I hated this question! I used to get it once-a-day, every day, at work, on a long-distance phone call. My London boss knew how to irk me. After all, I had just given him the who, what, when, where, why and how of my day. Did he not realise that sometimes, this update counted as my secret plea for help? If I knew what to do, I may have been a bit more economical with my words or perhaps embellish how clever I was.
A few times, I really did not know what to do, felt out of my depth and was busy second guessing myself (and him). Go left, that may have been the stupidest move ever and he was not shy to let me know. Go right, perhaps a touch of brilliance or insanity. I was certainly going to hear about it as well (not the brilliance part!).
“So, what are you going to do about it?” The smugness in his voice could not be missed. Given his experience, should he not make it easy (and more profitable) for all of us if he just gave me the answer? No. He insisted in asking the question and I had no choice but to come up with an answer, pretty much on the spot, and 3, 2, 1, get ready for the bollocking of all bollockings! I hated this call.
But he never gave me his answer. I had to come up with the answer. I was responsible, it was my call. In a way, the “answer” did not matter, but the fact that I thought it over, made a call, committed and followed it, did.
It took me a long time to realise this. And then I dawned on me what an enabling question this is. It gives us authority to make a call, to commit. And that is very powerful.
It is crazy to think that so many times we look to outsource our answers. By all means get some context for your predicament, but ask yourself “so, what are you going to do about it?” and allow yourself to think, commit and do.