Tag Archives: entrepreneur

Can I ask a bigger question

Too frequently, we get stuck in a small thinking just because that is where our idea started. An entrepreneur may review is P&L and realize he’s spending too much on hotels when he travels, so asks the question, “how can I pay less for my hotel stays?” That is a fair question but is it big enough. Instead the entrepreneur could ask, “how can I reduce my travel expenses?” The difference in the two questions may not seem like much but they can lead to very different answers. In the first case, then entrepreneur may try to negotiate better pricing or travel on cheaper days. In the larger question, the entrepreneur may question is some trips could be replaced with Skype calls or trips could be combined.

On a personal level, someone trying to get into shape may ask, “how can I make my workouts more intense?” A bigger question might be, “how can I adopt an active lifestyle?”

When you discover an obstacle or opportunity, pause for a few minutes and ask yourself, “can I ask a bigger question?”

Change starts with destruction

The process of intentional change is a simple four step process. First, you explore where you are. Second, you decide where you want to go. Third, you determine strategies and habits that lead you to your destination. Fourth, you implement.

It really is that simple. On paper. In real life there are obstacles, habits and fears. There are prices to be paid and sacrifices to be made. In real life, intentional change is not so easy.

There is an additional step, a prequel step, to take before making intentional change that will help make the rest of the steps easier: destruction.

You must first destroy those things that are holding you in place. Our lives are constructed to maintain the status quo; where we are. Our habits, our relationships and our schedules all reinforce maintaining what we currently do. To make intentional change, we need to destroy some of these bonds that hold us.

Discover vs Defend

I’m reading “How to have a good day” by Caroline Webb. It is too early in the book for me to be able to recommend it but I do enjoy her initial philosophy, namely relying on research and science. While the book title makes it seem like it is about making any day a “good day,” it does seem to be focused more on business professionals and how to have a good day at work.

One thing that jumped out at me early on is her discussion of the discover-defend axis. Basically, this is a manifestation of a primitive part of our brains. We are either in discover mode or defend mode. Discover mode is when we our brains are looking for opportunities for reward. Defend mode is the classic fight-flight-freeze response. Generally speaking, when we are afraid, our brains stop looking for opportunities. Instead it looks for safety.

How does this relate to having a good day? When workers are afraid and are in the corporate version of fight-flight-freeze, they become less creative and unwilling to take risks…….even risks as small as speaking up in a meeting. I can see this in my own work. When there is one or two senior people in a meeting who are intimidating or have a tendency to forcefully challenge other workers, many people in the meeting go into fight-flight-free mentality. People are less likely to explore creative ideas. Solutions become “safer” but not better. People are less likely to point out holes in the plan for fear of being singled out.

So how to turn this information into a “good day” and to make your company more creative and efficient? Carefully choose when to challenge people and when to be supportive. The goal for some meetings, especially early in a project, benefit from risk taking and creative output. For these meetings, don’t let the tone become intimidating or challenging.

New plan

How I work with my clients has evolved over the last couple of years. Originally, I only offered weekly hour long sessions with a mix of live and virtual interactions. However, we covered too much in an hour so that many of my clients felt overwhelmed with the homework they had to do.

I started offering a biweekly hour long call, only via phone. That gave my clients more time to do their homework. Unfortunately, that also meant a loss of accountability. To help with that, I added text and email support between calls. Some clients go for the weekly offering, especially in the beginning but most prefer biweekly.

Now, by client request, I’m adding another option. I’m offering a weekly 30 minute call supported by text and emails in between. The thirty minute format will require that we really stay on task and will help prevent my clients from taking on too much in between sessions. The text/email also adds accountability. I’m really excited about this new option.

Reach out if you are stuck and need someone to help push and drive you out of your slump.

Please share this post. You never know who in your life is floundering and needs a hand or a boot on their behind.

I could . . . . .

