How to Overcome the NIKE Problem

Robots don’t need reasons.

The NIKE problem:

You can’t run around saying, “Just do it,” and call yourself a leader.

Your team needs purpose and so do you.

Doing stuff – without knowing why you do it – cheapens you and devalues work.

The symptoms of purposeless work are:

  1. Frustration.
  2. Low energy.
  3. Discouragement.
  4. Resistance
  5. Reluctance.

Work apart from purpose becomes painful drudgery that intensifies emptiness.

Space to discover purpose:

Purpose is discovered not imposed.

Use questions to create space for discovery. Great follow-up questions create environments of engagement, exploration, and transformation.

An unfinished question begs for an answer.

How to use the ‘AND’ method:

Give people space to reflect on their purpose by asking a question followed by an ‘and’.


What stories from your youth would you tell a new friend? (Next use an unfinished and-question.)

“And you want your new friend to know those stories because…?” (Allow your voice to trail up when you get to “because.”)

Ending with “because” creates space for reflection.

Other possible and-questions:

  1. And those stories are important to you because …?
  2. And your new friend would understand that …?
  3. And those stories shaped you in ways that …?
  4. And those stories are shaping your relationships today when …?

More examples:

#1. If you didn’t have to work another day in your life, what could you do in the world to satisfy your itch to make a difference? And that’s important to you because …? (Voice trails up and off.)

#2. What recurring frustrations do you feel? And those frustrations are felt by a person who …?

#3. What are you doing when you are most energized? And that energizes you because …?

#4. Who do you aspire to become? And that person believes …?

How is purpose fueling your energy and grit?

How might leaders create space for others to connect with purpose?

*I learned about the power of unfinished questions from, “Just Listen,” by Mark Goulston.