A great coaching conversation doesn’t tell you anything brilliant, it helps you uncover your own brilliance.

As a business and leadership confidence coach, the first thing I actually do with a client is have them prove they have a challenge or problem: “How do you know that there is a problem?”

Seriously.

This conversation brings in some magical elements.

Have you ever started to tell someone about a problem only to realize half way through the first sentence that you already know how to solve it?

Sometimes a client will realize the “problem” is just a habit of thinking that they have a problem.

A third party perspective happens in conversation. One of the reasons you may find yourself talking out loud is to engage your conscious and unconscious brain in conversation. This shifts how you think about the issue.

This conversation also helps us uncover all-or-nothing thinking. This can reveal faulty frames or lenses through which this part of your life is being viewed. It can identify unspoken rules that are not serving you.

The coaching conversation also de-fuses shame, anxiety, guilt and embarrassment – 4 emotions that tend to massively cloud our judgement and impede our wise  mind from getting down to real work.

(Note – I also ask, “How will you know for sure when this problem or challenge is totally solved?” There are a few sneaky coaching reason for this question – feel free to guess. But the obvious reason is to remove that convincer of how it “feels” to be sure we know what success actually looks like. “what will you be doing, or not doing that is different from what you are doing now?”)

The solution is in the problem.

Knowing that you have a problem does not mean you actually know what the problem is. And if you treat the wrong thing, the real problem could actually get worse.

In medicine, pain is not a problem – at least to the doctor lol. Pain is a symptom that can help you find and identify the problem.

Pain just means pay attention. In fact, when we pay close attention through mindfulness or hypnosis, we can reduce or eliminate even chronic pain.

So, if pain just points to the problem, that means we need to identify the real problem.

Einstein is (mistakenly) quoted as having said that if he had one hour to save the world he would spend fifty-five minutes defining the problem and only five minutes finding the solution.

This is still valuable advice, even if we aren’t sure who first said it.

The most effective way to find a solution to a challenge is to ask the right question.

The solution is in the problem.

When we define the problem specifically enough, drill down to exactly what it is and where it came from, the solution becomes obvious.

Here is something powerful – the corollary is also true! If we don’t know the solution, then we have not yet defined the problem clearly enough.

Before reacting to the problem, taking time to remove the fear and emotion so that we can access our wise mind and respond (if necessary) to the real issue is a key skill in mindful leadership.

Here are some strategies you can use to see problems from many different perspectives and master what is the most important step in problem solving: clearly defining the problem first!

1. Rephrase the problem. Is it possible this is not a problem? Is it feedback? an opportunity in disguise?

2. Expose and challenge assumptions. What rules are you following that may not actually work?

3. Consider a broader or narrower version of the problem. Add more details, more specificity, more context.

4. Rewrite your problem statement from the perspective of different stakeholders.

5. Assume there’s more than one possible solution. Instead of thinking how to fix it, wonder what is the best way to solve it.

6. Use language to frame the problem in a more exciting way. Don’t stop at solving it, solve it in magnificent and transformative, joyful and easy ways.

7. Reverse the problem and think about what you would do in order to generate an opposite intended result. How could I create this situation if I had to?

8. Ask yourself questions about the problem. Do research. Reach out to others for different perspectives.

The solution is in the problem.

This is true in another way. The time and energy we are expending dealing with the problem is the same time and energy (in abundance) that we will need to expend to actually solve the problem.

The solution is in the problem.

The type of solution that you seek is also determined by how you state the problem.

“How can I prevent my business from going bankrupt?” will lead to a set of solutions, right?

How different will those solutions be from this question: “How can I pivot my business into massive success starting today?”

“What is the powerfully transformative lesson that I have just been given the opportunity to learn?”

Then we can also start asking better and better questions that lead to new resources such as hope and creativity; as well as resources like skills to learn, mentors to seek and people to partner with to build a stronger win.

What needs to happen between now and then end of the next 90 days for me to feel that this is the best quarter of my work and personal life?

After all, the fact that you are noticing a problem actually means that you are opening up to a big opportunity. Which brings us to what may actually be a real Einstein quote: “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”

And a quote from Robin Sharma:”In business, remarkable performers are dazzling good at getting to the right question, the one that speeds them to the place they need to reach.”