Newsflash: You don’t have all the answers. I don’t either.
The key to being successful in business is NOT having all of the answers. Instead, successful leaders know how to ask the right questions- the questions that lead to innovation, to solutions, to progress. This skill is relevant to every area of your business—whether you are trying to find a way to reduce inventory costs, revamping your marketing strategy, or trying to motivate your employees.
But when faced with a challenge, the typical small business owner instead keeps running into the same brick wall, over, and over… and over. Perhaps you have been there—I know that I have.
What the owner should do is to take a deep breath, step back, and evaluate the situation. Instead of asking the same question over and over again… focus on the bigger picture.
For instance, maybe you’ve exhausted time and resources into marketing a new product to your existing customers. It hasn’t worked, and you’ve continued to ask yourself how you can reach them effectively. You’ve spent a whole lot of time and money on various tactics. But considering your lack of success, the more relevant question may be if your existing customers are the right target for this new product in the first place.
When you’re not achieving the results you expect, it’s usually wise to challenge your assumptions. (Although the best time to challenge your assumptions is before you commit resources to a plan that depends on them.)
John Coleman and Bill George wrote the following for the Harvard Business Review, and it has stuck with me every since:
“With the high velocity of change in the world, it is impossible to have answers to all the important questions. Much more important is a deep curiosity about the world and the ability to frame the right questions in profound ways. The world’s toughest problems cannot be solved by you or any one organization. Your role will be to bring the right people together to address the challenging issues you raise. Our research demonstrates that the biggest mistakes result from decisions made by people without deep consideration of thoughtful questions.”
The next time you find yourself facing a problem that seems to have no solution, take a step back. Evaluate your approach and examine whether or not you are asking the right questions to begin with. This process can be a game changer.