Coaching skills make awesome consulting skills

“It makes it much clearer what is ultimately important to them”, she said.


The thinkers on a consulting skills programme had completed two rounds of interviews with the ‘client’. I asked what they had learnt and this thinker’s eyes were big and bright.


“I always start by asking more about the problem and I focus on fixing that”, she said.


And for most people this makes absolute sense. Someone comes to you with a problem so you ask them to tell you more about the problem so you can solve it.


The problem (haha) being, is that the solutions you come up with will be constrained by that problem.


Let me explain with a real example.


I love my garden, but I can’t grow all my vegetables in one place. So I found an area of the raised brick planter and added some pots around it. It worked but it didn’t look great.

The at the beginning of the first lockdown I found an online garden design course and decided to give it a go.


In the first session we were asked:

  • How do you want to use the garden?
  • Who would be using the garden?
  • When would we be using the garden?
  • How did we want to feel in the garden?

With a clear picture of my dream garden in mind I realised the raised brick planters didn’t work. But the bricks are perfect for the paving I want!


This works in consulting as well.


When your client is clear on the outcome they want then the real problems bubble to the surface.


Here’s a set of questions that will help you get the root of the problem in one conversation:


1. Start by imagining the ideal outcome:

  • What’s the ultimate goal for you?
  • What’s your ideal outcome?
  • If you could have anything you want in this situation what would it be?

2. Make the outcome important:

  • What would it mean for you to achieve this goal?

3. Find the blockers:

  • What is blocking you from getting that goal?
  • What’s stopping you from achieving that?
  • What’s getting in the way of you reaching that outcome?

4. Keep asking, “what else” until there is nothing more:

  • What else is blocking you?
  • What else is stopping you?
  • What else is getting in the way?

5. Which blocker is the biggest:

  • Of all those things, which is blocking you the most?


This process will help you and your client get clear on the ideal outcome and what the real blocker is. You’re then in a great position to design the best solution or if you’re super lucky, your client might tell you the solution they need from you.

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