Pushing Problems Up

As most of you know, I do business coaching as well as personal coaching. I want to shift to talking about business coaching today. This blog is based on a session I recently did with a corporate client. The company does construction work and I visited a satellite office to meet with their staff and introduce them to Inquiry Management and Leadership concepts. I did an overview before meeting with everyone individually, and I want to share a section I led about one of the principles we covered in the Inquiry Management section.

Inquiry Management

  1. A technique and practices for the operation of an organization and hierarchical relationships that amplify the growth and success of the individual toward shared goals and objectives.
  2. A way of organizing relationships within an organization around mentoring relationships rather than the traditional authoritarian boss/employee model.
  3. A commitment to creating accountability that requires leaders to be the most open, committed, engaged, members of the organization, who see their role as growing and inspiring people

A key principle of Inquiry Management is what I call “pushing problems up.”

You can listen to the recorded version here, or scroll down to read the blog

Everyone argues with me about this at first. People say “That’s not the way it works. You don’t push problems up; you bring answers to your boss. You come with solutions. You think about it and then you handle it on your own.” But, it works.

When I first started working with this client, the CEO said: Every job has these problems that get buried in them. And, then they come out at the end and they cost us a quarter million dollars. We go from profitable to loss or break even. I just hate it when those things come up.

We’ve been working together for a while now, and we’ve made huge strides on this by building a culture of Inquiry Management that includes the principle of pushing problems up.

Because, IF you can push your problems up, you can get coaching on how to resolve it, you can solve the problem before it becomes a big problem, and the problem can be pushed up to the level at which it can be resolved.

For instance, let’s say I’m working on a building estimate. There is an engineer who doesn’t report to me but who I’m parallel to who I need information from in order to be able to do the estimate. I’m having trouble getting the data out of them. I keep asking them – “Can you get me the data?” I even use inquiry – “When could you get me the data?” And, they still aren’t doing it. They don’t answer to me so I’m powerless in the situation. And, if I keep trying to deal with it on my own, I may end up way behind, and then someone will be upset and frustrated with me.

But, if I go one step up to whoever I report to and say “I’m really having trouble finishing this estimate because I’m not getting what I need from engineering.” My boss may ask if I’ve tried this or that, but when I’ve shown I’ve gone thru the options, they’ll realize this is out of my hands and that they need to do something about it. And, if the engineer doesn’t report to them, they’ll have to have to raise it one more level up and talk to whoever they need to talk to so they can understand that it’s a priority to get you this information.

So, in this process, it gets pushed up to the level where it can be addressed. It might go all the way up; it might go all the way up to the President, or it might go all the way up to the CEO. Because, the problem may be highlighting that we need to hire more engineers, or we need another company to work with, or we need a budget change, or we need to delay the bid on this job.

The problems need to go up to the level where they happen, where they can be solved. And, if the problem goes all the way up then the solution doesn’t go just to you, the solution also gets distributed out to the whole organization.

So, we don’t want to be hesitant about pushing our problems up.

The difference is that if I’m struggling on a job and I’m getting farther and farther behind while I’m trying to handle it myself and then eventually it comes out that it’s a mess. That would be terrible and on me. But, if at the beginning, I just keep reporting up what is happening on the job and what I’m having trouble with, I can solve things before they’re bigger problems.

It also helps takes the pressure off: Let’s say I’m having trouble with the subcontractors and I report it to my boss, and my boss says they don’t know how to handle it either. Now, I’ve transferred the accountability from me to my boss. Because, if my boss can’t tell me how to handle it or fix it, it’s their problem. If they can tell me how to fix it, or can help me figure out how to fix it, it’s my problem. But as long as I can’t fix it (and this is the beauty of being in an organization with hierarchy) I can keep pushing my problems up until they teach me, show me how to solve it, or change the system itself.

Even with our personal struggles, we want to push problems up. It helps you build your skills and helps to get your mentor more invested in you.

