In business and in life, we often think that our success is dependent on having the right answers ready to the questions reality asks. A true mark of success, we reason, is being able to know the solution to every challenge and problem in our area of expertise. After all, isn’t this what successful entrepreneurs, leaders and managers do?
I have to admit that I have often fallen into this rabbit hole myself as a manager and team leader. A manager or leader, I was told, is someone who goes around solving problems people and teams within organisations encounter. Like a weathered fireman (or firewoman) a manager extinguishes fires others have started, occasionally shaking their finger at them in disapproval. Like a good father (or mother) figure, the manager then pats the errant employee on the back offering forgiveness and allowing them to play with the matches again, this time with extra supervision. Until the inevitable next fire occurs.
However, life has become unpredictable and our reality is changing at a fast pace. In our modern world, there are not many ‘answers’ that can solve a big range of problems. Especially in areas where we deal with the behaviour of individual people and teams, understanding and leveraging context and dynamics so that your staff are empowered to seek solutions to their own problems, is the key to both your team’s wellbeing and your business’ success.
And this brings us to an important realisation: what makes the difference in this fast-paced environment is not so much the answers we give, but the questions we ask. Asking the right questions whenever a new challenge occurs, goes a long way towards solving this particular issue we are facing rather than seeking the universal formula that will solve this and all similar problems in the future.
So what questions are we typically asking ourselves as business owners and solopreneurs? The most common questions I have heard are what questions, such as:
- What do I need to do in order to succeed?
- What are my goals? What is my vision?
- What separates me from the competition?
Another common type of questions business owners are asking themselves, are how questions:
- How am I going to do this?
- How will I tackle this challenge?
- How will I stay afloat?
Another type of question, less common but crucially more important than the first two (as answering it with honesty is more likely to motivate you to continue doing what you are doing), is a why question. Why do I do what I do? What is my ‘why’, what drives me? Such questions can be answered with the assistance of a range of coaching tools such as the Purpose Venn Diagram (often wrongly referred to as the Ikigai), visioning exercises and value elicitation.
A type of question which is of equal importance, but which I rarely encounter, is a who question. It goes like this: who do I need to be in order to succeed in my goals or to realise my vision? This ‘who’ is often referred to as our self or identity. In order to understand your (desired) identity, ask yourself what you need to be doing regularly and consistently in order to become what you want to be.
If you want to be a writer, then you need to write consistently. So ensure you show up every single day, whether you are motivated or not, and decide how much time you will devote daily into sitting on your desk and writing.
A salesperson needs to close sales. So ensure you make the calls every single day and keep going even when you experience a particularly bad batch of calls. If you decide you want to be an artist or musician, then ensure you devote time every single day to practice, reflect or create, regardless of your muse being available or not.
Doing all of the above consistently, whether you ‘feel like it’ or not, will eventually convince you consciously and unconsciously that you are the person you want to be. ‘Fake it till you make it’ if it helps to beat the imposter syndrome with, as long as you remember that making it is all about repeatedly doing what you need to be doing in order to become who you need to be.