McGuckin Factor

On April 4th, 2011, posted in: Serious topics by 0 Comment
In our town we have a great hardware store called McGuckin Hardware.  I like them because they have everything and they have floor staff who know where to find everything, and they have enough floor staff that you can find them.
They have something more.
The floor staff know not only where in the store all the stuff is, but also they know what questions to ask.
You might bring your nephew or niece to the store with you while in the middle of a plumbing repair project at home.  You bring to McGuckin some weird contortion of copper tubing and brass fittings and rubber gaskets, and ask the employee in the plumbing department the essential question: “Do you have one of these?”
Then the magic.
The McGuckin person asks a return question: “What are you trying to do?”  Instead of just saying, “We don’t carry that,” or “I think we are out of stock,” or even “I think it’s on Aisle 3,” she will want to know what on earth you are trying to fix.  Once she gets a good idea of the nature and scope of your project, she can help you solve your problem.
You don’t come to McGuckin for a part, you come for a solution.  The staff there want you to go home and succeed.  So they ask a really great question.  They ask, “What are you trying to fix?”  Then they can suggest the right configuration of plumbing parts or whatever.  And give you advice about how tightly (or not) to turn the wrench on the faucet washer, or whether or not to use plumbing tape on the threads.
They are focused on providing solutions, not selling stuff.
With your siblings’ kids, resist the temptation to give quick, even obvious answers, to their situations, dilemmas and questions.  Ask another question—“What are you trying to do?”  Gather some more information. Ask a few follow-up questions.
Many times, your niece will figure out her own answer if you ask her enough questions.
This really happened to me.  At work, a colleague from another department came into my office, closed the door behind her, sat down, and said she needed advice.  She then told a quick story about being wronged by her supervisor, and wondered what she should do about it.  Her story hit me in a soft spot, and I choked up to the point where I couldn’t speak.  Being embarrassed by my tears welling up and focusing on tying to maintain some composure, and being all grabbed at the throat, I couldn’t utter a sound.
After a few seconds of my silence to her question, she went on a bit about what alternatives she was considering, and asked what I thought.
Still, I’m locked up and can’t even croak.
Then she does some thinking-out-loud analysis of the alternatives, and settles on one.  “What do you think about that idea?” she says.
I’m still speechless, grappling with my emotions and still all choked up.
“Well, that seems like a great idea.  I think it will make things a lot better.  I’m going to do that.  Thanks.  You really helped me. That’s a great idea,” she said, then got up and trotted off, problem solved.
I never in this whole exchange, uttered a single syllable.  Not one.  It was my finest work.
With your nieces or nephews, when they come to you for help, first, ask another question.  “What are you trying to do?”  A problem well stated is half solved.  Get to the bottom of the problem.
Then find out what they have already considered as possible solutions.
And maybe let them talk it out.  The solution they find—on their own—
will teach them more and work better than the one you jump to offer.
Sometime when you are in Boulder, go visit McGuckin Hardware. And bring your niece.  She’ll like it. They have everything. Especially great questions.

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