January 29, 2019

Digging Deeper

Bryan Hughes

Bryan Hughes
President /FirstService Residential Massachusetts

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It is said that the first rule of hole is to “stop digging”. I would challenge that…of course depending on what kind of hole.

In Six Sigma projects, we often use some variation of Sakichi Toyoda’s 5-Whys process. It is a simple tool to help you find the root cause to a problem. For example, I could state that I am hungry. Perhaps that is good enough, but maybe I want to understand the why better in order to avoid it. I could recognize that I am hungry because I worked through lunch (1st why), and that is because I was trying to make up for an unexpected meeting (2nd why), and the process goes on. We often apply this to product and process improvement, QA, safety, and other measurements, but not sales and not leadership. Why?

Why is difficult. It is usually viewed (and felt) as a transition time between a statement and a response. Most people don’t feel like their own why matters, and to most that ask, it doesn’t. Why makes us vulnerable, for both the one asking and the one responding. “Do I respond with the real answer?” Or to the asker: “What if they tell me something that I don’t want to hear?” If we apply Covey’s seek first to understand, then to be understood principal, then we must own the concept of why.

When I conduct sales training, I often employ a game to help sales professionals to learn to ask questions. Simultaneously asking a question, listening, and reading body language is an art with associated skills that are hard to attain. I will have a root or innate cause in my mind that would get me to buy. We will go around the room with the first person asking me a question. I then answer the second person asks a follow-up question to my answer, and the pattern repeats as each new person asks a follow-up to my previous answer. We never get more than four people deep before someone either goes a completely different direction in questioning (usually with moans of everyone else in the room because they see what the person missed), or they start telling me something.

The goal in this is to identify the emotional reasons that someone would purchase from you, so that you can logically help them justify the purchase. This is easy enough in concept, but why are we so bad at digging. We barely scratch the surface before we throw down the shovel and start telling the customer what we want them to know.

In leadership, I teach the same principal. When someone makes a poor decision, you should ask why! If someone is highly successful, then ask them why! Continue this process of digging deeper and deeper (and deeper) and you will discover the real root or innate reasons and motivations behind your team’s actions. But here is another key take away: if you want to build relationships of trust with your team, you need to understand their true motivation.

Leadership is a bit like being a personal trainer. Initially, you just have to help people show up and get to work. But over time as you fight the battles together, you begin to develop true rapport. That is until the time that you need to call them out for something. This will be the real test. If you simply tell them they are wrong, you will erect a barrier while only affecting temporary change. If you want lasting change, you need to tie in how their current action is incongruent with their real motivation. Like the trainer that pulls out a picture of you from your first day at the gym and asks if you really want to go back to looking and feeling like you did on that day, leaders need to truly know the motivations of their team in order to influence them through the hard times.

Consider how you might be able to dig a bit deeper in your sphere of influence. Try it with your family. Try it everywhere. It helps the introvert to make conversation, it helps the salesperson influence the customer to buy (rather than to talk them into being sold), and it helps leaders influence their teams at a deep level that maintains mutual respect and credibility through the difficult seasons of our personal and professional lives.

Comments? You can contact me directly via my AdvisoryCloud profile..

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