The Procern [ARCHIVE]

Originally published on the Shirlaws Business Coaching Blog, 2007-2010.

One of the things I love about being a business coach is that I can spend a lot of time working with staff on the ground for a business. I can support those who really know what’s going on, provide them with frameworks and, on occasion, advise them on how to make work easier and more productive.

One of the things that frustrates me is when those people I want to help most have nothing to say.

So I came up with a solution: let me introduce the ‘Procern’, my attempt to open up conversation and – truth be told – my latest attempt to coin a future ‘word of the year’ .

Coaching is often about asking the right questions. When I first go into a business, questions such as “What’s not working well?” or “What are your issues today?” lead to an avalanche of information. But, over time, the answers often trickle away. I’ve helped them fix the major problems, and those little niggling issues they have – surely Jacob isn’t interested in those?

I want to hear all about the little niggles. I want to hear from the people who, thanks to my help and their efforts, now have the time to improve on situations to make their business even better. This can be as simple as documenting what’s already being done well; or it may involve reviewing their whole workflow, colour-coding it of course, and asking “How can we do this better?”.

But questions like ‘What are the current issues in the business?’ or ‘What problems are you having today?’ don’t quite get to the heart of what I’m trying to achieve. My clients and their staff now assume that I’m asking about ‘the big issues’. When no big issues are left to discuss, they don’t have an answer. So in order to have them speak up, I’ve said goodbye to checking on Problems and Concerns.

And hello to asking about the Procern.

The Procern is that little one-percenter that can make a difference.

The Procern is the extra effort, available now the major problems have been dealt with, that can be used to really improve operations.

The Procern is the water-cooler gripe that can be solved in three minutes of discussion, and it’s the seemingly inconsequential matter that’s actually the tip of an iceberg that we are now aware of and can avoid. Needless to say, Jacob does want to hear about them.

The linguist in me also likes the prefix ‘pro’ in a business context, where being proactive seems to be the trait du jour. Ask about Procerns, and the team really feel they are talking about how to improve the business, take a forward step, rather than lamenting big, bad issues that affect them. Try it at your next staff meeting – you’ll be surprised at what a little language shift can bring up!

And tell me – do you feel a new word could help conversation in your business? And what procerns does your business experience?

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