The Answer is a Question

Summary: It can happen to us many times a day – we get asked a questions.  As respectful adults, we answer questions that are asked of us. However, when it comes to training people or furthering their development, the best answer is another question.

doubt 320x320 The Answer is a Question

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It can happen to us many times a day – we get asked questions.  As respectful adults, we answer questions that are asked of us. However, when it comes to training people or furthering their development, the best answer is another question. Normally this would drive us all mad, no one likes a question answer with another question.

When you trying to get people to think through a situation, the best thing you can do is NOT answer the question.

Let’s say they come to you with a situation or problem to solve. Instead of answering, you say “what would you do?” or “how do you think we should handle it?”.  The first time you do this, I can almost guarantee you will get a “deer in the headlights” look. It may take some encouraging to get an answer. Do this enough time and they will come to you with “this is the situation and I want to do this” and then you ask “what do you think the result will be?”.

Explaining the same thing over and over again. There are some people who no matter how many times you have answered the same question, they will always ask you again. By asking questions you can uncover what is driving this behavior (not understanding, insecurity, etc.).  Start by asking “What have you done already to take care of this?”.

This can even be applied to training. For example, you showing your new employee how to do a task on the computer system. What typically happens is we walk them through the steps, ask them to take notes and at the end say “understand?”. For fear of looking less than smart, the person who doesn’t understand, will say yes.  What if instead you told the person, “today we are going to walk through how to do a client search. Looking at your screen, where you do think a good place to start is?”. This will get the person to look over the program and determine the logic of the computer program and help them start to navigate.

The same process can be used to handle client inquiries, customer complaints, accounting processes, etc. So don’t be afraid to answer a question with a question. You will actually be helping yourself, the person and the company by getting an individual to understand the process, procedure, rationale, etc.

Contact us if you need assistance with using this questioning technique.

The Power of Listening

Summary:  We have lost the skill of active listening. What you need to do and how to benefit from it.

listen 320x269 The Power of Listening

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Since we were young, we were told to listen. As children, we didn’t listen because we didn’t like what we heard. As adults, we have not gotten better, in fact we are worse. We have so much information going through our mind at any given time, it can be amazing we even know what we are thinking about much less what someone else is trying to tell us.

This lost skill, I would say is the most important in your business and as a leader. Why? Believe it or not people will tell you want they are looking, need and want. It’s in the words they use.

To actively listen to someone – there can be no distractions. Distractions can be external or internal.

External distractions are our phones, email, computer, people knocking at our door, etc. We have gotten better about turning off the external distractions, however the internal ones are much more difficult.

Internal distractions are our own thoughts. They can be related to what the person is saying, as in we are forming our answer, argument or story in support. They can be related to our own to-do list – “as soon as this conversation is over I have to do ….” or “When is that client going to call” or “I figured out the solution to a problem”, etc.

How often do you have your mind quiet when speaking to someone else? Free from thought? Intent on listening to what the other person is saying or not saying.

Try it and see what you learn about the other person.

Let me share how this approach has benefited me – more quickly establish the know, like and trust factor. Clients feel that I am giving them what they need not what I want. I’m able to close more sales. I gain more clients. I have more people willing to refer my services.

Would you like the same results? Contact me and we can discuss how I can help.

Which one will you receive?

Summary:  An employee who is leaving your company has sent you a letter – which one will you receive? What do you have to do to get the one you want?

An employee has sent you a letter about your leadership style. Which letter would you rather receive?

Photoxpress 6183744 320x240 Which one will you receive?

Courtesy of PhotoXpress


**** Letter One ****

Dear Boss:

I want to thank you for all the attention you have given me throughout my time here.  You have guided me, coached me, inspired me and promoted me. It is because of you that I have been able to take on a new position of greater responsibility and accountability. I thank you for giving me a career I can be proud of and truly enjoy.

Thank you, Your Ex-Employee

**** Letter Two ****

Dear Boss:

I am writing this letter to inform you of my resignation.  Working here and with you has been difficult.  I don’t believe I have received your support or trust.  I have had to learn things for myself and didn’t feel comfortable coming to you with questions. The new company I will be joining has a culture of learning, growth and happiness.

Regards, Your Ex-Employee

Which one will you receive?

