Donna's blog on coaching, leadership, and life

A beneficial approach: What if obstacles didn’t exist?

When we’re exploring a new goal, or a creative or strategic initiative, it’s not unusual to lose steam as we feel a wall go up with anticipated obstacles written on it. That wall—or thinking about possible obstacles—will sometimes stop us in our tracks.

I want to share this cool and simple exercise that has helped me and many of my clients eliminate the wall of obstacles, in order to more fully explore the feasibility of an approach or solution. I call it the “What if??” exercise. It helps us explore further by simply asking: What if the obstacle didn’t exist?

Here are a few examples of obstacles that may come to mind in the following scenarios: a possible reorganization, a costly yet important purchase, or a recommendation for change to a less-than-open manager.

– We couldn’t possibly structure the department that way, because it will affect our most seasoned employee.
– This software purchase isn’t worth recommending, because we don’t have the budget to support it now.
– That would never happen because my boss doesn’t like change.

Watch what happens when the “What if?” is applied to the above anticipated obstacles. Notice the questions that might be generated by this approach.

– What if the affect on your seasoned employee was not an obstacle? What might the new departmental structure you were considering, look like? How will this structure contribute to your departmental objectives?

– What if money was not an issue? Who might be involved in researching the benefits and costs of the software you’re considering? Based on your experience, how do you see the purchase increasing efficiencies?

– What if my boss was open to exploring the idea further? What would he/she have to hear to consider the idea seriously? How will this change benefit my manager and our team?

Instead of asking: What if the obstacle presents itself? Ask: What if the obstacle didn’t exist? Explore further by eliminating the wall of obstacles and visualizing a clear path. Generate more questions, or a need for more data, and take action. Explore the business case, clarify the feasibility for success, and make informed decisions.


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