Time and time again, I work with CEOs and other C-level executives who have a difficult time getting their people, projects and companies to the next level -- whatever that level might be. They just seem to have hit a wall. They struggle with figuring out ways to move things forward, particularly when everyone seems to be doing their best.
In those situations, there is one question I ask them, and I push them to ask their people. I ask them to tell me the one thing they could do that they haven't yet done. Initially, that sounds like an obvious or even a trivial question, but think about it for a moment. There is always something that could be done that hasn't been thought of or tried.
I find that when I ask the question, the initial reaction is silence. Sometimes I get "I've done all I can -- there's nothing else I can do." You simply can't accept that answer because there is always something else that hasn't been done, thought of, or tried. You can't let them off the hook so easily. Wait in silence if you must, and let them think about it for a while. I guarantee they will eventually give you an answer.
Alternate Routes, Same Destination
The question can take different forms:
•Tell me the one thing you could do that you haven't done yet?
•Tell me the one thing you haven't tried yet?
•Tell me the one thing you could do that you haven't thought of.
•What's the one thing you could do to move this project forward that you haven't tried yet?
This works great in a one-to-one setting, but it is also a great tool to use in a meeting. When things are at a standstill, or you are about to launch that critical project, ask everyone at the table to tell you the one thing they could still do that they haven't done yet. The key is only asking for ONE thing. Everyone can come up with one thing they haven't done yet. Once they tell you what it is -- and if it makes sense -- tell them to go ahead and do it. This will result in surpassing your level of achievement from before. You will unlock new ideas and gain more momentum. This is where you really start raising the bar and pushing people to excel beyond their limitations.
If you are trying to advance your project or company, give this question a shot. You might be surprised with the results.