Martha Beck got one of her favorite coaching tools from the Japanese manufacturing process. In the 70s, car manufacturing changed completely when the Japanese managed to create cars that just didn’t break down. It changed the entire economy, because folks hardly had to bring their cars into the shop anymore. The cars were so well-made.
To make a long story short, the Japanese automobiles were so well-crafted because the workers were charged with asking “why” –five times–when something didn’t work on the assembly-line.
For example: Why did this break? Because the joint was weak. Why? Because the metal joist didn’t hold it. Why? Because the mold was too small. Why? Because Joe made it, and you know what he’s like when he hasn’t had his pancake breakfast in the morning.
Now, for any of you who have been within ten feet of a school-aged child, you know that repetitively asking “why?” is one of the most annoying sounds in the world. That’s why this qualifies as The Most Annoying Coaching Tool in The World, when it is not used effectively, or “intelligently,” as Martha has said.
This tool, when used skillfully, is surprisingly good at uncovering the rock-bottom reality in any given situation. Most problems, it turns out, are only separated from their solutions by about five degrees.
A recent example: “I’m scared I’ll lose all my investments and all my income.” Why? “Because then I will have to live in poverty.” Why? “Because I don’t have another job.” Why? “Because I haven’t looked for one.” Why? “Because I’m afraid I won’t find one.” Why? “Because I don’t believe I can make money with my creative talents.”
After a little more coaching, this client will be able to have less discomfort at her next investment strategy meeting, because she is not as afraid of losing her income. She has located the source of her fear, and started addressing the beliefs that are limiting her.
In this case, I would work with my client around this underlying thought: “I can’t make money with my creative talents.” Which seems like a lot of hooey to me. But don’t ask me why.