More Questions for Managers

Do your days feel like one meeting after another … and another? And have you noticed how often people get bogged down in the same issues you talked about the last time you got together? And asked yourself “why are we going over the same ground again and again?”

 

Staying on track and positive
Somewhere between the positive intentions people start with and consensus on the best path forward, it’s easy to be sucked into an unproductive swamp that drains energy and time. 

 

It’s probably true that ‘he who asks the questions controls the conversation.’  Though it seems equally true that ‘if people get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about their answers.’

 

Keeping your feet dry
Asking the wrong questions can lead everyone into a quagmire of justification and finger pointing. We’ve all been there. So how can you keep meetings positive and focused on the outcome?

 

When you hear yourself asking a ‘why question’ like …
“Why did you do it this way?”
“Why didn’t they ask for help?”
“Why can’t marketing follow instructions?”
“Why don’t you _____?”
STOP!!

While those questions may explain how you got where you are, they also cause people to dig in and defend their positions, rather than finding a path forward.

Replace ‘why’ with ‘how’ or ‘what’ questions.
“How did you decide that?”
“How is that working for you?”
“What led you to that conclusion?”

You can soften any question by inserting “I’m curious,” “I’m wondering” or “Do you mind if I ask” as in “Do you mind if I ask how you decided to …?”

Answering a question with a question
What if you’re the target of a ‘why’ question?
Neutralize or redirect ‘why’ questions with a question of your own.
Ask:
“How does answering that move us forward?” or
“Is this where we want to put our energy and attention?”

Searching for common ground
The more you challenge the validity of someones position, the more they will defend it. So use your questions as a ladder to something you can both agree on. Work on details only after you have identified a higher purpose, or a shared value.

First, acknowledge the other person’s position by pacing. Repeat back their words, beliefs and emotions.
“I sense you feel very strongly about ____________.”
“You believe that ___________.”
“So it’s important for you that we ________”

Then shift the focus from the specifics of a situation to a bigger picture of what they want to achieve. The value or purpose behind their position will generally be a more inclusive outcome.

“How is that important for you?”
“What is important for you about that?”
“What will this do for you?”
“What is your intention?”
“How does that move us towards our outcome to ____?”

 

When you’re in a swamp stop digging
If you find yourself sinking, you can cut your losses with questions like these.

“What do we have to do to make things more the way we want them to be?”
“Is there anything we can do about _____ right now?”
“If so, what is the first step we will take?”

“If not, how can we accept/make peace with what we cannot change?”
“If we have to go through this anyway, what can we learn/get out of it?”
“What are we willing to stop doing/give up in order to get ____ more the way we want it?”

Remember the power of expectations
If people think a solution is unreachable, their efforts will reflect it!
Create positive expectations using ‘so far’ and ‘yet.’

As in ‘we haven’t figured it out yet’ or ‘so far we haven’t found the solution.’

Heads up – memory is imperfect
People do forget, delete or distort information. And sometimes the players change. So it’s a good idea to keep a record of commitments to close the gap. Use a flip chart and record rshared information and commitments. 

“We can _____ if you _____ by this date.”
Keep the chart visible and current with the dates commitments were actually met and use when players change and/or delete or distort the facts.

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Oh By The Way … Learning NLP

Why does it take so long?
So I was having lunch with a friend yesterday and he asked why the Innergize NLP Practitioner Certification was a full 12 days.  And that’s a $64,000 question.

After all, we live in an on-demand world. Information is available instantly on the web. Multi-tasking is a badge of honour and our attention spans shorten year by year. Or does it just seem that way to me?
 

How You’ll Learn NLP
 So … why 12 days?

  1. There is a lot of content, a lot of essential details that do make a difference. Digesting the information over many days means more nights to sleep on in. When you sleep, information you were exposed to during the day moves from short term memory into long term memory. (Well documented by research in accelerated learning.)
  2. I’ll be sharing NLP secrets with you, nuances usually only trainers know, because they are often the difference that makes the difference in challenging situations. Like succeeding with the people in your life who will want to challenge your new skills.
  3. You’ll learn NLP five ways, from 5 different perspectives. These are the keys to integrating NLP into your everyday behaviour, because it takes more that intellectual knowing to get results with NLP. After your first weekend with Innergize you will be using it. Even your friends will notice.

And here’s why
Perhaps you’ve read some books, listened to tapes, CDs, even taken a short workshop. Or you know someone who has. And noticed that some things work, make sense, others don’t. So what gives?

Five ways, 5 perspectives
To really use NLP I’ve found you need to experience it on five levels.

  1. You need to learn the content consciously. What you’re doing and how to layer in each element for maximum impact.
  2. Your unconscious mind needs the information too. In a format that is easily taken into your mental programming, in a way that respects you and your unique personality.  Now, you’re ready for experience.  You’ll practice the skills in small chunks layering in more and more pieces over time.
  3. You’ll learn by practicing the skills with a partner. Try them on and observe the effect, test your results and use feedback to adjust your technique.
  4. You’ll learn by experiencing the effect of the techniques, how it feels when they’re working and when they’re out of sync.  
  5. You’ll learn by observering others practice. You’ll see the effects, noticing what’s working from moment-by-moment. Bonus!! (Okay, I forgot one.)
  6. You’ll learn by sharing your experience and asking questions after each practice session.  What worked well, what needs fine tuning. Questions  about applying the techniques in situations in your own life.

And did I mention the coaching? Small class size means you’ll receive individual attention from the trainer.  Read all about the fall 2008 NLP Practitioner Training Certification Program.

