Seven Questions that Empower

Socrates made famous the process of asking questions to require thinking– a rare activity at times. For entrepreneurs, thinking is crucial to your success. All questions are not created equal. Clarifying questions help someone come up with their own solutions. This is the thinking part. Advising questions tell someone what he should be doing to address the situation. Imbedded in the advising question is your opinion of what is the right approach. Telling questions imply that you are right and he is wrong. This is a good way to create a defensive posture. Empowering questions focus on what is already working and not the problem. Focus on the problem attracts more of the same. Empowering questions lead to a solution. There is no blame for what is not working. When someone arrives at a conclusion about how to solve a problem, it not only requires critical thinking but it also gives them ownership in the results. These seven questions are empowering questions: 1. What is the ideal situation that you want to achieve? 2. What have you tried so far? 3. What professionals have you asked about this issue? 4. Why are the current circumstances a problem? 5. If the current issue is not addressed, what are the costs to you? 6. How will the change that you are considering make a difference in your results? 7. What data do you have that illustrates the issue? Once I became aware of the difference between clarifying questions and advising question, I notice the difference in radio and TV interviews. When the question begins, “Don’t you think it would be better...

Strategy Confronts a Future with No Guarantees

There is confusion about the difference in a plan and a strategy. Plans are useful. Strategies are scary. When you choose a strategy, you are choosing a direction that requires you to make decisions that eliminate possibilities and options. Think crossing the Rubicon. The future outcomes are unknowable. Planning, on the other hand, is knowable and doable. It is based typically on annual budgets. The plan does not answer the question “why” an organization does what it does. The plan logically lays out the steps to reach an initiative or goal. It is better have a plan than not have a plan. A strategy answers the question of where you want to play and how you want to win playing there. The customer is the focus of a strategy. Who do you intend to serve and how do you intend to win? You must also be clear about where you do not want to play. Simply put, who is your ideal client? A strategy is designed to increase the odds of success. It is not meant to eliminate risks. It is no small feat to assess what you want to achieve and determine how realistic it is to try to achieve it. No guarantees. Until you see the outcome of a strategy, you cannot know if it was a good choice. There is no perfect, predictable strategy. That’s what makes it scary. Also, strategies are long term in nature not quick fix with immediate results. To embark on a strategy, it is important to have a logical basis for the decision. It is also critical to communicate clearly and...

The Main Thing Leaders Should Know About Focus

Businesses limit success by losing focus on what is most important. Businesses suffer from ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), too. For example, this week at a member recruitment reception at a business club, a new member introduced himself. He is an entrepreneur with nine start-up businesses. He is interested in meeting investors with capital for start-ups. That is not a place where I would invest my money – too many irons in the fire to make success look promising. The cost of spreading your resources so thin is that everything suffers. With so many objectives, nothing is done well. In addition, people are confused about what is important. People find it difficult to make good choices about the action to take. It also sets up a fight for precious, limited resources. It is easy to understand why ADD is prevalent in businesses: Seems risky to have a short list Requires discipline to say “no” to the newest idea Believes the myth that everything is important Unaware of what is working Bored with business as usual The solution is simple. Be very clear about the business you are in. Know how you create success. Say “yes” to the main thing Keep score Change course wisely Communicate throughout and at all levels so everyone knows Use the grapevine to spread “true rumors” The focus of my Toastmasters club is building our membership. We currently have 17 members. At our executive committee meeting, we discussed various ways to recruit new members. We meet weekly in a 25 story office building. The focus of our recruitment efforts is the people who work here. We...

5 Selling Tricks Guaranteed to Repel Sales

In many cases, sales have a bad reputation. You know the snake oil peddler and the used car salesman. The emphasis is not solving a customer’s problem but rather making a sale. Repel sales with these 5 selling tricks: 1. Use deception to get an appointment or make a sale. Even though you succeed, what is the customer’s residual feeling? If long-term relationships are of no value, this is a good selling technique. If you do not appreciate referrals, this is the way to sell. I answered a knock on the door. The man on the porch introduced himself; his family had been selling firewood for generations. “Yes, the wood is seasoned.” When I paid him, I thanked him for selling me his load of seasoned wood. With a tip of his hat and a slight grin, he climbed into his truck. Did you know seasoned wood has small green leaves? 2. Do most of the talking with a prospect or customer. Tell him why your product has the best features before you know anything about his interests. Observe your next networking event. As someone thrusts a business card into your hand, listen to him tell you all about his product or service. As an afterthought, he asks what you do and half listens as he looks over your shoulder to find his next target. 3. Push a customer into a buying decision. When pushed into a corner to make a purchase, people feel manipulated. It has a high rate of backfiring.  The last time I shopped for a new car I was dealing with an inexperienced salesman who...

The Power of Clarity

Lack of clarity at any level in your organization diminishes the possibility of success. Being unclear about the purpose of your business, for example, no one knows what strategies to pursue. If you do not know where you intend to go, any direction will do. Didn’t the Cheshire cat say this to Alice in Wonderland? It is costly to operate without clarity. Talented people spent time, creativity and money on the wrong initiatives. When lack of clarity frustrates the people that you hire, they do not do their best work. This has an impact not only internally but also externally with customers as well. When you are unaware of the hidden costs of confusion in your business, there is little incentive to change. Lack of clarity has three possible sources: A. Do it on purpose—confuse people to make it easier to control them B. Do not know any better—unaware that they are the source of confusion C. Cannot do any better—lack the skills to communicate clearly I recall overhearing the CEO of a small business say in an unguarded moment that he could keep his team in the dark with complex and ever changing stats. Without clarity about how the business was doing, the employees could not question decisions that significantly affected them. Bring clarity to your business with these eight steps: 1.    Tell the truth. Opinion is not fact. 2.    Let the numbers do the talking. Identify the indicators that measure success, track them and report them. 3.    Use simple language that is easy to understand. In other words, “espouse elucidation.” 4.    Be clear in your own mind....

Why Interest in Others Is Key to Attracting the Right Client

When I meet someone so enamored with his own verbiage that I cannot hear myself think, I remember my father-in-law.  His wisdom, “He likes to talk to hear his head roar,” comes to mind. Curious listeners make excellent conversationalists.  They also make good impressions at networking events, conferences and dinner parties. Incessant talkers send me to the other side of the room.  If that escape is not available, I retreat behind what I hope is a façade of feigned interest until I can make my get away—politely, of course. In a recent coaching session, my client, whom I will call Phyllis, does not feel confident about the kind of impression she makes at a professional events.  As a young professional on the rise, she is conscious about smart moves to advance her career. To her, the larger than life, engaged, animated and talkative ones seem to make progress faster. Perhaps. The next time you attend an event with people, plan to be a curious listener with these three tools: 1.  Listen to learn by asking questions: What do you do professionally? Tell me about your business or your work. How did you get started in that field? What do you enjoy most about it? How did your company change to survive the Great Recession of 2008? How would I recognize your ideal client? 2.  Listen to serve by taking action: Introduce people to others at the event that can help each other After the event, make a connection for people who could help each other Follow up a conversation with an article that would be of interest to someone...