For instance, if I report to you and you’re my mentor, and I say I’m having a hard time getting organized. You may have a solution for me to use to improve. So, if I push the problem up to you, it’s not that I’m bad. I am just showing you my weakness I want to fix. And, you’re my mentor, you’ve seen my weaknesses and you want to help me get better. And, as I bring you my problem, you become more invested in me. The more you help me, the more invested you become in me. You’ve put a lot in me, so you want to see me advance and you want to support me. That is part of management. We really have to use the people we report to as mentors and ask them to help us. We have to be willing to be vulnerable enough to share what we are really struggling with.


Click here for my eCourse where you will be taught the fundamentals of Inquiry Management and Inquiry Leadership, or email us at info@inquirymethod.com if you are interested in learning more about business coaching.

Fundamentals of Inquiry Method™, and Inquiry Management™

At its root, Inquiry Method™, and Inquiry Management™ by extension, are the capacity to come to any conversation, challenge, or interaction with open curiosity and inquisitiveness rather than with answers, assumptions, and directives. In our culture, we are taught to have all the answers and that our intelligence is based on knowledge. For most of our education, we are given answers and required to memorize and repeat them for tests and exams. Most of us have continued in this pattern in our professional and personal lives. The problem with having the answers is that everyone stops growing and learning.

This is particularly true in relationships both personal and professional. We make assumptions and project ourselves into other people. We judge, gossip, assert, tell, and correct, instead of asking and inquiring. The process of telling others what to do shuts down communication and leads our relationships into stuck and frustrating situations.

If you want to create dynamic, alive, and vital relationships where accountability, productivity, and creativity are authentically embraced, then you have to be wiling to not know, willing to put your ego aside and let curiosity lead the way.

Inquiry Method provides processes, practices and inquiry lenses that break through the obstacles to growth and mastery level living. It provides the bold shift in perspective and the set of tools that are needed to master our own level of participation so that we can become inspirational leaders in every aspect of our lives.

Learn more through our Inquiry Management eCourse by Kyle Mercer from Inquiry Method™.  Kyle Mercer’s interactive eCourse includes video lectures featuring Kyle Mercer, 9 interactive comprehensive units, and an individual, private workbook designed to guide you towards creating an environment of growth and accountability in your organization.

Please click HERE to learn more.

Levels of Participation

Levels of Participation is one of the principles that I discovered in my work developing Inquiry Method. In the years I have been teaching it, it has become a mainstay of what I call Inquiry Management. The Levels of Participation are a framework for understanding how people work together; they explain how people behave in relationships, the context that they participate in, and the leadership they receive. By understanding this framework we can have an impact on our own success and growth, we can influence the success and growth of our organization and we can learn to lead and be led to greater success, and ultimately satisfaction, engagement and happiness in our work.

Inquiry Method™ is the foundation on which I have built all that I have learned and discovered. I have found that it is also something that can be learned by others to have a profound impact on their ability to lead and mentor others. At the root Inquiry Method™ is simply the capacity to come to any conversation or inner challenge with openness, curiosity, and questions rather than answers. Though this may seem simple and easy, I have found that it is much more difficult that one might think. Particularly in business, but also elsewhere, we are taught to have the answers. In fact for most of our education we were given answers and required to memorize them and repeat them for tests and exams. Most of us have continued in this pattern in our professional and personal lives.

The problem is that in having the answers we stop learning and growing.

Click here for my eCourse where you will be taught the fundamentals of Levels of Participation, Inquiry Management and Inquiry Leadership.

Ego’s Trap

Attachment to the ego is the primary obstacle to our ability to lead effectively. When we assert our truth, opinions and assumptions – we are directive in a way that limits growth. Inquiry Method™ is a philosophy and a practice that cultivates the ability to set ego aside and to inquire into, ask questions, and employ natural curiosity in order to connect with deeper truths and insight. Using and growing natural curiosity about life and people will enable you to become an inspirational leader and will elevate how you live your life, how you do business, how you relate to others, and how you perceive yourself.

Great leaders are not so much attached to themselves and their success as to great ideas and inspiration. Great leaders inspire others toward a cause, not through devotion to the individual.