14785946578_00c7fb956d_zAfter you do your “I should” exercise, it is time for your “I could” exercise.  Finish the sentence, “If I really tried, I could . . . . . ”  Write at least five different endings to that sentence.  Let your sentences sit for a day and then read them over again.  Which of these sentences are really meaningful to you?  Which ones make you excited when you think about actually accomplishing them?

For those sentences that excite you, ask yourself:

1.) Why haven’t I achieved this already?

2.) What obstacles are holding me back?

3.) Are these really obstacles or excuses?  

4.) What can I do right now to move me towards these goals?

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Picture by Craig Sunter by 2.0


The opposite of “conflict” is not “surrender.”

A new client of mine has always been the peacemaker.  She’s been the one at home and on the job who made things happen by avoiding all conflict.  Now she owns the family business and she still avoids conflict.  When the contractors don’t turn in their reports on schedule, my client will still do whatever is needed to make sure they get paid on time on time.  When an employee doesn’t get important tasks done on time, she’ll simply say to do it now and then will put in extra effort to make sure everything is done and monitored going forward.

Conflicts have been avoided but at what cost?  My client is exhausted.  She knows she should be spending more time developing new business but all of the extra work and interruptions has made it impossible for her.  Avoiding conflict may have helped her avoid small periods where period are unhappy but now she is unhappy pretty much all the time.  It is costing her sanity and business.

Our first task was to show her the cost of conflict avoidance.  Next, we developed a series of processes and rules that made some of the conflicts unnecessary.  Finally, we practiced ways to address a situation where instead of having a conflict with the other person, you recruit them to be part of the solution.  It has only been a few weeks but the small changes are adding up.  At our last session, she told me that she was able to bid on a half-million dollar job that she would have had to pass on without our improvements.  This is only after two sessions.  I can’t wait to see what she is going to be able to accomplish after a couple of months.

Training cats, changing people and other pointless exercises

My clients frequently ask me how to change someone else; an employee, a partner or even their boss.  Unfortunately, you can’t change other people.  It simply can’t be done.  People will only change if they want to change.  They have to want it and want to change more than whatever rewards they are currently getting.

We have a hard enough time trying to change ourselves.  Only 8% of people are successful in achieving their own New Year’s resolution.  It takes most people seven or more attempts to change something about themselves like losing weight or stopping smoking.  Those activities are pretty easy to see and, therefore, are easier to change.  Trying to change something that is more subtle, for example being too negative, is even harder.  If we fail so consistently at changing ourselves, imagine how difficult it is to attempt to change other people.

Attempting to change someone is like attempting to train a cat.  Cats don’t train well.  Cats do want they want and why they want it.  My kids do watch a show, My Cat From Hell, on the Animal Planet.  It stars Jackson Galaxy, a self described cat-behaviorist.  Each episode Jackson goes into two households with completely out of control cats and in two or three visits, he completely trains these cats.  When you study what Jackson does though, he doesn’t train the cat.  He modifies the cat’s environment to encourage the cat to want to change.

Let’s examine what Jackson actually does with the cats.  He follows a pretty consistent technique and gets results nearly every time.

1.) De-stress the environment – The first thing Jackson does if find ways to make the cat less stressed.  Stress causes poor decision making in both cats and people.  Jackson de-stresses the environment by adding kitty little boxes, blocking views of neighborhood cats and adding places where the cat feels protected and safe.  Additionally, Jackson will include outlets for the cat.

2.) Improve communication – Then Jackson teaches the owners how to communicate with the cat.  With cats, communication is largely about body language.

3.) Create routines – For example, play with the cat and then feed the cat.  Routines provide a level of predictability.

4.) Change the payoff – Jackson also provide treats and other rewards for positive behavior.  He also removes incentives for negative behaviors.  The change in the reward system helps make the cat want to do positive behaviors.

While you can’t change your employee or partner, you can use a lot of Jackson’s technique to get different outcomes.  You can not change someone.  You can, however, change the environment and reward system to get different outcomes.