Should you use the question: What do you want?
In Business Coaching?
In the past I have come unglued with the what do
you want question, although these days I'm
calmer and say each to his/her own.
Yet, here are my comments about the subject:
What do you want is usually
driven through conscious need (in the moment,
where most people are NOT functioning
consciously, if that makes any sense), not
through unconscious desire (motives) as it is
intended when you are on a path guided by the
conscious exploration of your gifts/strengths)
When the client answers this question
at the end of a coaching interaction, it may produce a
non-business worthy action, which is not right action,
but a response to a need in an altered state--which
may be (more than likely) balanced to
reduce the tension between what is desired and
is an end,
with the means in which to resolve those ends.
What do you want is a question that is normally
answered out of significant blindness as most
people have done little or no work on awareness
of the tensions mentioned above, hence you get
people into altered states that are most of the
time, impractical, as most of us want our
dreams...yet, much of the time, we are not prepared to
do what is necessary to accumulate them because
dreams come from untested beliefs we acquire
over time about how the world works--whether it
be from fairy tales as children or adults!
Caveat: There is nothing wrong
with living your dreams, but in business, you
have to separate what is real from what is
unreal in terms of the business capacity and
capability. Failure to do so results in
an inability to share your gifts with the
world or a wider audience because you didn't
manage the business framework--you were
dreaming without testing your assumptions in
the world you've made up as real.
So, life is lived along a path of wants, which
takes us here, takes us there and we loose most
of our ability to compound our interest and
along a path of desire/ends that are gratifying,
yet requires management of what we want.
Therefore I discourage the asking of what do you
want as a question we use in
B\Coach because not
only is it a serious prompt, but it produces
unrealistic altered states that often lead to
poor business decision-making.
That is my
A follow-up question:
I read your comments re: the "What do you want?"
question and I am a bit confused.
Are you saying that it is not a great idea to
ask that question in our coaching sessions? Or
are you saying that it is best never to ask this
Can you say more?....
Don't we ask "What do you want?" (near and far)
or a version of that in the ISIS or Integral
Mapping System we do with clients?
I would appreciate your thoughts.
This is a good question.
1. When we're working with a client in
integral mapping, most of the time we are teaching,
training or consulting...this is different
because "clients normally have their "shields"
up and are not in an altered state because they
are working/mapping assumptions and beliefs and
know to question and test their beliefs around
what they want.
2. Over the years, I've found that most people
don't know what they want--just what they
need--and the need arises based on life living
them. They are being lived,
rather than living, so to speak. This is not
necessarily bad or good, it depends on what is
at stake. If you're the Enron CEO, managing the
dichotomy between what he wants and what the
thousands of people dependent on that want are
two different perspectives!
What it depends on...is what the person's
I won't go there right now, I'll go back to the
Should you never ask what do you want?
I'm not saying that, but I don't use that
Because in most cases, people can't
differentiate between what they want and what
In some case, helping people get a better look
at ISIS can help, but you'll notice there are
really no questions design per se, around what
do you want, except in vision, now, near and
far. And even then, what we want is often not
differentiated from what do we need.
This is the reason I like
the Reiss Inventory of Motivational Sensitivity.
[You can take it
here, if you're not a
Community Member. IF you are it is
free as a part of your membership.]
Even though Reiss is based on conscious answers
to questions, it identifies motivational
sensitivity to certain things that have been
consistent through our lives, or at least to
some extent. Again, I see people fill out Reiss
based on what they want and NOT how they are,
which distorts the results.
Why do I have such an issue with "what do you
Largely because people confuse it with what they
Is it about what we want, or need (means)
what is ultimately gratifying as ENDS, that is
Again, back to my point: People are lived, they
What are they lived by?
What has them?
A lot of that is translated unconsciously into
I'm not saying this is bad.
What I am saying is that if you ask the question
what do you want, rather than what is important,
then you have to further clarify whether what a
person wants is important and why?
I know this sounds like double-talk to some of
you and so be it, however the brain-states
created by what do you want, versus what is
important are different in my view.
The state of importance can also be driven
through need. So, care must be taken to probe,
not prompt these states. Prompting leads,
Yet, often in business coaching, working from
what is important versus what do you want are
too entirely different issues.
In my view, TOO MANY COACHES are following the
NLP stuff of putting people in the towards side
of their brain in an altered state, from which
the person may make choices that ultimately harm
them, their business, their relationships; or
Again, I know I'm being a little edgy here, but
I agree with Berglass who wrote the much
battered article in HBR about harming people
with Executive Coaching. I just agree with him
for different reasons.
