First Things First: What is the Purpose of your business?

big question purpose of business

The Big Question of Small Business

Purpose and the accidental small business owner

big question purpose of business

I’m often asked what the secret of small business is. I was recently asked this question by a new internet support service for micro and home based businesses called Brazzlebox . I told them there’s only one thing to get right and that is be able to answer the Big Question of Small Business, What’s the Purpose of your business?

It’s actually a really interesting question, and one that few business owners stop to think about before they get their business underway. I’ve also written about the Big Question here on Medium.com and in other pages on my website here as well as in this podcast for example. To be honest, I think that most business are started more or less by accident.

Of course there are startup entrepreneurs who plan the development of the next widget, they take a shared office space in some kind of incubator and plan to sell their widget to Facebook for 25 trazillion dollars one day, but I believe that those business owners are in a tiny minority.

The small business owners I meet everywhere (and the ones I support) start their business when an ever increasing level of frustration with their  job or career to date simply overflows the bucket and they decide to take control of their life in their own hand.

And when that moment arrives they run around doing the practical logistical things; bank accounts, business names, email addresses, business cards… the basics, but the really important questions are not usually addressed until much later, sometimes never.

Strategic Direction

The really important questions that we should all attempt to answer right from the word go are the questions about the strategic direction of the business, the Goals (short, medium and long term) and the biggest question of all:

Why does your business exists; What’s it on this earth for, and why would anybody care?

Purpose of small business Big Question Mission business card exchangeWhenever I am at a networking function talking to business owners I always ask them what is special, or different about their business, why I would want to do business with them and how I could refer business to them. It’s actually surprising how difficult most business owners find it to a give a clear answer to those questions. Mostly people try and tell me that they have a Great product (Our widget comes in 23 different colours) and they give Great customer service (We re smaller than the competition so we care more about our customers) and their prices are Great too (we’re really efficient and run a tight ship and we have few overheads and we’re committed to “adding value”).

These days I have hardened up a bit so I don’t feel the pain so much anymore and mostly I remain polite and nod with interest and make engaged noises, but deep down I think to myself: “Oh Please… not another one!”

D’OH

Of course you have a great product with a great price and great customer service, “D’OH” as Homer Simpson would say… I don’t think I’ve ever talked to a business owner who told me their product was average, their prices were average and they kind of looked after their customers in an average manner either. The competition has those three covered as well as you do (otherwise they wouldn’t be your competition in the first place) and your potential customers assume you will deliver them those three as a minimum, otherwise they wouldn’t be talking to you.

You have to find what sets you apart, what makes you different, because if you don’t, your customers only have one way to decide who they’ll use and that is by comparing your price and competing on price is a dog’s game, it might work for Walmart and Ikea but few others.

So… Why does your business exist, what’s it on this earth for, and why would anybody care about that?

  • I have a client who is an architect, he defined the purpose of his business as “Architecture that Inspires”
  • I have a client who owns a gym and he defined the purpose of his business as: “To build the finest resistance training community in the world”
  • I have a client who has a video production business and the Purpose of his business is: “It’s a joy to work with us”

Being remembered

When I meet someone at a networking function and I ask them what’s special about their business and they give me a powerful short statement like that, I sit up and take note and I’ll remember them and I will be able to introduce them to potential clients.

Also when your business rests on such a strong statement, it suddenly makes everything so much easier:

  • It’s suddenly easy to make decisions about which jobs to bid for and which opportunities to say No to
  • It’s suddenly clear which employees to hire
  • It’s suddenly clear what prices you should be charging
  • etc etc

Finding the Purpose of your business and being able to express it with complete clarity is absolutely the biggest step you can take to building a sustainable, fun and rewarding business.

Masterminds

masterminds As it happens I have run many webinars on this exact topic. Here is a link to a recording of a recent Small Business Masterminds on Purpose

So I hear you ask: “Ok smartie pants, what’s the Purpose of your own business then?”, and I am so glad you asked, because this is what I get out of bed for every morning:

To help family business owners feel great about themselves and about their business by making Business Fun again

How do you like them apples?… Does that work for you?