Two very different letters. Which one would you rather receive? What are you doing to make sure you you get the one you want. A few things to remember. Being encouraging and coaching your people is not “fluff”.  It will translate into happier customers, repeat customers, a good environment and more productivity. More productivity equals better business. How will you make sure you get Letter One today?

Ready to make a change? Not sure where to start? We provide one-on-one coaching to assist in becoming the leader you want to be.  Contact us today at:


How to avoid firing people

Summary:  The best way to avoid firing people is to ensure you hire right.  Here are some tips to help make that happen.

Photoxpress 171777 320x320 How to avoid firing people

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This is usually one of the hardest decisions someone has to make in their career, deciding the fate of another person. Should they stay or go? This decision also should not be made lightly, and there are a few factors to consider.

What are the reasons?

Is it is due to a downturn in business? The decision may be one of financial survival. If it is due to losing a major customer, how long can you wait with extra employees until a new customer has signed on? Again, a financial decision. While we can’t always help you with these your Accountant or Financial advisor can.

Is the reason due to a mismatch? – we can help you figure this out. By a mismatch I mean either the person has the wrong skills for the position or the position has changed. The wrong skills for the position comes down to the interview process. If you understand what the position’s duties, responsibilities, outcomes, personality and skills required – these can be uncovered in the interview process. This is sometimes easier said than done because most human being have a tendency to hire based on who they like and not always based on the position requirements. This is even more prevalent with small business owners – mostly because they may not be sure how to interview. They started their business based on their knowledge not on hiring people.

If the hiring decision has been made then it is about what can you do to keep this person and what goals do they have to achieve in order to stay. This will require more work on your part and you will also have to know when the effort outweighs the results. In other words, you are putting in lots of effort but not seeing as many results – how long can you have this person? Only you can answer that question. If the position has changed, what can you do to assist the person in this new role? Is it training? Mentoring? or something else all together? Again, a decision will have to be made on effort vs. results.

The best way to avoid firing people is to make sure you understand what you need to hire. It is better to take the extra time and review what you need in that position. Write out all the duties, responsibilities, personality traits and results needed. Is it realistic for one person to have all these? Are there some that are a “must have” vs a “nice to have”? Just as a firing decision takes thought so does a hiring decision.

Do it right the first time and you won’t have to worry about firing – the right hire can even help you reduce the need to terminate due to financial reasons.

Skip the either/or, find the “and” in recruiting

Summary: When hiring, skip the either/or of cultural fit and skills. Make it cultural fit “and” skills.

characters 320x213 Skip the either/or, find the and in recruiting

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Finding, recruiting and hiring people can be an on-going activity at many companies. This can be due to growth or turnover (replacing people). Actually I find in many cases, it is because they have the wrong person in a position.

What does that mean? We can go to Jim Collins book “Good to Great” where he discusses having the right people on the bus and then placing them in the right seat.  We can hire people who fit our culture and possibly lacking in skills or the reverse, hiring the skills and foregoing the culture.  It shouldn’t be an either/or, it should be an “and”. Find people with the right skills and attitude.

The right skills refers to the essential skills a person needs and not the “shinny object” skills a person may possess. For example: when hiring an office manager you need accounting background and a “shinny object” would be database management. Take a moment before placing an ad to determine what the person/position will be doing each day and what skills are needed.

The right cultural fit refers to attitude and beliefs.  You may not have realized this, your company has an “attitude” or “belief” system. Take a look at Zappos and Netflix – they hire very strongly against these criteria.  Find out what is important to you, what makes your company and people successful and duplicate in your next hire.

This may sound like a lot of work but here are a few things you can keep in mind to make the process easier.

  • Determine what you need in the new person/position not only today but down the road in 6-12 months time.
  • Hire with the future in mind.
  • Before meeting/interviewing anyone determine what qualities/skills are the most important to you (and don’t compromise)
  • Create a list of questions to ask each candidate, this way you won’t miss anything and it will be easier to compare candidates.
  • Only after interviewing all the candidates, review each person and determine who is best for you.
  • If you have other employees in your business, have the final candidate talk to others so they can get a feel for the company.

Keeping these in mind you should get a successful hire who will help you with their knowledge and be satisfied in their new position.  It will be a win-win!

Happy Recruiting!

Employee Satisfaction: What is it and why do we care.

Summary:  I find there is a lot of confusing about what employee satisfaction is and why it’s important. Here’s an answer you will like.

leadership roi 2 320x92 Employee Satisfaction: What is it and why do we care.