The reason is that if you put someone
synthetically into the towards side of their
brain, especially in an altered state, you are
partially responsible for what that state
produces. Now, in my view, NLP is trying to
manipulate people for some reason or another.
This may or may not be acceptable or not, it
depends. Even putting yourself in altered
states without purpose has consequences that may
Do the purpose work!
What I'm saying is, I avoid it, until the client
begins to ask the questions.
If the client asks the question, versus me
asking the question as their coach, then I'm
more comfortable with whatever takes place...I
can probe easily without leading, taking
responsibility or accountability, authority (RAA)
for their outcomes. IF I INDUCE the
altered state, then I'm stuck with sharing all
of those, no matter what I say about RAA!
Since, the B\Coach philosophy takes NO
responsibility, authority, or accountability for
client outcomes, I try to model NOT leading the
client in anyway into altered states that
produce conditions where the client may be
making decisions without their normal faculties.
If the client goes there on their own, it gives
me the coach, the opportunity to test the
efficacy of their actions and I don't have to
worry whether my smooth form of questioning, or
failure to be conscious around my own actions
around them that produces a decision-state that could
be harmful to them.
I see this all the
time in the uninitiated and I have been harmed by this very
thing myself and I'll protect the high profile
coach who was responsible.
As a towards person myself, I can produce
altered states very easily, all too easily and I
suffer from them all too often. The
primary reason is that I don't test my efficacy
in the altered state in the state where I must
make things real. While I'll get spiritual
pushback here, I can point to many more examples
of people, myself included--not functioning well
as a result of using altered states to make
decisions than not in business...as well as
personal lives, but we'll stick to business.
How many times have you seen someone walk out of
a motivated, altered state and make silly
commitments they never kept. What is that?
Or worse, allocate resources based on that state
(buy something they shouldn't have) and suffer
Get my point now?
altered states may be beneficial to me and keeps
me optimistic, I have developed the apparatus to
function (some times) that I need to recover
from decisions I make in these altered
states--most people don't recover, they loose
their business over time as a result of these
poor, non-purposeful decisions!
In my view, most people haven't developed the
experience or efficacy to work effectively in
and out of altered states* and
consequently they are put into these altered
states way too often by people who "know"
(manipulators, influencers) and
"don't know" (most people who practice
coaching) what they are doing.
In my view, this is a fine line between "do no
harm" and "harm."
I have written extensively on the this
topic...do no harm.
Therefore, get yourself--and
your manipulation--out of the way.
Second, don't put the client into altered states
when you don't know what you are doing and they
don't know what they are doing. It is
manipulative at best, dangerous at worst.
I don't want my clients out there acting
according to states that they themselves have
not authored and even in those authored states,
one requires the guidance of purpose. Maybe this is just my
oversensitive nature because I have been harmed,
by so-called great coaches, but I've seen this
be very damaging to people and business.
Fully 50% of the people out there are
This means that whatever suggestion they get,
they believe as true, which is why people think
they've been helped even when nothing has
changed. [INTUITION, 2002]
This fact has been proven in many fields from
hypnotism to medical tests with placebos.
In some cases, this can be very helpful to
people, in other cases harmful.
I prefer it to be a
non-decision for me and
B\Coaches, therefore the question:
What do you want?
is a question I watch carefully.
I know it is taught in some circles, but NOT in
While there isn't really anything that is not
leading (because all interruptions of the
quantum field, then affect the field--and in
some cases, we have entanglement (or all cases)
and you don't have to be in the field), I prefer
to take every precaution, when I am hired as a
coach to refrain from leading.
When I'm hired to consult, train, advise,
mentor, counsel, I may flex this some, as I am
being paid to give advise, but when I'm hired as
a developmental business coach, I am careful to avoid
intentionally leading the client into an area
where the client may not have skills to cope.
Again, I'm sure this may seem overly cautious to
some, but I've seen what do you want, and the
movement in an altered state of pursuing wants
and needs--LIVES PEOPLE.
I prefer the person to live
out of purpose, not out of needs-driven, moment
by moment actions.
[Excuse me all you Nowists, but quite
frankly, most people have no capacity for living
fully in the present moment, without SIGNIFICANT
training over time, including many of you who
think you do!]
Until I'm real sure that capability/capacity
ratio is sufficient to offset life-conditions in
the altered state, I avoid producing them
That doesn't mean that I discourage the client
from producing their own altered states, on the
contrary, when they do, I get to see what those
states produce in the form of thoughts, feelings
and behavior and can test them, but I resist
producing them for the client by manipulating
the client through LOTS OF TECHNIQUES that are
floating around out there under a variety of
Coaches, STOP MANIPULATING PEOPLE
Ok, I'm sure I gave you a lot longer answer than
what you asked for, but hopefully this may be
helpful to someone wondering why I take the
position I do about leading, manipulation,
unduly influencing and producing altered states
in client interactions.
