When you’re running a startup, creating a plan for yourself and your company is critical to your success. But it’s easy to look ahead and forget that what we do today impacts where we will be tomorrow and lays the foundation for where we eventually end up.
This is when a plateau occurs. You’re unstoppable flood of momentum slowly turns to a trickle and instead of dealing with the situation at hand, you go back to your annual plan hoping to see where you went wrong and find the solution.
Your plan won’t always be there to save you and in the end, your ability to stay flexible is what’s going to keep your head above water.
Focus on the questions
You’ve climbed the initial hurdles but now that you’ve established a steady platform, it’s difficult to see beyond your comfort zone.
Don’t let your preconceived notions of what’s worked in the past, inhibit your mobility as a whole.
Asking meaningful questions is a skill that takes practice and dedication to master. It’s also a common skill many executives and successful business people own.
According to this article on ChiefExecutive.net…
“Disruptive innovators ask more questions than non-innovators—and their questions tend to be more provocative.”
Allow your questions to spark innovation and curiosity. Examine what’s possible and how you can create an impact just by looking at a familiar problem from a new perspective.
Feeling stuck? Start here
I met with an executive coach recently who showed me a exercise to tap into my creative questioning abilities. I’ve revised the method a little to suit my needs and I encourage you to give it a try:
Sit down once a week (or even monthly) and think about everything you and your team are doing on a daily basis to grow or maintain your organization. Now go grab a pen and paper. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
Ready? Okay, now create a list of beliefs you have about these daily activities and how they relate to your overall your business goals.
A belief can be negative or positive as long as it’s something you feel to be true – although it doesn’t necessarily have to be fact.
Some examples of beliefs may be things like…
My team is not fully utilized and that’s why we are not reaching our monthly goals
Too much of my time is spent on tasks that aren’t directly growing my business
Once, you have recognized and written down at least three or four beliefs, start asking yourself questions that allow you to get to the root of each belief.
Think of the five W’s that we all know so well… Who, What, When, Where, Why (and How)?
Questions should be open-ended and rather than leading to a specific answer, think about asking questions that lead to even more questions. This often provides context to your original belief statement and allows you to stay in a creative questioning mindset without having to come up with answers off the top of your head.
Examples of this process would look like this:
Belief: My team is not fully utilized and that’s why we are not reaching our monthly goals
How do we define utilization within our organization?
How are we currently tracking utilization among our team members?
What other factors could affect whether or not we reach our monthly goals?
By asking all of the questions first and leaving the answers for later, you allow yourself to stay focused rather than getting distracted with premature answers that won’t get to the root of the belief or your reason for feeling this way.
This type of questioning brainstorm open up new opportunities for discussion with your team later on. Try to see your beliefs from a new perspective and possibly change how you feel about certain aspects of your business.
Now that you know about the “Questions First, Answers Second Technique” (QFAST), give it a try and see how it works for your business.
Do you like the QFAST format and if so, has it led to better discussions with you and your team?
Let me know in the comments below.