No. 187

Asking The Right Questions

Yesterday felt like an avalanche.

All started seemingly well — I pulled out my blue notebook where I record notes about team members’ time on different projects so I can make sure everyone is properly paid and got to work on payroll. And then I tumbled down the rabbit hole…

Payroll lead to the discovery that some team members weren’t tracking time properly, which lead to the discovery that some team members were neglecting key tasks for their positions. That means loss for my company overall in different ways.

There’s two things that happen in situations like these, because they’ve come up for me in business before and they’re bound to come up again.

First, I give myself some space to feel my emotions — the anger, the upset, the disappointment, the frustration, the loss, the confusion. My emotions tell me something is wrong, so I watch them, listen to them, ask them to teach me.

Second, I look at all sides of the situation. If balls were dropped by someone else, what needs to happen to ensure that doesn’t happen again? If something was unclear, how can I make it more clear? What has to change to make things better for the future?

(Third step usually involves chocolate because those emotional remnants linger!)

It’s not about blame, it’s not about someone being wrong and someone being right. It’s a flaw that needs to be fixed.

That doesn’t mean a warning shouldn’t be issued to a team member; that is necessary at times. But I’ve inevitably found that good people rarely fail on their own when it comes to business — there are situations and circumstances that lead them down the wrong path. Maybe it’s a missed message or a question that was never asked.

Yesterday’s events made me realize that I’ve been asking the wrong questions of my team members. Usually in a projects update meeting, we review the stages each project we’re working on is at. Instead, I need to ask not “Where are we?” but “Why are we there? What’s important for me to know?”

And even more importantly, it’s time to clearly define what a successful project looks like from all angles.

I think it will all start by asking better questions, digging deep to find “Why” rather than just “What”.

There’s a tool my first business coach Christine Kane gave to me and fellow masterminders during a retreat. It’s called the 5 Why’s.

You start with the problem. Take, for example, something like a project budget not being recorded properly.

Ask: “Why?” Wait for the response.

Then go deeper and ask “Why?” again.

And again, until your five Why’s deep. There, likely, is the true problem that needs to be solved.

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Credits

Jane Reaction

(logo and original branding) is a graphic design and art director who works with with small businesses and creative entrepreneurs, creating cohesive and interesting brands and websites.

Carrie Coleman

(photography) is a wedding photographer, whose goal is to capture the visual expression of a couple's love through timeless, organic images. She is based in Charlottesville, Virginia.