Are You Asking the Right Question?

We are all trying to navigate today’s tempestuous business environment. Some days are rough or busy, others too calm business-wise and sometimes it’s difficult to anticipate what’s beyond the horizon.

Faced with uncertainty, many of us waste much time and effort asking the wrong question.

WHAT should we do now, as we try to understand what clients want. WHAT if they are considering another company? WHAT IF we invest in this operation? WHAT if the price we gave was too high?

Still at least 80% of results are based on HOW we do what we do. As employees or business owners, we all know what the WHAT should be. That’s why we tend to have long lists reminding us WHAT to do.. It’s rarely a question of our ability to operate at work. When we find ourselves constantly adjusting WHAT we do, it’s often because we aren’t focusing on the HOW.

The question HOW cuts to the core of what we all aspire to in our lives and our work. HOW we want to interact with clients, HOW do we confront challenges? HOW do we work together, communicate, bring out the best in ourselves?

The question HOW cuts to the core of what we all aspire to in our lives and our work.

HOW represents the motivational essence in our actions. It’s the butter on our bread – without it the taste is dull. Just paying sufficient attention to HOW can easily shed light on many WHAT agendas. HOW do you say thank you? In an off-hand, habitual ”Thanks” way, or in a meaningful, touching way, looking the person in the eyes and really meaning, ”Thank you for sharing a moment of your valuable time with me today”? Both ways take just a second, but the effect of each is very different.

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The most effective HOW approaches are virtues. If we concentrate primarily on acting in a brave, thankful, honest or compassionate way no matter what we do, the results are better than simply concentrating exclusively on WHAT we do. I am thankful for the time, which is limited, therefore I treat myself, my colleague, a sudden obstacle and a client as a gift.

For a few months, one medium-sized company experimented with almost completely abandoning its WHAT agendas, which had made teams busy and stressed. They used to spend time sharing ideas and debating WHAT the monthly targets should be, as everyone knew their WHAT areas well enough- The overall aim was to serve clients and encourage them to buy more, perhaps even recommend the company. The teams also stopped discussing WHAT was happening in different areas typically in a sceptical tone – or had happened, or eventually might happen, if…

They discovered that they were more energized by asking HOW they can solve problems. Their HOW approach was ”friendly”. They gave feedback to each other in a more friendly way, and that alone changed their job culture amazingly quickly. This in turn led their clients to see them as friendly, even friends. After a few months, they found that they achieved their WHAT goals, using less time at work and without concentrating on excel sheets and details of day-to-day problems.

HOW do you want to work and live today?


Isa Merikallio is an author, leadership coach and growth strategist, who is passionate about motives. www.kasva.fi. Isa on Twitter: @IsaMerikallio

Photo credit: Shutterstock

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