Posted tagged ‘employees’

Do You Settle for Easy Answers or Address the Tough Stuff?

July 30, 2014

Good questions will cure almost any relational ailment you may have, but some of the most insightful questions can be some of the hardest to ask.

Ask hard questions

Ask hard questions

 What Does It Cost You to Avoid Asking the Tough Questions?

In my work in the last few weeks, I have noticed how often people avoid asking the potentially difficult questions and as a result, settle for answers that are inaccurate, but comfortable to hear and deal with.  For example, the lack of really getting to the “bottom of things,” has (unnecessarily) left:

  • A leader thinking his team is following him, rather than discussing his replacement,
  • Another leader suspicious of an employee’s motives, not realizing how loyal the employee actually is,
  • A young boy wrongfully accused of an action resulting in  a smeared reputation,
  •  A damaged relationship with two people thinking that there is no hope of reconciliation,
  • A religious group mobilizing and killing innocent civilians based on inaccurate news reports and propaganda

Jumping to conclusions before gathering all of the information seems to be some of the best exercise we get.  I am guilty of it too, but am learning (sometimes the hard way) to slow down and just ask a few more questions before acting on faulty information.

What Questions Should You Ask?

My husband Roger, is a huge fan of murder-mystery and law TV shows. He enjoys watching the process of uncovering the deeper truth in a variety of situations.  Many times these shows imply an obvious choice for who the killer is, however; Roger knows that if the killer is revealed within the first thirty minutes of a one-hour show, it isn’t the real killer. Accepting assumptions and arriving at conclusions to early, puts you in the position of having to defend your potentially baseless conclusion…forever.


 How often to we settle for what seems so obvious, and yet, is completely inaccurate?       Here are a couple of phrases you may think or hear someone say, that would indicate not enough information has been gathered:

  • “Want to know why he does that/made that decision/acts that way?”
  • “Well, she just thinks that….”
  • “I heard…..”
  • “It seems to me….”
  • ” You made that choice because you think…”

The next time you find yourself in a difficult or controversial situation, ask yourself, “Is there possibly more information that I am not aware of?  Could there be more than what is obvious? Have I asked enough detail questions to really get to the truth? Is there a gap in the story I am telling myself?   Would it be wrong to become a Serial Skeptic?

Serial Skepticism


One of my favorite authors, Mark Stevens*, writes

We are all exposed to data, factoids, theories, and axioms ad nauseam. All presented as science, the absolute truth, unassailable. And if you are like most managers, you make business decisions based on this “body of knowledge.” This is where you part company with the warriors.  They recognize instinctively that once any form of thinking becomes “the absolute truth” it is baked, dried up, passe, fini. And then they challenge it.  They put it under a spotlight. They examine it it through a microscope.  This determination to challenge what others accept as the truth (think of it as Serial Skepticism) is often a powerful way to achieve breakthrough and sustainable success…. Why? Because while your peers are making decisions based on faith, you are insisting on proof. And that often leads to the truth.

* excerpt from the book, "Your Management Sucks," 
  Crown Publishers 2006

You Can’t See Motive, So Don’t Guess What It Is – Ask!

Here are a few more question starters to help you dig out truth about  what motivates someone to act a certain way.

  • “Tell me more about….”
  • “What are your thoughts on…”
  • “Say more about that.”  (This is excellent to use when someone makes a strong statement…it uncovers the thought process behind the statement.)
  • “Can you share with me more specific details around what happened.”
  • ” I am curious as to why… What do you think?”

Taking the time to uncover truth ALWAYS pays off in the end. It avoids heartache, misunderstandings, bad decisions and regrets in the future. It heals hurting relationships, uncovers bottlenecks in businesses, clarifies confusion and protects progress. What questions do you need to ask? For more help and information, check out our services at Jazz Business Consulting under Deliberate Dialogues.


Five Simple Lessons for Business to Learn From the Titanic

August 24, 2010
Titanic memorial

1522 People Perished because of three bad decisions

Have you seen the movie, Titanic?  If so you already know the story of the ship they called “Unsinkable.” However, did you know that there were five bad decisions  that resulted in the demise of over 1500 people? If the crew had made even just one of them differently, it may have saved the lives of all who perished.  What can be learned by leaders in business today, who are trying to navigate their own murky waters of economic climate changes, consumers’ hesitation to spend and overburdened tired workforces? Plenty it seems…and it doesn’t take  much effort to avoid the same deadly mistakes.   

