Friday, August 24, 2012

Two questions I keep asking...

Somewhere along the road of my career I learned the value of asking two questions. I have repeated them over and over. Recently I heard a former colleague ask the first question. My ego hoped he had learned it from me. I don't know, really, but I won't risk bruising my ego by asking. You would think that these two questions are fairly intuitive, but people fail to ask them and then they can't figure out why they are not successful. Of course, just asking the questions does not immediately make you successful. However, without asking, you are as doomed as the dart thrower in a blackout or the blind pig. So, even though I know there is a chance of getting an acorn or even hitting the target and possibly the bull's eye, the chances are greater when you can see what the goal is.

The first question is "What does success look like?" I remember when I was younger and dating this nice girl. Her mother was a seamstress. She would be there sewing away or cutting some fabric. You would ask her what she was doing and she would say, "making a dress!". She knew what success looked like. It looked like a dress and one that was the correct size, the correct fabric, the correct print, the correct buttons, the correct ribbons, the correct everything.

So, with anything in my career, this is the first question that I try to ask. I am amazed at how many people don't have a good answer to this question. I am equally amazed at how many people have a bad answer to this question. For my career, an easy example of what success looks like is Eric Schmidt of Google fame. Do I think I am Dr. Schmidt? Of course not. However, I do see here a man who knew what success looked like and pursued it. I love seeing Dr. Schmidt's videos. I get encouraged when I see videos of him earlier in his career as well as those from later in his career. Not only do I learn an example of what success looks like (and sounds like), but I also get an insight into his management style, his speaking style, and his presentation style.

"Where there is no conflict there is no life... " Machiavelli
I think it is particularly interesting to compare two people on the same stage. Eric Schmidt and Larry Page is a good example.

The second question I like to ask after asking "what does success look like" is to ask, "what are the barriers to success?"

This is the one that I think separates people from leaders. The example that I gave above shows a good example of people asking for how to remove the barriers. It is certainly interesting to watch from that aspect. Here you have an internet company talking about the barriers that they can't control. It is also interesting to see what they are talking about and then looking at how they have changed since those statements. I get the valuable insight of time! I also get the valuable insight of repetition. I can watch hundreds of hours of video of Dr. Schmidt and I can catch on to patterns that he has used and has been successful with. Dr. Schmidt is very intelligent and has a research focus. He uses this research to help him remove barriers to success. He also uses "tag words and phrases" and is very repetitive.

So, what does success look like for you and how do you remove the barriers standing between you and your success?