that you specifically want’?  This removes any remaining ambiguity or confusion around the desired wish.  It ensures also that the person/team is really clear on what the specific focus should be upon.

The fourth powerful question in the sequence is where we move on from ‘want’ to ‘will’ which really commits us to action. ‘What are you willing to commit to’?  The word ‘will’ begins to move us from the world of wishful thinking to one of realism and pragmatism.  This begins to relocate the locus of control from the external to the internal.  Its the beginning of a transformation from a feeling of helplessness to a state of resourcefulness, from inability to ability.  It is a cognitive transformation from passivity towards action, providing focus and energy towards the desired outcome and demands commitment.

Finally, moving from ‘will’ to the fifth and final powerful question in the sequence.  ‘When will you carry out the work’? Or perhaps, ‘when will you have completed the project’?  Time frames are set out and agreed providing clear direction, accountability and role clarity.

Here’s a brief recap – What is it that you wish for? (without any preconceived limitations/innovation).

Why do you want this? (discover the real motivation behind the wish/awareness)

What specifically do you want? (seeking detail in terms of the actual goal or objective/clarity)

What will you commit to? (agreed specific actions/empowerment)

When are you going to complete these actions? (Timelines agreed/responsibility)

Next time you are attempting to make progress, try writing the headings wish/why/what/will/when onto a number of flipcharts or white boards and use them to frame your discussions.  Asking these five powerful questions sequentially not only provides us with clarity but so too does it ask us to question if the desired outcome is truly something that we value and desire. Are we really willing to invest our time and energies to bring it to fruition?

You may find that you have to retrace your steps and revisit ‘why’ or ‘what’ for example a number of times before you can successfully progress through all five questions and this is perfectly acceptable.

Why not explore how you get on with progressing from ‘wish’ through to ‘when’ and see for yourself how it can transform your workplace?

create10 supports individuals and teams in developing action orientated outcomes that enhance performance.  This is achieved through one to one executive coaching, professional team workshops and flexible, affordable online courses. More information at www.create10.ie