 Fatal Error #1 The overriding mistake made by the designers of the Titanic was that of pride and arrogance. They were sure it wouldn’t, no…it couldn’t sink…It was a magnificent work of engineering art! It was brilliance on the water! It was a floating money-maker. It was about to sink and take with it fifteen hundred and twenty-two precious lives.   

 As a management consultant, I am always delighted to find and talk to leaders with tremendous humility. There seems to be a direct correlation between a leader’s lack of ego and the long-term stability and success of an organization. One of my favorite examples would be the late Coach John Wooden. During the off-seasons, he would teach workshops to young coaches at conferences. It always surprised the other younger speakers to see him in their workshops furiously taking notes and learning as much as possible. His own success never deterred him from the desire to learn and improve.    

Challenge Question #1- Would your co-workers describe you as a humble leader open to different perspectives?    


  • Fatal Error #2 Missing Binoculars meant they could not see what was ahead One of the first ways that arrogance was manifested was in a pair of binoculars being locked in a cabinet.  The prevailing thought was that binoculars wouldn’t be necessary! Binoculars would have helped the Captain or his crew see farther than the naked eye. They would have seen masses of icebergs and avoided collision. But how necessary is being able to “see” any more clearly when you have an unsinkable ship? Right, BP or Wall Street or Congress? 

Challenge Question #2-When do the leaders in your organization have the opportunity to look ahead and give consideration to potential icebergs in your path?    

Short temperature readings

Fatal Error #3 A SHORT ROPE   In those days, ships kept watch over the temperatures of the water by tying a thermometer to then end of a rope and dragging it in the water. A dramatic drop in temperature would alert the crew that there were potential icebergs ahead. Because the Titanic was larger than other ships, the rope attached was of a standard length. This meant that the thermometer on the end could not reach the water. A longer rope would have enabled the crew to realize that their climate temperature had dropped from 43 degrees Fahrenheit to a mere 28 degrees.  The Captain would have found out much sooner that the ship was about to encounter icebergs.   

Business leaders can become so inundated with daily pressures that they overlook taking the temperature of their own surrounding climate. I knew a man who operated a kitchen countertop manufacturing company who assumed that the nation’s economic woes were the only reason for his own business seeing a decline in sales. It was later revealed that several potential clients had attempted to do business with him; however, his son who was running the showroom, was playing games and viewing pornography on his computer and ignoring customers.  This business owner had refused to take the temperature of his industry climate. It may have forced him to consider other key performance indicators affecting his business. He eventually filed for bankruptcy and sent a flood of clients to his competitor.   

    Challenge Question #3-Do you make assumptions about your industry’s climate based on news forecasts that are often generalized about the overall economy?  What potential opportunities have you missed in accepting flawed assumptions?    

 Fatal Error #4 When the Titanic set sail, it did not house nearly enough lifeboats for all of the passengers. The designers did not want to compromise usable space for life rafts. The ones that were included were for higher-paying passengers and small fishing expeditions.  This flawed thought-process cost many people their lives.   

This type of thinking occurs when companies are anxious to get products and services to market without lifeboat/backup plans for unexpected events. Remember “faulty Firestone Tires on Ford Explorers” or “accelerator problems with Toyota vehicles.”  The number one solution to avoid many of these disasters is a leader’s willingness to engage in and have critical conversations. We call these Deliberate Dialogues. They are conversations focused on key business priorities and not personal agendas or politics. Conversations create your lifeboats. It seems as though most, if not all business disasters occur as a result of a key player avoiding a necessary conversation.   

 Challenge Question #4 – What important conversation are you avoiding? What is holding you back and what could it potentially cost you?    

Fatal Error #5 Poor People Skills. The radio operator responsible for conversations with surrounding ships had an abrasive edge to his style of communication. This annoyed the person operating the radio of the nearest ship.  Irritated with his rudeness, the radio operator of the neighboring ship actually turned off his own radio and went to bed. When the Titanic radio people were calling for help, no one could hear their cries because communication had been shut down.     

