A Simple Word Switch that Can Help People find Better Solutions

Premierehire Executive search and leadership strategies
and make a much better coaching question.

The use of ‘could’ vs. ‘should’ has vastly different outputs when you are coaching someone. Coaching is the art of helping people discover their own power and capabilities so our choice of words are important. For example, asking an employee, “what could they do to solve a problem?” vs. “what should they do to solve a problem?” are processed very different in their mind.

The use of “could” implies a possibility or potential course of action, while “should” implies a recommendation or obligation. “Could” is more open-ended and allows for more creative thinking and exploration of options, while “should” implies there is a more definitive course of action and narrows thinking.

Using ‘could’ instead of ‘should’ also creates more energy and even excitement. Consider the difference in your energy and enthusiasm when asked these two questions, “What should you do this weekend?” vs. “What could you do this weekend?” With ‘could’ your mind became activated with all kinds of thoughts and ideas.  The ‘should’, however, may have created a degree of anxiety or fear of forgetting something important or getting it wrong.

The increased positive energy from a ‘could’ question can help an individual or a team get past perceived roadblocks or limiting beliefs and propel them to a much more creative and more successful outcome.

Of course, there may be situations where using ‘should’ is more appropriate, such as when there is a clear ethical or legal obligation. However, if your goal is to generate great solutions chose the word ‘could’ to start the process.  After generating excitment and possibilities, then add in selection criteria to weed out the illegal or noncompliant ideas.

Overall, using ‘could’ vs. ‘should’ in problem-solving or decision-making situations will generate more energy, more ideas, more creative approaches, and, most probably, better solutions.

In what 2-3 situations ‘could’ you use this new word choice this week?

Want more one-word coaching techniques so you can lead more effectively? Check out this superior one-word alternative to the feedback sandwich and this simple one-word switch to solicit useful feedback from clients, your boss, or your team.

The Author

Leanne Terrace helps leaders and teams reach higher levels of performance and fulfillment in their work.

Leanne serves as an executive & team coach, facilitator, leadership trainer, and talent advisor. Her coaching, tools, and proven processes transform organizational health, attract great people, and build great places to work because ‘people are the point’.

She and her team also help organizations find and retain top leaders with their 4 Phase Executive Search and New Leader Integration Solutions.

Leanne has over 25 years of executive leadership experience and is a certified executive and team coach (EMCC). She is a certified coach for Birkman Leadership Assessments and 360s and has extensive training with the Adizes Institute for Organizational Transformation, Robbins Madanes Intervention coaching, the European Mentoring & Coaching Council (EMCC), and the Global Team Coaching Institute (GTCI). She also has a degree in Psychology and a Masters in Business from UBC.

Leanne serves clients throughout the US and Canada, ranging in size and industry.

If you are looking to elevate your team, your leadership, or your career, please send an email or book a complimentary consult.