Ask More Questions.

Letter-Q-icon As a meeting facilitator, I often use a technique called Q-Storming to lead a discussion.  This technique, from the Inquiry Institute is designed to get people to ask questions to solve a problem, rather than make statements.  By asking questions, participants are able to open their thoughts wider and consider new ideas and angles.  With traditional brainstorming, people make statements. Often, they are stuck inside of their own heads and have a pre-determined idea of how an issue should be dealt with.  Q-Storming turns those definitive ideas into more creative solutions and makes people consider other factors.

Q-Storming can be used in a variety of situations. It can be used for a company to work through a strategic plan or home in on a specific corporate initiative. Associations might use it to work with committees to develop a new program or to get everyone on the same page.  Internal teams can use it to see other people’s perspectives in a non-threatening way.

I’ve been using this technique for a few years and have developed my own take on it.  In some cases, everyone in the group is given a pad of posts-it notes and writes down all of the questions that they have about a particular issue.  Once they exhaust the questions from their mind, they group them on walls in the appropriate topic category.  Depending on the complexity of the issue, there may or may not be a second round of questions.  If there is only one round, the group or facilitator may choose to address the questions head on or look at the trends and talk to those.  I generally make the decision on how to proceed based on a number of factors including time, desired outcome, organizational politics and complexity.  In any case, it is important to know what type of result is needed before proceeding any type of brainstorming session.

Here are some observations that I have come across after using this technique for the last few years.

  • Everyone has good ideas, they just express them differently.
  • People can look at the exact same issue and see it so differently you wouldn’t recognize it as the same problem.
  • A level-playing field motivates people to speak up. When the emphasis is off of the leader, people’s true opinions and ideas can be revealed.
  • Asking questions can surprise people and help them uncover thoughts in themselves they never knew they had.
  • Having a facilitator allows leaders to participate without overshadowing staff.
  • It’s hard to say “no” when you are asking questions which leads to more “yeses”
  • People enjoy a physical activity that involves movement.  They get excited about the process which leads to creativity.

If you are looking for a new way to work through complex business issues, Q-storming is an approach you may want to consider.

Technology: Gratitude Over Fear

Access to TechnologyYesterday I had the honor of attending the Mashable Social Good Summit.  The conference is described as “a two-day conference examining the impact of technology and new media on social good initiatives around the world. Held during UN Week from September 21-22, the Social Good Summit unites a dynamic community of global leaders and grassroots activists to discuss solutions for the greatest challenges of our time.”

The lineup of speakers is impressive.  From Pharrell to Michael Dell to Alicia Keys to Melinda Gates the speaker list gets your attention.  But there are a lot more names that you may not have heard of including Jampa from Tibet. She was the first woman in her community to go to college. Or Jensine Larsen, CEO and Founder of World Pulse, the leading network using the power of digital media to connect women worldwide and bring them a global voice. These women are making a difference in the world. During her panel discussion Jensine really opened my eyes to the fact that many women on this planet that we share want, dream, long to be connected.  Even in developing nations, there are women who know that technology exists and that it can empower them to change the world.  They don’t fear technology; they fear their lives if they cannot access technology. They have a deep understanding that technology can help them change the world.  One of the most profound things I heard yesterday was when Jensine said “A woman with a laptop can be more powerful than a man with a gun.” Access truly is power.

This got me thinking to my own experiences and the women (and men) I encounter in the classes that I teach.  All too often I meet professionals who resist learning and embracing technology. They make excuses as to why they can’t learn it. They joke that they just let their kids do it for them.  They view technology as an obstacle and not the valuable tool that it can be.

My teaching style is to never make anyone feel stupid and to encourage them to take advantage of the resources that are available to them. I teach, but more so, I encourage. I want them to do better with technology, to make a difference.

To these people, I share this message in hopes that their perspective might shift.  If you live in a country and have a job where you are fortunate enough to access to laptops, smartphones, tablets and reliable internet access, I ask you to consider the alternative. We are so blessed to have these tools in our lives. Tools that help us connect to clients, prospects, colleagues and friends.  We are blessed to be able to learn about the latest and greatest technologies and to be able to use them. We are blessed to be able to attend events where people like myself and my peers are so very willing to teach you.   To you, I ask that you let go of the fear and begin learning today.

The Internet is a Bunch of Crap.

Fake Vacation PhotoI am totally in love with Dutch student, Zilla van den Born, who faked her South East Asian vacation to prove a point that much of what we read on the internet is completely false.  She spent her time off from friends and family using her Photoshop skills to create a fake experience.  One that probably made her friends and family quite jealous.

