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Ken Keller: 10 questions for a better business and life

Real Clear Business Advice

Posted: July 29, 2014 4:12 p.m.
Updated: July 29, 2014 4:12 p.m.

No one knows when someone will say something, do something, suggest something or demonstrate something that can have a positive impact in a person’s life or their business.

Brian Tracy, a self-educated multimillionaire, said that his research suggests that every person comes across at least two ideas a month that could make them rich if the thought were actually followed through to completion.

What triggers this kind of thinking? In a word, questions.

Dan Sullivan, founder of Strategic Coach, states that he had a college professor who said: “Answers are a dime a dozen. What’s rare in this world is a really great question. What’s yours?”

Here are 10 questions to jump-start thinking about how to have a significantly better business in 2014 and beyond.

At a networking meeting I attended, the owner of an advertising agency said, almost off-handedly, “What is it that makes you great?”

Answering that single question could alter how an organization sees itself and could rapidly improve the performance of every employee impacting client service. It could very well turn around the financial well-being of the company and every employee working in it. .

That same question could help determine if a prospective employee could be an asset to the organization or a liability. Used during a performance evaluation it could make the difference whether to keep an employee or let them go; it might well separate the engaged from the disengaged.

At that same networking meeting as mentioned above, one client of mine thanked a gentleman for a referral. He prefaced the specific details by starting with the words, “Dan is a difference-maker in my life.”

Turn that statement into various questions. The first might be: “Who am I making a difference for?” and the second, “How many others can I make a difference for?” The third might be: “Who do I need to thank for making a difference in my life?”

One of the best exercises ever dreamed of regarding gratitude is to ask: “Who are the top 10 people that made a positive impact on my life?” If those individuals are contacted with a note of thanks, imagine the impact of their lives.

One book I recommend owners read is The Dan Sullivan Question. The title is somewhat of a misnomer, because in addition to the main question, there are several follow-on questions.

Sullivan’s question was crafted nearly 30 years ago, and it is still relevant today.

His key question is, “If we were having this discussion three years from today, and you were looking back over those three years, what has to have happened in your life, both personally and professionally, for you to feel happy with your progress?”

Dan has a follow up question to further drill down on the thought process: “What existing dangers do you need to eliminate in order for you to be happy with your progress over the next three years?”

The third question Dan asks is: “What are the three biggest possibilities if gaining something new and important that needs to be captured?”

The final question Dan asks is: “What are the three most important capabilities and resources that need to be maximized?”

It is not enough to just ask these questions, each should be answered with thoughtful consideration. The time spent will be well worth it.

The tenth question is the hardest of all: “Having taken the time to think through these difficult questions, what will you do with your own answers to make a significant difference in the outcome of your business and life as a result?”

Leaders ask questions. They help others discover the answers and in doing so, help themselves.


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