The Golden Question

I had an eye opening experience the other day.  I was charged with writing a piece on a topic I knew nothing about.  I felt unsure as to the best approach to learning as much as I could in a short amount of time.  So, the first thing I did was call a colleague and friend of mine, John Cunningham.  An experienced and talented writer, I knew he would be able to direct me.  I had no idea at the time that the words of wisdom he provided would have so much impact.  What was the advice?  Ask one simple, 2-part question. What was the question?  Here it is:

“What would you like to do and how can I help?”

I didn’t doubt John– he is one of the best writers I know.  I had nothing to lose, right? So, I opened the interview with just those words.  And what happened?

The floodgates opened.

We proceeded to have an hour-long conversation about how this person got to where they were today and then he started to ponder how I would help him with the next steps.  This experience was transforming for me.  John wasn’t only right about the question, he was also dead-on with something else–  he speculated that many people have never answered this question out loud and that this was a helpful process for the interviewee as well.  I found just that!  The person actually verbalized “I have never really given this as much thought and connected so many dots before just now.”

Amazing.  I was effervescent.  I couldn’t believe the experience!  I had what I needed to get started on writing and my client had worked through a mental roadmap of their experiences.  All I could do was call my friend John and thank him.

I urge anyone to try this 2-part question with someone.  It doesn’t have to be an interview.  It can be used with your clients– let them work out the pathway.  Sit back, actively listen and then help then devise the next steps where you can help.   It will work.  I promise!