I completely understand why she did it.  She was proving what a lot of us think on a regular basis.  That people make their lives seem more exciting than they really are.  She took it to the extreme to make her point.  We see posts from people that make us think they are happy; that they are rich; that they are successful; that life is perfect.

The truth is that some people are able to put on a positive face, even when things are tough.  They are able to show the good things in life, even when things really suck. Yes, there are people who need/want attention and put things out there to get buzz.  However, consider why they do it? Is it for attention or are they in need? Are they hurting in some way?

The internet is a wonderful place full of information that teaches us new things. The internet gives people a chance to connect, to have an opinion, share and debate ideas.  It’s also like a dangerous game of telephone where facts get distorted and the simplest things can get misinterpreted.  In some cases it is intentional.  Either to create a stir or for malicious reasons.  But in so many cases people’s emotions and own insecurities that spark misinformation.

As I have thought more and more about this, I have developed some some rules to live by:

  • Don’t believe everything you read.  Check multiple sources before you share something.
  • Everyone has a hard time.  Check in with people even if everything seems wonderful. You might be surprised by what you learn.
  • Think about what you share and how it might be perceived.
  • Get inspired by what you see. If you feel jealous, figure out what you can do that would be awesome.  Not all happiness comes from fancy vacations and beautiful meals.  Make your own fun.
  • Don’t believe everything that you read on the internet.

 

 

All That Is Good In The World.

Good worldToday, September 11th, is a day of reflection for many people. While I remember the day back in 2001 vividly, I was not directly impacted by it. For that I am grateful. Today, as I see so many people share their stories, it is another reminder of why it is important to be reflective every day, not just today.

We are in a scary time in the world. There are some really hard issues that people are dealing with. From economic hardships, to worldwide violence, to the unmentioned, and private struggles.

And yet, there is good. I am so very blessed to have a community of people in my life who support me. To see people sharing their “things to be grateful for” messages is uplifting. To see things like the ALS Challenge and how good it has done for an organization that needed a boost is inspiring. (This one is dearer to my heart as I watched my grandfather suffer from the disease.) What I see is people trying. People trying to help one another. People trying to do good. People trying to make the world a better place. With all of the really crappy stuff going on, there are great big bunches of good in the world.

For the people who are so incredibly generous to me, I thank you.

Today, I ask my community to go out there. And make a difference. Surprise a friend. Help a family member. Change the world of a stranger. Today, continue to be all that is good in the world.

Who Are You Giving Your Foul Ball To?

Photo from MLB.com

Photo from MLB.com

Last night I read a discussion on Facebook that had to do with a rant about giving free consulting time. People are always asking consultants to pick their brain for a few minutes.  The bigger your network and your brand, the more you get asked to dish out free advice. This happens to me pretty often and I know that there are many people who have a much larger presence than I do. In almost all of the cases, I say yes.

One of the ways that I make a living and pay my mortgage is through coaching and strategic planning. These are services that I charge for and people do, in fact, pay for these services.  However, you never know where your next big opportunity will come from.  And for that reason I always say yes to a quick chat.  Are there people who have no intention or resources to ever hire me? Of course there are.  Do I sometimes end up at a lunch or on a phone call that is a time waster? Yup. It happens.

However, I find that there are times when I thought something was going to be a flop and I walked away sending a proposal or receiving an introduction.  I find value in almost every interaction that I have – even the ones that might have been a time waster.

No one can afford to give the store away. We all have businesses and we need to charge for our services.  But, in my opinion, and I KNOW that others may disagree with me, everyone is worth a few minutes of time. Some people have no idea that their business idea is a bad one or that they’re breaking some unwritten code by asking for advice. People simply don’t know what they don’t know.

Why  is it that I am happy to dole out advice? Because there were and are a lot of people who have made time for me to pick their brain for a few minutes. There are dozens, maybe even hundreds of people who have listened to my ideas or just let me blab about something. Those people helped me become who I am today and helped to shape the framework for my business. People helped me and I helped others in return.  That’s how the world works from my perspective.

This morning I read the story of Ryan and Reese.  At a baseball game on Friday, Ryan caught a foul ball.  He immediately turned around and gave it to Reese, a little girl sitting behind him.  When asked why he did it he said, “I’ve seen people do it before and I thought it’s a nice thing. And it’s good to make people happy.” Damn right, Ryan. Damn right.

So I challenge you today. Whether you charge for your advice or you are just a really busy person, who can you help today without getting anything in return?

Overall, who are you giving your foul ball to?

 

 

 

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