3 devastatingly irritating, yet uncompromisingly transformational questions

Let’s not waste any time getting at these three questions.

1. What do you need to do?

2. What are you willing to do?

3. Did you do it?

These questions lie at the heart of quality peer-based advising. They get asked over and over to the point they irritate, yet drive the executive leader forward to do what they say they will do. They are easy to ask of others, and often embarrassing to answer for ourselves, especially in front of others.

Yet, when they are asked persistently in front of others, with specificity of answer demanded by one’s peers (all vagueness is prohibited), the value begins to grow. Over time, that persistence of asking and answering these questions fosters  transformation in the leader and within the organization they serve.

I was privileged to hear John Hunzinger speak recently. He made his fortune constructing large municipal facilities, including Miller Park where the Milwaukee Brewers play. He reported spending five years building a peer-based advising team among construction firm owners spread across the country. He invested those five years building it, not because it made him any money, rather, because he believes it saved him considerable expense  from preventable mistakes he might otherwise have made.

He said, “Any leader unwilling to participate in a some form of peer-based work, yet who says they are committed to being their best, is not being honest!”

So…regarding peer-based advising:

1. What do you need to do?

2. What are you willing to do?

3. Did you do it?

And if you haven’t yet  done what you declare you are willing to do, when will you do it?  When specifically? Who will you tell that you did it?

Four Agreements

One of my Perfect Year intentions is to reread a handful of books that were (and still are) very meaningful and significant to me. The one I just finished reading is The Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz. The lessons from this book are amazingly insightful and powerful. The following is an overview of the meaning of each of The Four Agreements based on the book. File under “how to live unfettered.”

Be Impeccable with Your Word

Speak with integrity.  Say only what you mean.  Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others.  Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

Impeccable means not speaking against yourself, to yourself or to others.  It means not rejecting yourself.  To be impeccable means to take responsibility for yourself, to not participate in “the blame game.” What you put out energetically in your word will return to you.

Don’t Take Anything Personally

Nothing others do is because of you.  What others say and do is a projection of their own thoughts.  When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

We take things personally when we agree with what others have said.  If we didn’t agree, the things that others say would not affect us emotionally.  If we did not care about what others think about us, their words or behavior could not affect us. Remember — it is not about you!  Others’ actions and words are based on what they believe and their belief system.

Don’t Make Assumptions

Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want.  Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama.  With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

When we make assumptions it is because we believe we know what others are thinking and feeling.  We believe we know their point of view, their story.  We forget that our beliefs are just our point of view based on our belief system and personal experiences and have nothing to do with what others think and feel. Stop expecting the people around you to know what is in your head.

Always Do Your Best

Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick.  Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret. 

Doing your best means enjoying the action without expecting a reward.  Enjoy the path traveled and the destination will take care of itself. Live in the moment, be fully alive right now. If you do your best always, transformation will happen as a natural outcome.

The Power of Questions

Questions…we all ask them, we all answer them: they are about discovering significant information. But so often we use them without the potential impact of the Power in a Question. Or, said better, The Power of a Well-Asked Question. Think about it.

First, questions can be asked with the potential to provide answers that are significant in both discovery and usefulness. As much as possible learn to ask open-ended questions. (That takes practice!) That is, avoid questions that can be answered by a simple yes/no or a number. The answer you receive will be equally simple and give you no further information or insight into the relevant context. Instead of asking, "Did you enjoy your vacation?", ask, "What was the most meaningful experience on your vacation?" Or, instead of "Have you finished the project yet?", ask, "Tell me where your progress is on the project," or "What have been the greatest challenges in the project?"

Second, there is a caution—and it is a behavior that when ignored greatly depletes the value of the open-ended question's power. The behavior: ask and then STOP and WAIT for an answer. You see, open-ended questions usually force people to think deeper before they answer—and you need to permit them the time to think. If you do not, instead getting antsy and trying to help them answer, they will let you answer for them. You will have learned nothing significant (and you may have proven to them that you really were not interested in them or their answer but only in one that fits your needs).

And that reminds me of a third dimension: how deeply and significantly people respond to your open-ended questions will be directly related to how much they trust you. The things they will wonder about might influence their answers: Why are you asking? Do you really care about them or the situation you are asking about? How will you use the information—for or against them? Will you respond and follow-up with your care and concern?

So the best behavior after asking a good open-ended question is "Let silence do the heavy lifting." That, too, takes practice—and patience!