I thought so….

Check out the Masterminds webinar and I’ll help you take the first steps to discovering your own Purpose (with a capital “P)… You’ll never look back… I promise you.

Further reading

For more resources, and reading on strategies for growing your business follow this link to the first of the 7 Big Questions that all small business owners want answered

For more information about to how to step out of overwhelm, get unstuck and start having Fun in Business again, click here

Here are some other insights on the Big Question of Business and the Purpose of Business:

Would you like to download my free 12 Question Cheat-sheet to help you find your next Coach? Click here.

Business Journeys, Sarah Regan

Business Journeys, Sarah Regan Little Flowers

Allow time for the good stuff
Interview with Sarah Regan, founder of Little Flowers (http://littleflowers.com.au) in Sydney.
Sarah talks about the curve balls and the changes in direction she had to work through during the time she worked with me and how where she is now is a totally different place than she imagined herself when she started the business 3 years previously.
Business journeys are interviews and stories of business owners about what it’s like to be going on big journeys of change with Roland Hanekroot from New Perspectives Business Coaching and Mentoring

 

Business Journeys GlowWorm Podcast

bike shop

Business Journeys, Maurice Wells

From Solar panels to electric bikes, babies and moving countries.

Maurice wells takes us through the journey of his life as a business owner, listen to the podcast now


 

Journeys, Goals, Ships and Ancient Secrets Podcast

skydiving

Why I Don’t Believe in Goal-Setting

harbourChange and the safety of the harbour

You can also listen to the podcast speech version of this article here:

                     Subscribe in a reader……. or View in Itunes Itunes

At some stage in your life as a business owner, I imagine you would have been told by a business adviser or guru of some kind, that to get ahead in business you must set Goals, right? Of course you have, it is one of the foundations of the personal and business development world. Most gurus and coaches will tell you so.

But I don’t. I don’t believe in Goal setting anymore, at least not in the way we normally think of goals.

This is what I believe about Goals:

Goal-setting is about setting a course on a Journey of Change; Goals are never about actual places to get to.

You see, I work with people who want change in their business and their life. Change is a topic I am passionate about.

Of course, most of us want change at different stages in our lives, but most of us would actually prefer to go shopping for change. We’d much prefer if we could just hand over some cash to someone and simply buy a new business and a new life.

Slick programs

We buy the fancy slick business development programs from the fancy slick marketing companies that promise to change our businesses and our lives. $10,000; $20,000; $50,000; Who cares? It’s cheap at any price if it buys you a new business and a new life.

But here’s my issue with that approach to change:

“If you want something you’ve never had before… You’ve got to be someone you’ve never been before”

That means that you personally have to change before anything else can ever change.

And so… If you want your business and your life to be something different, you can not go out and buy it, any more than you can go out and buy a new “YOU”. You have to go and find a new “You”

And the only place to find a new “You” is on a Journey. Journeys are where we change ourselves and create change around us in the process

And Goals are really important on the journeys of change, but only to help us set the direction on our journey.

A new client

A new client told me the other day that he’d lost his enthusiasm in his business. Some years ago he’d set himself a Goal to pay off his home, but the day after he paid it off, he found that life just continued.

So he thought he should make his next Goal to buy an investment property. And the day after paying it off, he found that life just continued. And so my client wondered: What Next?

I think it was Robert Johnson, the poet, who said when asked about life: “All I know about life is 3 words: It Goes On

Life does just “Go On”, that’s the Journey and that’s the adventure; the Journey is where you’ll find the new “You” and where you create the Change.

Skydiving and ships

skydiving It’s a bit like skydiving. Skydiving is not about getting to the ground. It’s about the journey from the plane to the ground. When you get on the ground, it’s all over, it’s all a memory.

Memories are fun but they don’t change you. “You” are changed on the way down.