It is my intention that Inquiry Method revolutionize how we live our lives, how we do business, how we relate to each other, and how we see ourselves. In fact it has already begun.

Our Inquiry Management eCourse will lead you through the levels of participation, these levels parallel levels of personal development that are available to you and will be necessary for you to be able to fulfill the promise of this course. Traditionally we think of growing as accumulating things, in fact these levels actually become more available to you as you let go of things. The capacity to let go is fundamental to progression in Inquiry Method, each time we let go of something we open to new capacity and depth, we let more in.

Click here to learn more

 

Planning: Executing your Vision, Strategy and Tactics

In all aspects of our lives, planning is an integral part. Planning exercises are important in group settings, such as a couple, family, or for a business, and are equally crucial, individually. The objective of this blog is to help you recognize the power and meaning that can be created through the intention of planning.

The first element of planning is creating your vision. To create your vision, project a period into the future; for example, imagine yourself in one, five, or ten years. What do you want your future to look like? One beautiful application of this step is as a couple. Let’s say you are fifty, jointly creating a vision of what life will be in twenty years, when you are seventy. It is such a powerful process because as you create this beautiful vision together, you both become bonded and equally participating towards fulfilling this joint vision, which in turn creates beauty in the relationship. This visioning process can also be conducted in the context of a business. Or, you can create your own personal vision to motivate and inspire yourself to shape your dreams.

In support of vision, the next level of consideration is strategy. Strategy is the creation of the larger picture- specifically, what are some of the broad topics we would need to accomplish our vision? In the example of planning for when we turn seventy, we may intend to retire to Costa Rica and live in a beach house. In order to achieve this goal, we must make sure that our finances are in a certain shape, define how we would like to be with respect to our health, and describe what we need to do in our relationship to develop wonderful communication and intimacy. Just as we often do in a business or individually, we would define strategic objectives and goals to help us achieve our future vision.

The third level is tactics. Tactics are the day-to-day things that I need to start developing and acting on to fulfill my strategy. For example, planning a meeting to develop a financial plan with my financial advisor, creating a benchmark for required salary, scheduling couples counseling to develop our communication, or learning Spanish. Whatever we need to do to manifest our desired outcome.

In summary, there are three levels:

Vision: where we are, or I am, going.

Strategy: what major things have to get accomplished to get the results.

Tactics: what day-to-day activities are needed to fulfill our strategy.

Create a document with your vision, strategy and tactics and lay out a plan for yourself.

The next blog will talk about how to go deeper with creating that vision, and in view of creating your legacy.

Talk to you next week.

Love,

Kyle

Inquiry Management in Business

Accountability is the single most valuable asset you can have in your business.  You can see this just by looking at the difference in performance, responsibility and commitment of an owner versus an employee.  When there is ownership, there is huge accountability. With ownership, you have to be responsible, responsive and aware because your well-being, future, and fortunes are riding on the success of the business.

The most common business complaint I hear is that employees are not accountable; they don’t have the same commitment as an owner.  It is true and will always be true.  Even when we create profit sharing plans, offer bonuses, etc. we don’t get the same kind of accountability in employees as we do with owners. This will always be true for a couple of reasons.

The primary reason is that people who want to work for others are different from people who want to create and run businesses.  Employees want more security and less accountability; entrepreneurs and business owners want freedom, they want to be accountable to only themselves and the market, they believe in their own capacity, they have something unique to express and want to do that.

It takes skill and leadership to guide someone who wants security and less responsibility toward a sense of accountability.  This leadership skill is what Inquiry Management is designed to do, to create accountability and engagement.  As leaders, we need to be able to mentor and teach our employees to trust and invest in themselves, to actively engage in their own success within the company.  This is what great leaders do, they teach and inspire people to not only do their best but to believe in themselves and their contribution.

The greatest key to a successful business is having a team that can not only work well together but also that can respond and believe in themselves like they are entrepreneurs.

