Many people believe that if they follow in the footsteps of a ‘successful’ entrepreneur, they too will become successful. As a result, accomplished entrepreneurs are often asked what steps they took on their journey.
As a young man, I asked my mentor: “What’s the secret to becoming wealthy? Surely if it were as simple as reading a book on ‘Ten steps to success’, everyone would be rich?” He said: “It’s about knowing what questions to ask yourself and others.”
Of course it is necessary to make the right choices on your entrepreneurial journey, but more important is your ability to ask the right questions. This is an invaluable skill I apply daily.
Knowing what questions to ask, when to ask them, and how
The entry point of a question, and how you frame it, will determine how much information you will receive. It’s all about asking the right questions, at the right time, and in the right sequence.
Start by asking open-ended questions and then tailor them to elicit specific information. When a person answers, they give you a clue as to what the next question should be, by revealing information and setting themselves up for the next one.
Always note their tone, body language, and answer. Often the information they don’t tell you, is more important than what they do.
Socratic Questioning is a technique where every question is a ‘lens’ that takes a closer look and investigates what was not previously visible. You have an infinite number of ‘lenses’ at your disposal and it’s important to know which ‘lens’ to use, in order to ‘see’ the right information.
A great question for an interviewee is: “What do you and a lawnmower have in common?” This seemingly silly question opens a conversation which will allow you to ask more questions that will uncover a treasury of information about a person.
If they say they don’t need to be pushed, you can infer that they are a self-starter. If they like to trim the edges, they are most likely strive for order in their life.
Their responses will inform what the next question should be and the conversation will deepen.
The introspective question
The secret to shifting your own mindset and therefore your business, is asking yourself questions and answering them honestly. Often people answer questions with a ‘public’ response instead of an honest self-reflective one.
An example of an introspective question entrepreneurs could ask themselves is: “Are you adding enough value to your clients?” If they say they are adding value, when deep down they know they aren’t, their business won’t shift because they are deluding themselves.
If entrepreneurs admit to themselves that they aren’t adding sufficient value to their clients, they open up more questions which will lead to actions they can take to change their situation.
After they’ve answered the first question honestly, they then need to ask themselves more questions, such as: ‘Why aren’t I adding value?’, ‘How could I add more value?’, ‘What do my clients perceive as value?’, ‘What are my competitors providing to my potential clients?’ and ‘Will the value I am providing today be sufficient for my clients in a year’s time?’
By answering these questions honestly, you will unlock ways to improve your business and its value proposition to your clients, increasing your relevancy and probability of growth.
Over the years I’ve become better at asking the right questions, at the right time, and in the right sequence. I have the following question stuck on the wall next to my desk: “How am I standing in the way of Raizcorp?” I ask myself this question daily. It’s not an easy one to answer, but by being honest with myself, Raizcorp continues to improve and grow.