(Unless your parachute doesn’t open of course. In which case you will experience radical personal transformation right at the point of landing)

Boom boom…

I’m an old romantic at heart and I always like to think about ships, harbours and ocean voyages. You can be nice and safe on a ship in the harbour, but change won’t ever happen in the safety of the harbour. Nothing will happen until you push off, out of the safety of the harbour. Until you get out onto the ocean, set a course and start rowing for the horizon.

Compass Course

And that, incidentally is where Goals come in. Your Goal is your compass course: You’re heading East North East, until you come upon a reef and then you adjust your course to continue the voyage.

Will it get uncomfortable out on the ocean?

Of course it does, from time to time.

I’ve actually been on a few ocean voyages myself and it always gets uncomfortable and it always gets a little scary and there is always something unexpected that happens. And when it does you have to adjust your course to be able to continue the journey.

Sniff the change

And the journey must always continue if we want to be excited, nourished and rewarded by our careers, our businesses, our relationships, and our lives. Sadly though, we often feel stuck in our life, because we spend too much of it in the harbour.

We might poke our nose out the Heads every now and then on a sunny, calm sunday morning. It feels exciting out the Heads and we get a sniff of what’s out there and we can see the horizon and we imagine what it might be like to keep going, but most of the time we just turn back after lunch.

We live too much of our lives in the safety of the harbour, and change is mostly something we dream about.

It doesn’t have to be like that though.

There is a simple trick that will make it so much easier for you to push off and so much easier for you to stay the course.

Ancient secret

It’s an ancient secret, lost in the mists of time and it’s called: Asking for help.

Find someone you trust and who has your best interest at heart and ask them to help you to get out there and stay out there.

Not because you need help to push off or to row; you can to do that perfectly well yourself.

You want someone beside you:

  • Who can help you set a powerful course.
  • Who can recognise the danger signs, the building storms, the submerged reefs… adjust the course and keep the ship safe.
  • Who will make sure you don’t row around in circles and that you don’t row back to shore.
  • Who can tell you when to row and row hard and when to let the wind push you for a while.

rowing (By the way: Those are the most important roles I perform for my clients every day as a business coach, but a trusted friend, or mentor can step into the same role for you as well.)

And then, what’s at the end of the journey? Will you achieve your Goals?

Remember: The Goal is just a direction, the next harbour is just another stage in the journey and nothing will change in that harbour either.

It Goes On … It’s really important to recognise that… It Goes On… It doesn’t arrive in a nice package, with a price tag and shiny wrapping. You can not buy it.

Push off

So if you’d like your life to be different than it has been until now:

Sit down with someone you trust and explore with him or her if you are ready to get out there and if they’re prepared to come on the adventure with you….

And then

Push off from the shore, get out onto the ocean set a course and start rowing.

And above all

DO

NOT

COME

BACK.

There is no other way… I promise you

Oh… and  don’t forget…be sure to offer to help someone else on their journey too, of course.

Staff engagement and the Germans in Brazil

winning kid

How to build a team that fires?

staff engagement germans champions I have spent the last few weeks getting very excited about World Cup soccer, and whether or not you like soccer or you get more excited about other footbal games with pointy balls… one thing is clear some teams sparkle (Germany for example) and some teams don’t (who can forget the crying distressed faces of the Brazillian supporters at the end of the semi finals?)

Thinking about staff and employees I often flash on what a friend of mine who is a nurse used to say (half-jokingly): “I could run such a great hospital if it wasn’t for all those ruddy patients.”

But the business owner’s lament is a different one: I know I could run such a great business if it wasn’t for those pesky staff

Michael Gerber, in his famous book: The E-Myth told us 25 years ago to give up trying to manage people, and focus on systems instead.

Gen Y

And in his time, Michael Gerber hadn’t even met a Gen-X employee yet, let alone Gen-Y! Ask your Gen-Y staff member to do something simple like smile at a customer and make them feel welcome when they walk into the shop and they look at you as if you just asked them to kiss a cockroach.