When talking with small business owners the conversation will eventually turn to employee satisfaction and why its important.  Before getting into why it matters, lets review what it is and isn’t.

Employee satisfaction is NOT -

  • giving employees what they want
  • making them smile everyday
  • paying them a high salary
  • letting them do what they want
  • letting them take two hour lunches

So then, what IS it:

  • Listening to employee ideas & concerns
  • Treating them with respect
  • Setting up expectations
  • Follow through on expectations
  • Making sure they have the tools they need to do their work
  • Providing extra training where necessary

I realize this sounds simple and it theory it should be.  What makes it difficult? The priorities and fast pace of the day, basically we get caught up in what he have to do.

Well, I still haven’t answered the question – Why does it matter? You are going to love this.

Satisfied Employees will treat your clients better and they will be happier.  Happier clients will continue to do business with you and refer you to others.  This can reduce your sales and marketing costs. Therefore, you are increasing your revenue and decreasing your expenses which results is….higher profits!

So think about what you can do each day to improve employee satisfaction.  Have a great tip – share it here!

South African Memories

Summary:  Leadership Lessons from living in Nelson Mandela’s South Africa.



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It was March of 1995, after a 14 hour flight I had landed in Johannesburg, South Africa.  I didn’t know much about South Africa except the hotel company I was working for was opening the first international hotel in post-apartheid South Africa. I knew Nelson Mandela was President and the country was in a period of transition. Nothing you read can actually prepare you for setting foot in a new continent and in a country determining it’s future. I have so many wonderful memories of my years in South Africa and a few harsh lessons of what the country and it’s people had endured.

These memories came flooding back in full force when I learned of Nelson “Mandiba” Mandela’s  death.  It wasn’t a surprise, he had been sick and was hospitalized. It still hit me hard. He was a remarkable person. Many of the stories you have already heard about how he spent 27 years in prison, was released to eventually become President is remarkable but nothing compared to the man himself. He affected me personally in many ways – in ways that were deep and personal as I was living in his country at the time.

My Leadership Lesson from Mandiba:

Anger is not effective. If anyone had a reason to be angry and bitter it was Mandela and his colleagues. However walking out of Robben Island, he was not angry – he was hopeful. For me this meant, anger serves no one. I do get angry – but not for long. I try to focus beyond today and look at the possibilities in the future.

Find the solution. He was determined to have a unified South Africa – a South Africa that didn’t focus on race, language, or color. He wanted one South Africa. He found ways to include everyone in what was happening, he found a solution that would help each person. No one is more or less human. He helped me see it was about the solution – doing what was right to get the best result.

Everyone matters. How easy it would have been to marginalize the “oppressors” and creators of apartheid – he didn’t. While making it clear what happened to his people and country was wrong – he included them in the future. We may not like everyone we work with or for – we can work with them and be respectful.

It’s about the people. While Mr. Mandela was willing to move forward, he understood the need of the people to heal from apartheid. He created the “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” which was a powerful means for people to be heard. A leader may be able to move forward and helping your people move forward is key. Don’t just say “the past is the past”, talk about and deal with it.

Humility. I remember hearing stories of how Mandiba would drive his security team crazy. While driving along the street, if he saw people walking or wanted to speak to them, he would jump out of the car or leave his security team. He always saw himself as a regular person with a message to share. His humility was his trade mark and so very genuine. How many times have we let our ego’s get in the way?

Presence.  I remember standing in a ballroom of a hotel, we were there to hear a brief talk by Nelson Mandela. He walked into room and before saying anything – the room was completely silent, as if someone hit “mute” on conversation. He did this by his presence alone. Do we have a positive similar effect on our people? Does our presence command respect?

My years in South Africa, the lessons I learned, the people I have met, and the history I experienced can not be summed up in a brief article and all the words written and not written can not properly express how this country has affected me. It’s people and culture will always be in my heart.

Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika
(God Bless Africa)

Leadership Starts Here

Summary: When people think about leadership the first thought jumps to “how do I lead my people better” which is good however I would say there three things you need to do first to create the leader you want to be.


Photoxpress 20152529 320x240 Leadership Starts Here

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When people think about leadership the first thought jumps to “how do I lead my people better” which is good however I would say there are a few things you need to do first.

