Asking A Better Question

As business owners one of the best ways to have a breakthrough in our business or with a client is to ask the right questions.  It’s not always easy to know what questions to ask, and sometimes we think we’re asking the right question only to keep getting frustrated because it turns out that we’re not asking the right question.  So today I’ve got a whole bunch of questions that may be new to you that you could try when you get stuck with an issue.  Some are questions you an ask to someone else, others are those you can use in your own thought processes.

What should questions do?

They should empower, challenge assumptions, re-frame issues, stretch the person/people asking, and encourage breakthrough thinking.

Question Disclaimers:

Sometimes you’ll get an answer you weren’t expecting or wanting to hear.  Sometimes you’ll need to ask another question to get deeper into the heart of the matter.  Sometimes a vague question is good, other times you want to be specific.  Not everyone can give you an instant answer, don’t be afraid to wait for the answer (unless you’re looking for that first impression). You expect a response when you ask a question, and those who are giving the answer expect to be given some kind of feedback on their answer.  Sometimes ‘I don’t know’ is the answer you get.

Let’s talk about some questions to ask yourself to ask the right question:

Do I need a factually correct answer?

Do I need an expert opinion?

Do I need a well-reasoned judgment?

Do I want the truth or the answer they think I want to hear?

Is yes/no sufficient, or do I want more?

Do I really want an answer?

And now some questions you might try:

What’s the RONI — the Risk of Not Investing?

When did you last do something fun?

What can I do to help you?

Do I want to add value?

Do your core values make business sense?

What do you stand for?

Who do you serve?

What is your competitor’s plan to win?

Is it helping?

What is the one thing you have postponed changing about yourself? Are you prepared to make that change now?

Are you a good friend who keeps your word all the time?

Would you offer a good friend much needed (uninvited) advice when you can see he/she is headed for disaster, or remain silent?

Are you open to receiving uninvited counsel from a good friend if the situation were reversed?

Is it more important for you to win the power game or to know the truth?

What is more important to you – wealth or love? (No, you can’t have both so far as this question is concerned.)

Have you explored your creativity to your satisfaction?

What do you need to stop?

Do you dismiss your creative ideas based on financial thinking or lack of time?

Which would you prefer: Losing your creative energy and spark or gaining more free time in your life? (No, you cannot have both so far as this question is concerned.)

Can you actually name a creative project or dream that you would like to pursue now?

What do you notice about the reasons for your success?

What are you trying to accomplish?

How are you being helpful to your team?

What are you doing that hurts your team? (Insert customers, employees, manager, yourself, or organization?)

What’s working for you?

What could be better?

What matters most to your customers? (Insert you, team, employees, manager, or leaders?)

What are the most impactful things you do?

If things were going perfectly, what would it look like?

How does this support the company’s mission, goals and projected success?

What’s the most unexpected thing you’ve learned along the way?

If all jobs paid the same, what would you be doing?

What would you do if you knew you could not fail?

What does my (audience/customer/employee/partner/teammate) need to hear from me?

What kind of leader am I?

Do you know what I see in you?

How could we do that differently?

What are people concerned about, but no one says?

Did I help someone else succeed today?

What do we want to sustain?

What questions would you add to this list that have helped you in the past?

Creativity for the Future

Today as we finish out this month I wanted to share one last thought for Memorial Day and one last thought on creativity, too, as inspired by this quote from Robert Reich: “True patriotism isn’t cheap. It’s about taking on a fair share of the burden of keeping America going.”

Life isn’t easy.  We keep asking for it to be and expecting that our requests will not only be heard but answered as well.  Yes, there are things we can do to make life easier for ourselves, but there will always be challenges and obstacles we’ll face. They’re good because they help us grow and learn new things and make new connections, but they also can put a lot of stress on our lives and relationships.  One of the ways to make those challenges easier is to work together.  On a day like Memorial Day we’re all reminded of what it is to be a team, be part of a country, and challenged to do better.

The only way the world will improve and we’ll enjoy our lives even more is if we make a point of doing things differently.  You’re familiar with the definition of insanity (doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results), it’s one that we’ve talked about before and is well known, yet there are so many people who believe it’s not insanity and keep trying the same thing.

To what distances are you willing to go for your passions and for the country you call home?  Are you willing to make some small changes like trying to waste less energy and being more conscious of how you’re treating others?  Are you willing to work long hours and try things that others may call crazy to share your creativity with the world? Change starts with the few and grows to the many when others see what an awesome difference the changes you’ve made have had on your life.

Are you willing to do what it takes to be great?  Don’t give up because it hasn’t happened yet, keep trying things and telling others what you’re trying to do.  There are people out there who believe what you believe and can be that source of encouragement you need when things get tough, and you can be an encouragement for them as well.

Creativity and Teamwork

I’ve been thinking a lot about creativity over the past few days.  Are you a creative person? I’ve been thinking about creative ways to get through some interesting situations and creative solutions I can come up with for challenges I’m facing.  What I’ve been coming up with is a cold though, which has meant sleep and not much creative thinking or creative action.  It’s interesting when life makes you take a few steps back, I know it’s good to take a break sometimes, but I can’t say I enjoyed having no energy and no passion, creative or otherwise other than for tissues and pillows.

What I’ve been reminded through the past few days is how important teamwork is, even and especially in creativity.  A big part of creativity is coming up with new ideas and seeing things in new ways, and more often than not the creative ideas you come up with will be inspired by something you saw that someone else did or said.  Are you open to hearing the ideas that other people come up with or are you limiting yourself to only what you can think up or do?

The truly creative are willing to take input from others, enjoy listening to reactions even if people come up with conclusions that are not related to the truth about how something was created or why, are willing to try new things, and don’t give up when they hear “no”.  I’m thankful for the opportunity to interact with the creative community, to see how other people see the world and hear their opinions.  Even if I don’t agree with all people’s opinions or appreciate their style of creativity, doesn’t mean I won’t respect their desire and ability to create.  What has inspired you lately and what are you creating?

Creative Mistakes

When was the last time you made a mistake?  Was it recent?  It probably was, I know I’ve made a bunch of mistakes today!  As adults we often see all mistakes as bad and really wrong, can you remember the last time you laughed at a mistake you made or it honestly didn’t bother you?  Kids are really good at letting things go.  They have very short memories about most things, or at the very least don’t let it bother them as long as we hold onto things.

Kids are good at making messes and mistakes, at least they’re mistakes as far as we view them, they may not view them that way though.  Often what we see as something not quite right that kids have done is their way of being creative, their way of trying new things and their way of learning about the world.  By letting them discover on their own we’re helping build their creative muscles and letting them learn how things work and about cause and effect.

The other great thing about kids is that they’re not worried about right or wrong to the same degree that we are or in the same context.  We’re so worried about things going right or being perfect in our eyes or the eyes of the world that we don’t open ourselves up to trying new things and doing things differently like our kids do.  So the next time you face a change instead of just doing what you’ve always done or doing things the same way, try a different approach and see what kind of results you can create.

“Because of their courage, their lack of fear, they (creative people) are willing to make silly mistakes. The truly creative person is one who can think crazy; such a person knows full well that many of his great ideas will prove to be worthless. The creative person is flexible; he is able to change as the situation changes, to break habits, to face indecision and changes in conditions without undue stress. He is not threatened by the unexpected as rigid, inflexible people are.”  Frank Goble