We all know that employing people is tough and it can be the toughest challenge any business owner faces when trying to develop and grow his or her business. And yet, it is also where the greatest opportunity lies for your business, because the essence of just about any business model ever invented is about charging a margin on labour, employees of some form in other words. And that statement holds true equally for either product or service business and even fully digital businesses will find it hard to be successful without employees of some sort.

So how do you engage those pesky staff members, so that you get the best out of them, and you don’t go grey prematurely?

I believe it all starts with this Golden Rule:

Hire for attitude and train for skill.

When you recruit for new employees I urge you to keep this Rule in the forefront of your mind – Always look for attitude first.

dee hockThe founder of Visa International, Dee Hock shared this about hiring staff: “Hire first on the basis of Integrity; second on the basis of motivation; third, capacity; fourth understanding; fifth, knowledge and last and least, experience.”

Integrity and motivation are what makes a great team member. Most other skills can be taught.

Prepare Prepare Prepare

So how do you hire for attitude?

  1. 1)   Prepare, prepare, prepare… Put together a simple series of questions that give you the opportunity to get a clear insight into this person, what they’re really like.
  2. 2)   Organise trial days.
  3. 3)   Experiment with role plays,
  4. 4)   Involve your manager in the hiring process
  5. 5)   Check references.

This is what happens when you don’t check references:

beauty salonA client of mine, Wendy, runs an upmarket beauty salon in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney.  6 months ago she fired one of her staff for unfailing laziness.   Recently, Wendy received a phone call from the owner of another beauty salon in Sydney who had employed the previously ‘fired’ employee for some months, on the strength of the fact that she had worked for Wendy before. She rang Wendy, confused and disappointed, because of the bad attitude and performance of her new employee.

A simple reference check, before hiring a new employee can save you a whole heap of aggravation.

Second step

The second step in engaging your people is a little less obvious.

You see, your staff aren’t actually all that different to you, they are actually normal people, just like you, honest they are, trust me.

And people like to be engaged, they like to enjoy life, they like to collaborate with other people and they like to win.

It’s the reason so many of us play team sports. In my experience of working with many small business owners, the most effective approach to engage a bunch of employees in small business is to think of business as if it is a game of rugby.

Fun and winning

winning The reason we join a soccer team is to have fun and enjoy ourselves and the object of the game is to win.

I encourage all of my clients to start to think of their business as a soccer team (But maybe not the Brazilian world cup team at the moment!!) and their staff as fellow team members, with yourself as the captain and coach of the team.

As the captain you understand that your staff joined your team for exactly the same reasons you created it, to have fun and enjoy themselves and to win the game (That is as long as you hire for attitude). Furthermore you must help them understand how the whole team depends on each other.

As the coach you know that you must take the time to teach your team members the rules of the game, you have to train them to become more effective in their roles, and you have to show them how their actions have a direct impact on the outcome of the game.

Finally the team members need to feel they have a ‘stake in the outcome’; they have to feel that winning is good for them as individuals as much as it is for the team as a whole.

Don’t get me wrong, implementing what I just described isn’t easy, and no doubt there will be plenty of times when you will want to pull your hair out (there’s a good reason I don’t have any hair left). But by making it your prime responsibility as the business owner to become a great coach and captain of your team, you will be well on your way to building a Fun business that sustains you for years to come … I promise you.

For more information about to how to step out of overwhelm, get unstuck and start having Fun in Business again, click here

Change — Why It’s Hard and Why We Need It

change

Change,

The Comfort

Zone and

The Void

 

 

If you want something you’ve never had, you’ve got to be someone you’ve never been.

Your business is what it is today, because of who you are today.

That means that if your business isn’t yet the long-term sustainable, fun business you’d like it to be, I can assure you of one thing… You have to change.

Change is exciting
Change is fun

And

Change is hard

Story…

Let me tell you a story about myself:

The story illustrates how challenging it can be for business owners to make the changes we have to make to achieve the success we seek.

Some years ago I came to the conclusion that my business (business coaching) wasn’t working and that I was stuck.

