Proverbs 20:5 says, “A plan in the heart of man is like deep water, but a man of understanding draws it out.” How does that translate into wisdom for everyday life? Let’s look at an example of this principle in action.
Just last Thursday, I met with the CEO and leadership team of a $50M company. This was my first meeting with this group. The CEO was polite and kind, but I could sense that he had his arms crossed in his mind and carried a “show me something” attitude. I walked in, introduced myself, and started handing 3×5 cards out to the team while explaining, “You know, most consultants make a terrible mistake: they start by trying to tell you what they know. That’s well-meaning but really wrong-headed. I’d like to take a different approach and start by asking some questions and hearing your perspective.”
On the index cards, I had a list of six questions to be answered on a scale of 1-10. They are questions I often ask, such as, “Do we have clarity on the roadmap toward the success we’d like to be experiencing by this time next year?” I gave them time to fill out their responses, and at the end of the exercise I collected their responses and read them aloud to the team. It quickly became apparent to everyone in the room that there were gaps between their aspirations and the current reality, and the group quickly became coachable. Almost organically, we started having valuable discussion about ways to get clarity and begin to execute long-term vision.
So let’s go back to the proverb: “a man of understanding draws it out.” How do you draw a plan out of a person’s heart? I’ve found that it all starts by asking questions. When you are curious and you know which questions to ask, people will feel free to share their thoughts and dreams as long as they believe that your intentions are to help them. If you feel intimidated by the process of asking questions and inviting feedback, let me encourage you by saying that these are skills that can be learned! A business coach can help you cultivate the curiosity and question-asking skills that you need to draw out the gifts and strengths of the people around you.
–Jim Wiginton is the founder and managing partner of Broad Insights, an international business coaching firm based in Greenville, South Carolina. Jim possesses a wealth of business expertise, much of it gained as an executive for Michelin North America, Plastic Omnium, and Alfmeier Corporation. He has more than 5000 hours of coaching experience, and a Doctorate of Business Administration from Paris School of Business.