Situations are going on at any moment in your business life, and there are your perspectives of those situations.
Someone else looking at the same situation, including myself as a coach or adviser, will have a different perspective. But none of these perspectives is necessarily right or wrong.
No matter the opportunities or problems presenting themselves to you, fresh perspectives and ideas are only one new thought away.
So how do you create the shifts in thinking that allow space for fresh perspectives and ideas to emerge?
The Business Landscape is continually shifting.
I became a Business Coach in 2008, just as the economy nose-dived and we entered a period of intense recession. It wasn’t difficult to get meetings with business owners at this point, but the economic circumstances and my lack of experience made converting conversations into clients very challenging.
One of these early meetings was with the partners of a corporate IT recruitment company in Basingstoke. Things were tough, and the Managing Director told me that matters hadn’t really recovered since 9/11.
He painted a picture of misery as corporates retrenched and their market-share shrunk. His perspective of the situation was wholly negative, and his head was down. Thirty minutes later, his business partner came in and immediately joined the negative pity party.
I patiently listened as they reeled off a list of barriers and obstacles, all of which beyond their ability to control or seemingly influence. No one was recruiting, and nothing they tried was stimulating the market.
My work was cut out here. From this mental position, it was hard to engage them in the idea of spending money to invest in business coaching. I knew that I needed to do something to shift the conversation forward. I asked a question.
“What would it take to double your profits in the next twelve months?”
At first, they batted the question away, saying that it would be impossible in the current climate, and then smiled at each other. They were smugly satisfied with their shared response to what was, for them, a ridiculous question.
“I didn’t ask what would stop you from doubling your profits; I asked what it would take to double your profits in the next twelve months?” The second time of asking caught them by surprise, and they became defensive, even a touch annoyed. Again, they started reeling off everything that was wrong in the market that prevented them from making more profit.
I asked again.
At the third ask, one of the partners changed tack. “Well, for a start, we would have to look at our current headcount”. I asked him to take me through it, and a discussion slowly emerged.
The shift was palpable, and within half an hour, they had a simple but powerful set of actions to, you guessed it, double their profits in the next twelve months.
The only thing that had changed was their perspective.
It feels uncomfortable when we’re forced outside the version of reality we use to make sense of the world. That’s why we tend to resist, argue or ignore the question being asked. It feels much more comfortable to live in a reality where the reason we aren’t getting the results are things beyond our control and influence.
It’s also easy for us to get lazy and let it go when we encounter resistance in ourselves and others. That meeting was uncomfortable for me and came at a time when I was still learning my tradecraft. But now, I find it an exciting area to explore with clients.
When we combine positive, resourceful questions with a willingness to hold people’s feet to the fire, we open the space for new ideas and effortless performance to emerge until they answer them. This is where transformation happens.