As organization development practitioners, we’re often tempted to be the experts. When a client asks us to diagnose their issues and tell them what to do, we want to do that.
After all, isn’t that what we’re trained to do?
The thing is, when we do that, we will usually miss the mark. We will study and collect data and go through all of the right steps. We may even succeed in acknowledging and bringing to light our own biases during the process. We would do it “right”. But there’s one big reason that, no matter how studiously we complete our diagnosis process, we will still fail. Why?
We all only hear our own language.
Each individual has their own way of voicing and understanding an idea, which they use to communicate regularly to themselves. This is why people don’t take advice well. Someone may tell them to do something a million times, but until they tell themselves to do it, using their own unique energy behind it and possibly even drawing their own conclusions to get there, they won’t hear it in the same way.
What we say to ourselves uses a frequency that resonates more deeply, and it’s very difficult to replicate that back to someone. If you know that person and their situation very well, you may have experienced times when you touched on the frequency that matches their own. You can feel it when it happens. It causes a shift in both of you, a new way of looking at things, and a deepened relationship between you. It feels like magic. It feels like success. In these instances, you’ve tapped into their unique language and they hear you. They really, really hear you.
Maybe that’s why we keep trying. Because those moments are magical and we want more of them. They make us feel very connected. But, again, they only happen under very specific circumstances when both parties are very open, aware and present, and usually when there’s already a deep relationship. This isn’t super common with client-practitioner relationships (although it does exist!).
So, that’s why we get the client to answer their own questions. We are here to help them on this journey, knowing that they have all the answers inside them already. We are a guide through the confusion. We patiently and lovingly supporting them to get to their destination, but we will not choose where that destination is for them and then blindfold them and give them a piggy back ride there. Besides, how will they be able to do another journey on their own next time if we took over on this one? You might even be plopping them down at a destination they didn’t choose. And what vital learning will they miss along the way if you do this?
The power we bring is in the questions we ask, the frameworks we provide to help them organize their thinking, and in our very presence. Offer these tools and then let them take their own steps in the direction that feels right to them. I promise this will be more than enough to get them where they need to be.
Do you know someone I should interview? Let me know!
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