Leadership starts before you get in front of people or put together your team. If you already have a team, just take a step back to consider this.

Values. We all have values we live by, whether you have consciously recognized them or not – you are driven by your values. Start by understanding what your values are as this will affect all you do.  For example, I have two values above all else – Integrity and Curiosity. For me demonstrating my own integrity and seeing it others is important, this creates trust for me.  Curiosity can show itself in many ways, for me it is a thirst for knowledge and I want the same in people I work closely with. This will guide who you end up surrounding yourself with so best to know.

Who you are.  While my past does not dictate my future it has molded me into the person I am today. What words would you use to describe yourself. Be honest and own it. We are each different, let’s relish in that. If we were all the same, how boring would this world be. Your background, experiences and life will show show through in your leadership. Understand what it is now.

Type of Leader.  The combination of the two above will direct you into the type of leader you want to be. Keep in mind you can learn from other leaders but do not imitate – you didn’t live their life and experiences so you can’t be the same (there is only one Jack Welch). Decide on the traits you want to demonstrate as a leader and how you want to viewed, respected and acknowledged by others.

This is what will make you unique you and feel more authentic to who you are. Now live this every day. I know it won’t be easy, you will have to very conscious of all your actions for a while. Keep in mind it takes 4-6 weeks for a behavior to become a habit so don’t be tough on yourself.

Have a tough time going this on your own, we can guide and mentor you. Just email us as to get started.



Get the Ideas Flowing

Summary:  Follow these 5 Rules of Brainstorming to get the ideas flowing in your company and get unstuck.

You’ve been there right – needing ideas for a new way to do things or to improve a process or to write about. You will agonize and the more you try to focus on finding what you need, the more elusive it becomes. Are you shaking your head right now? I am, I’ve been there too many times.

I have had clients who have been there. So what do you do?


storm 320x236 Get the Ideas Flowing

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Did you just groan? Most people do since they have been a part of more brainstorming session gone bad than good.

A bad brainstorming session can lead to people not sharing, insecurities, the same old answer, the same old ideas and people who don’t want to do it again. Of course you groaned if you experienced this.

A good brainstorming session leads to ideas, sharing, openness, increased responsibility and team building.  Really, I’m not lying icon smile Get the Ideas Flowing

Follow the rules of brainstorming and keep to them and you can’t go wrong.

Rule #1: No judgments. Use the whiteboard to capture everything that is said without judgment. In other words, no one should say “we tried that before and it didn’t work” or “what a stupid idea” or “I don’t like it” or “it will never work”…you get the idea.

Rule #2: Don’t edit. This is actually for the people in the room, don’t let them edit themselves thinking it’s a bad idea. Even if someone says “purple elephant” put in on the board and who knows what other ideas it will trigger. If you follow Rule #1, Rule #2 happens.

Rule #3: Have fun. If there seems to be a lull of ideas, say something funny or outrageous to get the creativity going again.

Rule #4: Limit time.  Let’s face it no one wants to do this all day long. For one topic 20 minutes should be plenty, however if the idea flows have stopped (even after rule #3) then end the session there.

Rule #5: Once brainstorming is done – then refine. You have to end the brainstorming part of the session, only then do you speak to the group about their thoughts on the different suggestions, any experience with implementing and what is feasible. This way people know they have moved on and are beginning the planning stage.

Sometimes to get the best results, especially if there is friction in the team or previous attempts haven’t worked. Get an outside facilitator. I am more than happy to help, just drop me a line.

Share your best or worst brainstorming memories below in the comments.

Make Leadership a Habit

Leadership Notebook 786 320x178 Make Leadership a Habit

 Complimentary Webinar

October 8th, 12noon central

Register here:


Sound Familiar?

“I want to work less, but I’m not confident my business will be maintained while I’m away.”

“Why do my employees struggle doing the job for which they were hired?”

“I wish my technical staff had better people skills.”

“Even though I keep repeating myself, I don’t think my team is really listening.”


These are symptoms of inconsistent leadership! Your success is directly tied to the success of your people. Your people’s success is a result of your leadership.

I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people. ~ Mahatma Gandhi


In this webinar you will learn:

  • Leadership vs. Management
  • What are the fundamentals
  • Why leadership matters
  • How to make it a habit
This session will be filled with practical information and be on there live to receive a copy of the slides.


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