When Your Business Needs Help: What to Ask and of Whom

You’ve got to love the results of contradictory studies. One day you’re told that salt, eggs, caffeine, or fill-in-the-blank is bad for you. Then later you’re told that it’s not that bad.

Such conflicting advice isn’t limited to health – you also find it in business. For example:

  • Think BIG … Think small.
  • Be innovative … Stick to the knitting (i.e., what you know and do best).
  • Adopt best practices … Use your intuition and make your own path.
  • The devil is in the details … Don’t sweat the small stuff.
  • Plan for the short term … Plan for the long term.

Which advice should you follow?
The answer is relative: whatever makes the most sense for your organization – depending on your industry and your corporate culture/values/stakeholders, etc. To find the answer(s), you can look in-house.

That’s right, I advocate you start with your employees before going to an outside consultant. Why? Because “The insiders of an organization understand the stupidity of its traditions better than the outsiders,” according to successful entrepreneur Andrew Filipowski. He understands that those closest to the situation may have the best ideas for improvement.

If you find yourself in a quandary about what to do to move your organization forward, ask your employees to discuss and share ideas based on their responses to the following questions:

  • What has worked for our organization in the past? … How can we do more of what worked?
  • What hasn’t worked? … How we can do less of what hasn’t worked?
  • What do we need to continue doing?
  • What else do we need to do?

These are simple, yet profound and powerful questions that are solutions-oriented. (Note: you can learn more about this approach in this introduction to “Solutions Focus in Organizations”.)

You have employees who can help, and you have the questions to ask them. What are you waiting for?

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