I did a lot of soul searching because of the deeply held belief I mentioned before, that your business is what it is because of who you are today. you go first

And so I understood that there was something about who I was being, that was holding my business back.

Confusion

It confused the hell out of me, because I felt so confident and clear, that what I was offering to business owners was a highly effective and valuable and I also felt comfortable that my fee structure was about right for what I offered.

I spent a lot of time working through this confusion and these questions on my own and with my coach at the time and one day (in bed, in the middle of the night) I suddenly understood that: “Vincent has got to go”… Vincent being Vincent van Gogh, the famous struggling Dutch artist.

True Art is not commercial

You see, I’d realised that I had developed a belief and a self-image that was holding me and therefore the business back. The belief was this: True Art, True Beauty is born from struggle. True Art and True Beauty can only be created by struggling artists, because the meaning of life is about struggle… and artists who are commercially successful only produce commercial rubbish… never truly meaningful Art (with a capital “A”).

I had really taken this belief on myself over the years and I considered myself a struggling artist, creating True Art in my work, but without commercial success. I realised that my self-belief and self-image shone through in all my interactions with prospective clients and in how I presented myself. My belief about “who I was being” sabotaged my efforts to turn my business coaching business into a success.

Vincent has to go

vincentAnd when I realised this, I decided that Vincent had to go.

Easier said than done though… Vincent had been a part of me, probably from my early adolescence and now when about to turn 50, Vincent and I were not easily separated. Getting rid of Vincent felt like having to get rid of a part of myself.

I wrestled with how to go about removing Vincent from my life and finally realised that I couldn’t just dump him, instead I needed to build a new self-belief and above all a new self-image.

And I did

This is not the place to go into the detail of how I started creating my new image but I did. The image I settled on and started building was that of a riverboat captain. I take people on journeys after all and river journeys are a wonderful analogy for the work I do with my clients.

captainAnd slowly but surely I started to see myself as the captain… and slowly but surely Vincent receded in the background… and slowly but surely my business became successful.

The moral of the story…

As I said before, your business is what it is because of who you are.

That means that if you want your business to be something else… you need to be something else first.

You simply can’t develop and grow your business in isolation from yourself. Building a healthy sustainable fun business requires you to step outside your comfort zone… and stay there.

When you step outside your comfort zone is enter the void… and the void might sound like a bleak and scary place, but it is the Zone of Endless Possibility and the place where all change is created. (I will talk about the void in a future article)

Where is the comfort zone?

zoneThat begs one last question though… Where is that famous comfort zone and how do you step out of it into the void? Obviously it would be great if there was a line drawn on the floor with the words “comfort zone” on one side, and “void” on the other so you could simply step across the line… Let me know if you find one of those lines, it would make things so much easier.

In the absence of such a neat line, below are the 3 steps, I’ve found in many years of coaching, will not fail to drag you straight across into the void and keep you there:

  1. Set a big goal… a Goal that really stretches you and inspires you and scares the living day-lights out of you all at the same time.
  2. Decide and commit to a deadline for achievement of the Goal, within a visible timeframe (6 months to a year works well in my experience)
  3. Get someone else involved to hold you accountable to the achievement of the Goal and the deadline.

Accountability

The process of committing to something outside of your comfort zone, with a hard deadline and getting someone else to hold you accountable, drives you out of your comfort zone relentlessly and will confront you with the changes you have to make.

As it happens, this is what I do. I am passionate about making it safe for business owners to step out of their comfort zone and stay there.

Because that is how we build successful sustainable fun businesses (And I think even Vincent would agree with that in hindsight)

Cheers,

Roland Hanekroot

Call me if you’d like to explore how I can help you have more FUN in your business. Or come to the next Small Business Masterminds workshop… follow this link to find out more and register… 8 August, our topic is staff… how to get our staff to perform miracles

Further reading:

More about Personal Development and Leadership here

See – Feel – Change

Business Masterminds Observations

SEE-FEEL-CHANGE

switchI read a wonderful book by Chip and Dan Heath a little while ago called “Switch”, “How to change things when Change is hard”

The book is full of wonderful anecdotes and really clear explanations of powerful concepts about change.

