Why are you a three instead of a zero?

During a recent consultant led scoping session, we were asked, on a scale from zero to ten, how confident are we that the project will succeed. One-by-one, our answers ranged from three to six. Clearly a healthy dose of pessimism hung in the air. Then the consultant asked something extraordinary: why were we each even that high and not zero?

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James and Peter Provoking Us

The typical question asked is “Why aren’t you a ten?” The implication is to identify what’s missing or why you are skeptical of the project’s eventual success. Those questions create an echo chamber of negativity that is loud and reverberates back and forth. Once the ball starts rolling downhill, the mountain looks taller and taller. Ugh.

But an interesting thing happened when we discussed why we weren’t a zero. As people started talking about their reasons why they weren’t zero, the mood changed swiftly. We started sitting up in our seats. Our tone sounded optimistic. Towards the end of the queue, based upon the feedback of others, attendees said that they would increase their rating by a point or two. By the end, the energy on the call was positive and motivating.

Now that emotion sent perception up and to the right, we were confronted with action to continue the journey. “What can you do to make your rating a point higher?” This simple, but powerful question pushed everyone to think about micro steps to achieve the goal. When answers were too generic, the consultants pushed for more detail to ensure there would be action and commitment. By the end, we had a simple, practical list of action items that ensured a we started the change from a positive perspective.

Of course, there is still uncertainty in the ultimate outcome, but would you rather start the race trudging methodically uphill against gravity or galloping enthusiastically downhill aided by gravity? Give it a try in your next meeting.

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Downhill is easy. Uphill is hard.

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