Questions A Key To Better Listening?

A couple of days ago I stumbled on some research about the use of questions. It seems 40% of all the questions people ask are really statements, and another 40% are actually judgments disguised as questions. (1)

I had to stop and think about that. On reflection, it makes sense, yet seeing the percentages in black and white was a little shocking. 

Those ‘don’t you think …’ questions
If 80% of our questions are just a way of stating the obvious or sliding in our own opinion, that means only 20% focus on hearing what the other person has to say! If you’d like to do a little research of your own, catch some of the interviews on cable news programs. Or listen to ….

Questions expose our intentions
They instantly give away whether we are in listening or telling mode. Stop for a minute and think of a conversation you had recently.  One that left you feeling the other person was holding back. Is it possible your questions discouraged their input? Accidentally implied you were not really ready to listen? Hum. Possible isn’t it?  
 

Listening requires content
Once you ask good questions you can begin really listening. Because good questions can uncover information people haven’t yet discover for themselves, they’ll need time to go inside and figure it out.  Time to pull up thoughts, feelings and perhaps even fears, about what really matters.  So after you ask, pause. Be willing to wait. It shows your intention is to listen.

And speaking of good questions … 
We weren’t, but it’s probably a good idea anyway.  As a general rule of thumb, good questions are how and what questions. Here are a few of my favorites.

  • What’s important to you about ….  ? Fill in the subject you’re discussing.  And then when they’ve finished telling you, asking with a meaningful look …‘if there were one thing more?’
  • You must have a good reason for saying that … do you mind if I ask what it is? Great for handling judgments and blanket objections.   
  • How is that working for you? Works well for those ‘we already have that covered’ occassions. Asking how sends people inside to evaluate.    

Let me know how these work for you, and if you have a sticky situation that needs a question, let me know that too.  Next, more ways to listen  

 

(1) William Isaacs of MIT, in Dialogue And The Art Of Thinking Together, 1999.

Why Non-verbal Communications Are Critical In Sales

Just finished writing a promotional article for Foran Financial Institute.  Foran provides excellent exam preparation courses for financial services professionals as well as hosting Innergize workshops on accelerated learning and communications.  The article happened to be on influencing motivation—techniques for sales and marketing.  And it reminded me how much we risk when we take take non-verbal communications for granted. 

Take a challenge
Ask your sales people to rate their skill with non-verbal communications.  Have them use a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 is excellent and 1 is ‘you want me to rate what?’  I can almost guarantee you’ll get nothing lower than 7 as an answer.  It’s way too easy to over simplify, assuming that because we earn our living selling that means we must be excellent in all forms of communications.  

During workshops, sales people may even be tempted to brush off the practice exercises for non-verbals “because we already know that.” Yet, like everything else we choose to practice or not, there is a risk and a reward.  

The following insights on consumer behaviour while not new news, are worth considering if you’re working in sales.  And my belief is that we all sell whether we like it or not, products, services, or simply our ideas.

Grounded in Research
First, remember that decisions are based on feelings and then justified with rational conscious thought. And neuroscience suggests that up to 95% of our emotions, decisions and behaviour are a result of unconscious processing.

Three things you may not have considered

  1. When asked about product choices, if people don’t know consciously, they will make up salient, plausible and socially acceptable reasons for what they do. (1) In other words, customers will tell you what they think they should want, based on social influences. (A tendency that has led to some costly miss-takes in consumer research.)
  2. While features and benefits supply the rational reasons to justify a decision once it is made, the unconscious sensory elements of an experience have far greater influence (positive or negative) on emotions, buying decisions and loyalty. (1)
  3. Non-verbal cues and linguistic markers provide the most accurate information about what people want and intend to do, because they are largely unconscious.(2)

Unlocking unconscious communication 
Three skills worth learning:

  • How to dig deeper for the real reasons people will buy.
  • How to use specific process words and other non-verbal behaviour to communicate your value.  
  • How to read the critical non-verbal cues that reveal more than customers can or will tell you. 

Learn more about unlocking unconscious and non-verbal communications

(1) J. Le Doux, Center for Neural Science, NYU, 1998.
(2) J. Kagan, Harvard Mind: Brain: Behaviour Initiative, 2002

Welcome to the Innergize Blog

Starting this blog is a first step to creating an environment where we can share practical tips, stories and ideas for leading, learning and thriving during times of change.  Sometimes even disruptive change! 

The operative word here is sharing so I hope you’ll add your own comments, ideas, suggestions and requests as time goes on.  

Why a title like communications, motivation and NLP resources?
The name reflects three things I’ve observed about life and people.

  1. The most challenging opportunities for growth you’ll have to deal with usually walk on two legs.
  2. If you look down, you’ll notice the feet at the end of those legs are often your own.
  3. Nobody ever stops in a moment of bliss to say “what is there to learn from this?” And life is learning.

I’ve also noticed that most people already know what they need to do to be more successful.  The real challenge isn’t knowing what to do, it’s knowing how to get yourself to do it, consistently.  I have a friend who believes, if we just did 10% more of what we know needs to be done, we’d all enjoy 90% more success!!

For me, this is where communications, motivation and NLP resources come together.  How we communicate with ourselves and others, directly or indirectly,  influences motivation.  And NLP is a wonderful resource for learning how to communicate in ways that will be motivating, for yourself and others.  So if you’re interested in harnessing the power of your mind, accessing more of your inner resources and assisting others of a like mind to do the same, NLP may be worth considering.  What do you think?