The authors explain how most people believe that if something needs to be changed, that we need to go through a process of ANALYSE-THINK-CHANGE, build a business case in other words with figures and stats and graphs. Sadly that turns out to be one of the least effective approaches to building a momentum for change… A vastly more effective approach is SEE-FEEL-CHANGE. In other words let people see and feel the problem and the effect of the problem and help them see and feel the change and the effect of the change to get them on board.

So if you’d like people to “get” why something in your business needs to change… demonstrate… speak to their feelings… tell stories

3 Letters that Will Change Your Business and Your Life

3 Letters that will Change Your Business & Your Life

 
I’ve had a blinding insight and I am keen to share it with you all.

You know how most of us small business owners feel overwhelmed, inadequate and guilty half our waking life… the little voice on our shoulders that just keeps haranguing us about all the stuff we are not doing or not doing well enough?

Do we focus on profit, or cash, or customer satisfaction, or staff engagement, or lead generation, or leadership or setting visions and goals, or HR systems, or strategy or succession planning or sales and conversions, or systems and procedures and operation manuals, or diversification or accelerating growth and marketing directions or quality management or risk minimisation or or or…

No sleep

No wonder we can’t sleep at night… no brain in the universe could ever effectively focus on so many key aspects of a system at once… you just can’t do it.
gates of hell

 

And the light at the end of the tunnel might just be the gates of hell!

Choose

So how do we choose what to focus on, what to put in the forefront of our mind from day to day, as business owners?

I can tell you, there is one aspect of business that cuts through all of the different priorities and by relentlessly focusing on it, you will drive your business to where you’d like it to be and find peace from the little voice on your shoulder in the process.

What is that aspect… that miracle KPI?

A three letter word… FUN

A three letter word… FUN

Oh I can hear your little voices screaming at me from here… “As if”… “This is business we’re talking about here”… “Business is serious stuff, contracts, profit, cash, pipelines, occupational health and safety… don’t talk to us business owners about Fun”… “
Hrmppfffff…. We haven’t got time for fun”… “We haven’t got time to go to the gym and look after our health… We haven’t had time to take our son to soccer training for the past 4 years… We certainly can’t afford to focus on having fun, we’ve got to get cash in the door… Today”…

paint ball“I tried doing paint ball outings once a year and casual Fridays and all that stuff and it hasn’t made one bit of difference”

Hear me out…

Ask yourself these questions: What are the times you have had the most fun you’ve ever had in the past years while running your business.?
The times when your whole body just hummed… The time when it felt as if time stood still… when you were just totally engaged in what you were doing?

Weren’t they the times when:

  • You got a note from a customer thanking you for the great job you’d done?
  • Or the time when you signed a contract or sold an order that was bigger than any orders you’d had before
  • Or the time when you had enough cash reserves in your bank account to just pay the tax bill when it was due?
  • Or the time when you were working with your staff as if you were all on the same soccer team… Winning the game you were playing?
  • Or the time you delivered your product or project and stood back and felt a real proud smile cross your lips… “Job well done?”

I bet you when those things happened there wasn’t a little voice on your shoulder banging on about the stuff you hadn’t done that day or week… The little voice fell silent…Didn’t it?

REAL FUN

And that is exactly the kind of fun I am talking about … Real FUN.

You see when business is fun… REAL FUN… it means everything is working, and when business isn’t fun, I guarantee you there are one or more things not working the way they should.

When business is fun:

  • It means you are making profit,
  • It means you are collecting your cash
  • It means you staff are engaged and they just don’t leave
  • It means you have customers who simply can’t get enough of you
  • It means you are proud of what you do and you have a life too.

Would you like some of that?

Of course you do

Ok, so in April I will tell you what the 4 steps are to start focusing on fun, REAL FUN, in your business

Try it out …

In the mean time … Why don’t you start to think about how you can have some more fun in your business tomorrow… Next week… What would make business more fun next week?

