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Ken Keller: Ten questions for a better business and life

Brain Food for Business Owners

Posted: October 16, 2011 1:30 a.m.
Updated: October 16, 2011 1:30 a.m.

No one knows when someone will say something, do something, suggest something or show 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 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 and life.

At a recent business meeting, a speaker said something that immediately resonated with at least one person in the room. He asked, almost off-handedly, “What is it that makes you great?”

Answering that single question could alter how an organization sees itself; could rapidly improve the performance of every employee and could turn around the financial well-being of the company.

That same question could assist an out of work individual fine-tune the reason why a potential employer might hire them, or turn around the academics of a student who has potential but is lacking self-confidence to do better.

At that same business meeting, someone was thanking another individual in the room for a referral, and he prefaced the specific details with words of gratitude by stating, “This person 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 regarding gratitude is to ask: “Who are the top-10 people that made a positive impact on my life?”

Answering that question brings joy, as many individuals sit down and writes a note by hand to those individuals who made the top-10 list.

One recommended book to 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 can serve many audiences.

The 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?”

A parent can use the question to ask a child, a teacher to ask a student, a guidance counselor can ask of it a high-schooler looking to apply for college, an interviewer can ask it of a recent college graduate, two out of work friends having a conversation about their future can ask each other, or two spouses setting goals for their marriage will find the question invaluable.

In business, this same question can be used in a performance appraisal, a conversation about succession planning, a father with his children as he considers the future of the business, or in a strategic planning retreat for an organization.

Dan has a follow up question to further open up 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 10th question is the hardest of all: “Having taken the time to think through these difficult questions, what you will do with your own answers to make a significant difference in the outcome of your business and life as a result?”

Ken Keller is chief executive officer of STAR Business Consulting, Inc., a company that works with companies interested in growing top line revenue. He can be reached at (661) 645-7086 or at Mr. Keller’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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