As leaders, to be able to do this we must be able to recognize where each person’s level of development is and then to give them what they need to advance; the template I have created for this knowledge is what I call the Levels of Participation.

The other skill we need to be able to lead people in this way is the skill of mentoring, which I call Inquiry Management; it is both a methodology for mentoring and a framework for managing businesses.

The more accountability a leader can create the more, they become redundant because they have created a team that thinks for themselves and acts in alignment with the leaders vision.

Inquiry Management & Leadership

Inquiry Method

  1. The practice of setting myself aside and through questions seeing the world through the eyes of another.
  2. A tool for healing, growth, and learning that is facilitated by a coach or mentor relationship.
  3. A philosophical framework for optimizing life arrived at through the practice of Inquiry Method.
  4. A method for relating with others that creates understanding, resolution, alignment of goals and objectives, and connection.

Inquiry Management

  1. A technique and practices for the operation of an organization and hierarchical relationships that amplify the growth and success of the individual toward shared goals and objectives.
  2. A way of organizing relationships within an organization around mentoring relationships rather than the traditional authoritarian boss/employee model.
  3. A commitment to creating accountability that requires leaders to be the most open, open, committed, engaged, members of the organization, who see their role as growing and inspiring people.

Inquiry Leadership

  1. The view that as a leader it is my duty to grow and optimize myself to be the best leader I can become. That I look first to myself for the source of problems.
  2. The practice of using Inquiry Method on myself to explore my own growth and development.
  3. The commitment to inspiring others to perform rather than requiring them to perform.
  4. The view that accountability starts and begins with the leader, no victimhood, only constant creation, and re-creation.

 

Why, What, How

Our lives can be better; in fact, they can be great. This is true individually and collectively.

There are two factors to having great lives, our inner landscape and the context in which we live.

The inner landscape can be developed through the practice of Inquiry Method; looking into our beliefs, our emotional framework, and our unmet needs, and letting go of that which does not serve us.

The context in which we live can be remodeled and upgraded to serve and inform the development and flourishing of this inner landscape.

One of the primary obstacles to developing this inner landscape is the context of work, how we earn our living but even more importantly how we express our best selves.

This calls for a revolution in the way in which we view and do work. Our workplaces should be a place/activity that we look forward to, as the venue for expressing our best selves and where we interact and create with others to achieve something that is truly meaningful.

This is possible.

Inquiry Management is a practice that will revolutionize our context for working. By inverting the system, pushing our problems/challenges up, committing to the success of everyone, learning to be mentors, and becoming able to be mentored we return the workplace to an environment that meets, supports and amplifies the experience of being human.

Workplace Revolution

I have just returned from teaching Inquiry Management to a group of 70 people. I feel incredibly inspired by the effect that inquiry mentoring has on business culture, productivity, and employee engagement. I want to honor Kaufman Lynn Construction for their courage, willingness, and effort to overcome the cultural ruts of business-as-usual that so limit and constrain most companies.

Through Inquiry Management™, it is my intention to revolutionize how we relate to and experience our workplaces. Work is the place where we go to express our capability and creativity; it is an immense part of life. As such, work should be a place where we are eager to go, it should enrich us physically, socially, intellectually, emotionally and economically.

We have become so accustomed to the limitations of the modern workplace that it is hard to see a way out of the confines of more traditional environments. Because work holds such a central place in our lives we must find ways to put the experience of work first, which doesn’t mean that we become anti-success but rather that we are making how we succeed just as important as the success itself.

When we honor the process and experience of work it not only creates success but informs the success; success is so much sweeter when we enjoy creating it, when we feel like we grow in the process, when we contribute to the excellence of it, and when the whole process is in service to uplifting everyone who has comes in contact with it.

When we honor both the process and the experience of work it not only creates success but it informs the success; success is so much sweeter when we enjoy creating it. When we experience our own personal growth in the process, when we contribute to the excellence, and when the whole process is in service to uplifting everyone who comes in contact with it, we create a success that is so far reaching that it uplifts the spirit of our culture at large.