There are times and places for these, but in my
view, not in business coaching sessions.
Take it with a grain of salt,
*Even though altered states occur in
every minute or can...some would argue that
reality as perception is an altered state, I
would not necessarily disagree, however, I'll
take the purposeful state any time in business
At the risk of asking a "duh" question:
After reading and re-reading your reply to the
WDYW question, I find myself
very unclear on something:
What does it mean to put the client in an
altered state? What have you seen
as an example from some of the coaching
sessions you've heard (please don't
reference the WDYW question unless it can be
supported with how it puts someone
in an altered state!) ?
Thanks for sharing your thoughts - need to
make sure I'm not doing this!
Well, of course this is NOT a duh question.
This question may be the most profound
metaphysical question that exists!
I started writing about this about 6 years ago
and over time I've gathered additional material
from around the world of coaching, consulting,
but I don't have time to bring it together, so
let me give you the executive summary, if that
Remember: this is just my opinion at this point.
An altered state is a state which is
unsupportable by the person's current ways of
We all need these and of course these provide
profound experience and connection with
everything from ways of doing things different
to spiritual awakening.
Yet, I think we need to watch this carefully,
If someone attempts to function without the
appropriate infrastructure of support, they may
crash, make bad decisions, or take on things
better left until support is further along. Of
course, there are all kinds of opinions on this.
HOW it happens:
Through techniques that are very popular today.
NLP, Metaphor Elicitation, Appreciative Inquiry,
Visualization, Futuring...etc. etc. Almost
anyone can induce an altered state at any time.
Chicksentmihi <phonetic spelling>...has studied
this for years and named some forms of altered
states flow states. Athletes talk about being in
the zone. There are many names for these.
Most of the time they are there to help us, yet
I see people dropping people into altered states
without sufficient testing or probing of the
support structure and people end up with
low-quality, inefficient decisions.
Look at sales.
People get people to buy things all the time
they never use, don't believe me? Look around in
your drawers, your house, your garage. Why did
you buy them? Altered State. People are trained
in this stuff folks, but what is worse, are all
those untrained, uninitiated people who are
doing in coaching.
I ask the question, what do you want?
You say, a new job?
I say<untrained>, why don't you just go out and
get it, you can do it.<oversimplified, but not
The person says, because I've just been waiting
for the right moment?
Coach says, don't you think you've waited long
enough, if it is that painful?
Person goes home, stews over it, next week,
turns in their notice.
The altered state became the the "activation
energy" that released the block of concentrated
energy (hating the job).
Now, some people would say, it would have
happened anyway, some would say, it was the
right thing to do, MIKE would say..."I don't
want any part of someone's decision about life
or business that could shatter their life!"
I like sleeping at night, hence no RAA
(responsibility, accountability, or authority)
for me regarding a client's outcomes. I DON'T
EVEN WANT THAT WITH MY CHILDREN ANYMORE, I want
them to make their own decisions.
Therefore, that is the what and the how.
I'm sure all of you can point to similar issues.
My goal as a coach in the above situation might
go like this?
I want to quit my job?
What is important?
I hate the work and I feel limited?
What would have to happen for you to be able to
You see, I'm going to test, probe and serve the
client in a way that causes the client to build
a purpose, a support structure and then move
into decision-making consciously, rather than
rely on "motivation" through an induced altered
state to get someone to take action.
I know the world doesn't always work like that,
but as a coach, I have a choice about what I SAY
YES TO AND WHAT I SAY NO TO, and I say no to
taking RAA with clients. Therefore, what has to
happen for me to do that?<G>
Don't induce altered states.
Now, I think I've explained why the What do you
Want? question works to cause that....imagine
inserting it in the first example?
I induce the state of want, instead of testing
what is possible?
Like getting my sights on another job, saving
some money up, networking, improving skills,
asking for transfer, etc. etc.
What do you want is just unnecessary as a
question I need to ask.
If the client learns to ask them the question,
But, then again, I want to see them self-coach
like I would coach them around it.
What do I want? (asked by client)
coach = silience? (listen, observe)
Hmmm, that's a good question! (for the client to
ask themselves and then to coach around it)
Too much of the time, we ask these types of
questions and then find the client in the
towards side of their limbic brain where
possibilities outweight risk factors and we get
action that is unsupported.
Hope that helps,