The challenge

The question

  • I love asking questions and am incessantly curious about people, their behaviors, and life in general
  • One of my favorite questions right now is “What is your biggest challenge?”
    • I can’t take credit for the question though and was introduced to it through BNI
    • The question is often posed by BNI members to business owners to provoke thinking around what their current challenges are
    • An obvious challenge for many business owners is how to find more clients; And BNI is a unique and effective vehicle to substantially boost revenues through referral marketing
  • Part of the reason I like the question is because you can ask it to anyone (your colleague, your spouse, your potential client, your child, etc)

Professionally speaking

  • Professionally, I use it with coaching clients and potential clients to understand (and often help them understand for themselves) where they should focus their attention; The question can help people prioritize and remove the cloud of frustration and feeling of being overwhelmed
  • Any successful business person should constantly be assessing their challenges; If they aren’t, then they are likely gradually losing business to their competitors (I firmly believe that successful organizations and leaders are those that continue to innovate and seek to offer more to their customers or clients (and not simply resting on their laurels or dominant market position)

Talking personally

  • In your personal life, the question “What is your biggest challenge?” can be used as an opportunity to build rapport and develop a relationship with someone, whether it be a close family member or new friend
  • Posing the question shows interest in that person and a willingness to help them grow, discover, plan, collaborate, work together, among other things
  • People so often just want to be heard, and giving them this opportunity by asking the question can often get them on the road to greater happiness and fulfillment

Caveat (of course)

  • The only caveat is that you’ve got to be genuine in your asking as well as sincere in how you listen to their response; If you don’t do this, you’ve negated the value of the question
    • I find the lack of sincerity in conversations today rather amazing; especially since it significantly weakens your position, power, and influence in conversation; The dominant slick-talker approach only works for so long!

Undertake action (The best solution to your biggest challenge)

  • Below are a few responses to the question “What is your biggest challenge?”, what the response might illuminate about the situation, and some positive action that can be undertaken
    • Response “I don’t have enough clients.”
      • Illumination You’re wasting your time with ineffective marketing methods or you’re not capitalizing more on referrals from existing clients
      • Action Research what is working for your competitors and then get creative and make yourself unique; Get out and talk to your potential clients by going to where they congregate and ask what their challenges are and make sure what you offer is in line with that they’re looking for
    • Response “I’m finding it very hard to stimulate myself at work.”
      • Illumination It’s time to make a career change or seek new projects and/or responsibilities in your current role
      • Action Assess (yourself or with help of someone else) whether you’re just in need of something new in your existing position or whether you actually need to make a career shift into something you’re passionate about, or speak to your boss about ideas you’ve got on a new project or the potential for a move within the company
    • Response “I really struggle to get out of bed in the morning.”
      • Illumination There are a number of personal and professional weights on your shoulders and they are significant enough to overwhelm you, or you need to pursue something new and stimulating (new career, 3 month trip abroad, new hobby/project, etc)
      • Action Brainstorm (with your spouse, colleague, friend, coach) some ideas around making a career change, or take a day off and go to the beach to just chill out and reflect
    • Response “I can’t seem to motivate my team to perform better and our numbers are really down.”
      • Illumination Your methods of motivation are out-dated or ineffective due to recent organizational changes, or your lack of management experience is obvious and you’re not gaining the respect of your people
      • Action Seek guidance from within (another manager) or from outside (take some training or hire a coach), or have one-on-one meetings with your team to find out what motivates each of them and how you can help them succeed in their role, or do some reading on new techniques and tools used by successful leaders
    • Response “Gee, I don’t really know…”
      • Illumination Although a fairly common response, this response is actually a concern; Ironically, the person that answers this way likely doesn’t feel there is anything wrong (because they can’t nail it down), however their response is a good indication of a lack of focus, passion, purpose, etc (or all of the above); Many people go through life just coasting and taking what comes at them, but these people generally aren’t ones that have rich and fulfilling lives; Successful people have a good understanding of where their fulfillment is coming from as well as the areas they need to address
      • Action Spend time reflecting on your life, writing down areas that you’re very happy with and areas where you’d like to see improvement, or talk to people that you inspire you or that you look up to and ask them for their secrets of success and happiness

The beauty of it all

  • The question “What is your biggest challenge?” can bring to the surface something that a person is already aware of, but hasn’t been willing to address; The question can also act as a trigger for change
  • Often, simply giving a person the opportunity to talk and/or get something off their chest is enough to get clarity on their challenge(s), initiate action, and then make positive change
  • The more I work with individual clients and groups on ways to become more successful (both professionally and personally), the more I firmly believe that success in life is all about (and simply about) taking action
    • Action through forward movement is fantastic because it:
      • Builds momentum and enthusiasm within a person
      • Provokes creative ideas
      • Positively influences others to collaborate or take action in their own lives
      • Breaks people free from a rut or a state of feeling sorry for themselves
    • And often all people need is a glimpse of that light at the end of the tunnel to get themselves moving again and excited about life; then before long they’re looking back saying, “Wow, why did I wait so long…”

Practically speaking

  • I’ll make it easy on you today proposing you do just one thing
    • Think of someone you know and care enough about to have an interest in their success and ask them the question “What is your biggest challenge?”
    • (And be sure to listen to their response!)