Focusing on the Focus Question

Sheila was becoming more displeased everyday with her job. It seemed to her that the company she worked for did not care about its employees. Sheila, like several other employees, spent most of her time talking about what was wrong, talking with a few co-workers, her family, friends, anyone who would listen. Most of her talk was complaining. Sheila’s focus was on the symptom of her own displeasure.

Tom, pastor of a medium sized congregation, fretted and talked down the deacons and elders of his church. He would talk to church members (sympathizers), other pastors, but mainly to his wife. They would not get on board, they would not follow and would not let him do what he wanted. Tom’s focus was on symptoms.

Organizational focus as well as our own individual focus is often on symptoms, not the cause, as we have discussed in the two previous posts. One might think changing the focus would then be simple, once this fact is realized. Unfortunately, it is not simple. We are prone to fall back to focusing on symptoms. Therefore, it is important o continually asking the right probing questions to focus on the cause not the symptoms. Focusing on the cause alone will lead to the resolve.

In our normal pattern of thinking it is easy and even second nature to default to symptom thinking. Symptom focus leads to a lot of indecisive discussion and complaining, but seldom to genuine, fruitful resolve. Focus often requires the individual, team, or organization to take responsibility.

Reading of Sheila and Tom’s stories above, one might have difficulty accepting their worries as symptoms. The reason we have this difficulty is we have lived with the default of symptom thinking for so long, that we default to it. Default thinking is default focus. As individuals or an organization to focus on a cause (for resolve) often requires us to focus on strengthening something within ourselves (organization). Even in the type situations cited above, where the focus is other people, we must look beyond people, identify the issue – not person(s) but issues, and explore the possibilities of rectification.

If we desire people to move in a productive direction, be it individuals or an organization, we must ask questions that probe resolve and forward movement.

Here are a few more examples:

What would the ideal outcome look like in your opinion? – The response to this question would then require a follow up question as, “Would you expand on that answer for me?” The following conversation and activity would then be focused around “What will it take for us to get to that outcome?”

What is within your grasp to change the situation? The focus here is not on how to “make” other people change, but what can I do to improve the situation. What is within my power?

How do you envision a prosperous future? Once the prosperous future is described, the questions to ask will relate to the particular steps this person or organization will need to take in moving toward reaching this goal.

Study and practice using focus questions, in your own life as well as the individuals and organizations you lead. You will see a more effective and abounding after-effect.

Find out more in Coaching: A Way of Leadership, A Way of Life and Reaching the Summit. Or contact George Yates directly.