016: The Best Personal Leadership Question To Ask In Difficult Times – Todd Stocker.com

LeadershipWhat is your first thought when life gets difficult.  When that project fails or you get sick or you run out of month at the end of the money.  This one personal leadership question could completely change your perspective.


How do you deal with sudden loss or failure or frustration. it happens every week if not every day.

For me, often my gut reaction to frustrations in life isn’t my best option.  There have been plenty of times when I was late for an appointment because of traffic, or I started in on a project at home that I thought would take an hour and it took 4 days to complete.

Or if you’re in the work world, your boss piles on an extra project right before the weekend or you get laid off from your job or something changes in your market that forces you to reevaluate how you do business.

A friend of mine was in the jewelry industry, providing the fittings you see for rings and such.  Back in the mid 2000’s that industry started to slip — as did many others — when the economy went down the tubes.  What did they do?  They asked questions.

When trials strike, there are 3 questions we ask in the struggle:

Why, How, What.

  • Why did this happen?  Why did a simple home project take me all day when it should’ve taken an hour?  The why questions seek explanation.
  • How is it affecting me? This hits your emotions.  I just lost my job and it’s affecting my feelings of self worth, it’s affecting my financial situation or its affecting my daily schedule.  E.g. now I have to find a job. The how questions seek clarification.
  • What do I do now?  This isn’t a bad question (in fact none of these are) because this ‘what’ question at least keeps you from getting stuck in a failure and seeks to resolve any problem that has happened. The what question seeks motivation.

But there is a 4th question — a better ‘what’ question, that takes you to the next level as you push through the challenge, failure or frustration you just experience.

Before I tell you what it is I want to tell you where I heard it.

One of the many podcasts I listen to — Michael Hyatt’s Intentional Leadership.  Last year, in passing, he mentioned a question his wife asks whenever frustrations come into her life.  I wanted to remember it back then but forgot until this week’s podcast.

This is the question we all should ask: 

“What does this make possible?”

You see how this is a great question? It changes your mindset and attitude from focussing on why the trial happened and gets you to look forward to get you through the initial shock but on the potential side of the event or the change that you’re experiencing.

While the why questions seek explanation, the how question seek clarification, and the first what question seeks motivation, the “what does this make possible” question give inspiration because you’re inspired to look on the positive or solution side of the event without negating the event itself. 

Listen, you never want to pretend the event, the failure, the frustration never happened — that’s denial.  The best thing to do is acknowledge it happened, quickly as why, how and the first what, but then ask “what does this make possible.”

For my buddies, they didn’t need to know why the industry was changing, they already knew: the economy was bad.  They knew how it was affecting their business as their customer base was dwindling because their customers were hurting, and they knew what they needed to do in terms of making some hard staffing decisions, changing some vendors and the like.  But when they sat down and asked WHAT DOES THIS MAKE POSSIBLE, it opened up a floodgate of focused ideas.  They noticed that the part of their business was still stable and that was dealing with the scrap metal area.  They also noticed a hole in the market for smaller jewelers as the bigger scrap companies gave little customer service to them so they stepped in and embrace the local shops. Now 8 years later, the business is quadruple the revenue as it was before.

The question is reflective of a bible verse in James 1,

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.  For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”

Even in the troubles of life, God says there is opportunity to grow as a person, to see new opportunities and to thrive.

A danger to this question is asking it at the wrong time.  Let’s say someone had a significant loss in their life.  Don’t ask it at the funeral home.

Whatever that struggle or obstacle you’re facing today might be, try asking yourself the question, “What does this event make possible in my company, in my family, … in my life?”


Go out and Take Back Your Life!


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