How often does communication get shut down because of a lack of understanding of temperaments and social styles? Honestly…constantly! A Personal Vibe (Personalities) class is the first workshop we teach on any project. It gives people a common working language and equips them to communicate more effectively without taking things personally.  Communication is a vital and often undervalued skill.  Leaders tend to see it as fluffy or touchy-feely and miss the benefits that clear communication  and people-skills provide.     

Challenge Questions #5- When was the last time your employees had training in the area of personality types or communication? What assumptions are you making and how costly might those be?    

If the crew and management had addressed only one of the Fatal Errors differently, many lives would have been spared. But because of pride, arrogance and lack of being teachable, this story ended on a sad note. But your company has the opportunity to do things differently. Spend just a few moments and ask yourself what needs to be changed to avoid the sinking of your “organizational ship.” Do you need:    

  • To be more open to other perspectives,
  • A clearer vision about where your company is headed,
  • A better gauge of your industry’s climate,
  • More lifeboats (resulting from quality conversations), or
  • Better communication and people skills?

This is your chance. Don’t make the same mistakes.  Choose wiser and enjoy the many benefits of having everyone on your team rowing in the same direction. And if you aren’t sure where to start, call us at Jazz Business Consulting at 800-797-8138. Our “radios” are always on!   

Bon Voyage!

Vibe and Wise Counsel

January 29, 2010

Business people running the raceDid you ever hear a great speaker and become so energized that all you wanted to do was to get out there and “run” armed with  your new knowledge?

We had a lunch like that today. Our three owners of Jazz Business Consulting had lunch with a man we have respected and admired for many years, Sam Beler. Sam is a wildly successful business man with a passion for God and his lost people with almost an equal passion for Jazz music. Last year, as the Executive Producer for Unity Music (his side job),  he orchestrated a Johnny Cash-like concert with Jamie Davis and some guys from the Count Basie Orchestra to be held at Angola Prison. This prison was at one time known as the most violent prison in the country. However;  under the direction of a new warden, the prison has experienced an amazing transformation in the last 15 years.  This is another story of great leadership….but back to our lunch.Unity Music Logo
Originally we invited our friend Sam to lunch to give us experienced and wise counsel in launching our new business. He asked great questions and had each of us explain what we do. Although we only were able to share slices of how our team goes in and works with leadership teams to transform the culture of organizations, Sam kept coming up with ideas on how he could help us build our company and connect us with quality people so that we could help them.  Sam loves our tag line of “Change that creates great Vibe!”  We loved his enthusiasm.
I asked Sam what were the things he did right in his early years of business building. He named three key things:
  1. He didn’t build his company alone. He started with a great partnership with a quality man…Check! I’ve got Yvonne and Roger.
  2. He built a company that was totally focused on serving clients. Check…Isn’t that a given? “No,” says Sam. “So many organizations focus on selfish motives, agendas and greed! Look at Wall Street.”  Note: Sam’s company is  an investment firm (PTLA) who grew substantially last year. Trust me, it has everything to do with his integrity, people skills and what he calls, “the Lord’s Favor.”
  3. Care deeply about your people (employees, friends and clients and family).  Be there when they need you. Your life scars are what give you the ability to serve your people with genuine heart. Be there when they experience life’s tragedies.  And be there when you can support the growth of their dreams…Observation: wasn’t that exactly what he was doing  for us?

Wow…in a nutshell. The observations of a wise, loving, smart, genuine and caring man. A man whose life had been an accumulation of experiences lived within the framework of the 3 keys above.  A wealthy man, wealthy in family, many many friends, wealthy in the amount of respect  he had from people all over the world….and richly wealthy in the size of his heart and the amount of generosity he shows in every opportunity he gets.

All three of us left that lunch knowing we had experienced a “kairos moment.” (a life changing moment). It isn’t often we get to sit at the feet of wise counsel and have someone speak into our personal and work lives this way. We also know that the greatest way we could honor that moment, was to allow it to change us, to shape our outlook and perspective on what is most important. And then to live out the lessons we had learned.

Thank you Sam….Thank you for your kindness and for sharing yourself the way you did today. None of us took it for granted as just another business lunch. It truly had life changing implications. Sam…you’re the best!