Maybe if you collected some of your outstanding debts and got some more cash in the bank this coming week… Would that make business more fun? I bet it would.

Think about it.

Cheers,

Roland Hanekroot

Call me if you’d like to explore how I can help you have more FUN in your business.. Or come to the next Small Business Masterminds workshop… click here

A new approach to getting the best from your teams

A new approach to getting the best from Teams

Putting imagination to work as a “hard edged” business tool for accountability and creating sustainable business outcomes

Imagination has long been thought of as a soft, “feel good” concept that has no place amongst the hard edged realities of the business environment. The latest developments in Neuroscience, Quantum Physics and Solution-Focused Brief approach to change make it clear that nothing could be further from the truth however.

Harnessing your and your team’s imagination, in other words, focusing on “what is possible” is proving to be one the most effective methods to achieve sustainable business outcomes.

Conventionally team building and facilitation work focus on “solving the problems” or the dis-functionalities of a team and by so doing aim to encourage the team to become more efficient and achieve ever greater things. This approach has often been found to have limited success for 2 main reasons:

  1. Energy flows where attention goes
  2. Sustaining change is hard work….

What do those statements mean, how do they impact people management and team building processes and what is the way forward?

To start with the first statement: Energy flows where attention goes:

One of the counter-intuitive but by now well established principles of Quantum Physics says that the act of observing an object affects the state of that object, in other words an object (an atom for example) does not exist in isolation from the input of the observer. So it is with the brain. The developments of new brain scanning techniques (FMRI for example) have led neuroscientists to conclude that the brain functions as a Quantum process. At a very simplified level, this means that when our brains have developed a map or circuitry around a “problem” and we decide to “work through” this problem we actually strengthen the circuitry. By focusing our attention on these “problem” connections we actually create more and more of them. In other words when we workshop a problem with someone or a team, we set ourselves up to fail in the long run, because all we are doing is making it bigger and stronger all the time.

The smallest Difference that Makes a Difference

Solution-focused and strength based work takes the opposite route. It asks you to imagine: “If this is the problem you don’t want to have anymore… what would you like to have instead?” It asks: “What is the preferred future?”, and “What is smallest difference, that makes a difference, that will move you one little step closer to the preferred future?” By doing so the brain starts to make brand new connections. The process of creating new connections releases lots of positive energy. Harnessing this energy by taking concrete steps and committing to new constructive actions starts to cement the new circuitry.

Sustaining Change

This brings me to the second statement above. It is all very well to have this rush of positive energy, but it doesn’t take long before the gravitational pull of doubt or habit drags us back to our old familiar ways and ancient problems and the beautiful new connections that we formed only a few days ago whither on the vine. Before we know it things are back to where they were and all we remember is that there was something very pleasant about that hour or that day during the coaching session. The hoped for sustainable change evaporates.

Solution-focused brief coaches and facilitators take the next step to nurture the new connections and help them grow big and robust and overgrow the old “problem” connections. We do that in a number of ways but first and foremost this is done through committing to action. What are you going to do from today, tomorrow, next week? What specific, measurable actions are you prepared to commit to, to move closer and closer to the preferred future. What are you prepared to experiment with, something small, but something different, something you haven’t tried before. We do this at every coaching session, and it is one of the crucial differences between Solution-focused Team work and other forms of team building. We write the actions and experiments down, and then we follow up. This is where accountability comes in. You and the team commit to specific measurable, achievable actions, and you know you will be held accountable to those actions at the next session, by the members of your team, by the coach, and most importantly by yourself.

It is this rigorous follow up and accountability that really sustains the change and nurtures the growth of the new circuitry in the brain. It will motivate you to keep moving forward to your and your teams preferred future, relentlessly transforming your imagined future into your day-to-day activities.

Further Reading:
  • Team Coaching with the Solution Circle by Daniel Meier
  • Quiet Leadership by David Rock
  • Brief Coaching for Lasting Solutions, by Insoo Kim Berg
  • Solution Focused Coaching by Anthony Grant