Problems. We’ve all got them, but let’s face it; some of us have more than others. Our problems can consume both our personal and professional lives, seemingly crippling our days as we focus on what’s going wrong. These problems can stop a productive team dead in its tracks.

As business owners and executives, it’s common to hear questions such as:

“How am I going to survive in this economy?”
“How can I sell when no one understands the value we offer?”
“What can I do to get more clients when my competition has such a larger budget than I do?”
“I hate asking for money from my clients.”
“I can’t stand doing sales.”solving-problems

These are all common problems we hear and it’s obvious that the answers aren’t going to be good as these comments and questions presuppose that the problem is only going to get worse or is out of their hands.

Let’s face it, when problems arise in our business (or in our personal lives for that matter), we spend about 95% of the time talking about the problem and only 5% of the time talking about the solution. When looked at from this viewpoint, it’s easy to see why we keep getting stuck in that rut over and over again.

There’s a better way, and it revolves around asking better questions.

Just yesterday one of our fitness pros at our private fitness studio in Santa Barbara came up and complained about how hard it was asking clients to renew their training packages. She knew they valued the service and were getting great results, but like so many of us, she felt uncomfortable broaching the question of money. I could relate, as I’ve been there a thousand times before.

Growing up, the topic of money was never really discussed. I can recall asking questions and being told it wasn’t any of my business. I’d love to blame my parents, but this is a cultural thing that many of us run into. The funniest part about it is the other person is usually more than happy to pay – it’s us that create the barrier and fear.

This can be seen at large dinners with friends when someone miscalculates the bill you’re splitting, or someone simply forgets to pay for something. We often get mad at them don’t we? I think what we really get mad at is the feeling of discomfort in confronting them about the money and as a result, instead of facing it head on, we simply get upset.

As the trainer and I spoke, I used the process I learned from Tony Robins Business Mastery on reframing problems into questions; not only questions, but the right kind of questions.

The first step in this process is to define the problem into a question. In this case, she redefined the problem from “I hate asking for money from our clients when they owe. It stresses me out and we end up not getting paid.” to “How do we make our clients excited to pay us?”

This alone was a monumental paradigm shift. You could see her face change when she took the time to simply rephrase the problem into a question because a question has an answer.

tony-the-7-forces-of-business-masteryTony uses an example from his own life where he’s exhausted after being 120 days on the road and comes home to over 100 phone messages that he has to return. He immediately thinks “What’s the matter with my life? How did I end up in this pit? Why do I have to respond to all these people?” Tony took a moment to change his state and then changed his problem into a better question. He started to realize that ten years ago, he couldn’t get most of these people to return his calls. One of the messages was from the President of the United States and here he was complaining in his home while overlooking the ocean. He changed his state and changed his question to “How did I get so lucky to get 100 people that want to talk to me? Why do I want to call these people back? How can I return these calls and enjoy the process?” Then the answer came – Tony returned all his calls in his hot tub overlooking the ocean and had a great time reconnecting with people.

The second step to this process is to come up with three intelligent and viable solutions. Write them down.

For the fit pro, this took some time. It can be hard to shake the presupposition that you already had, but once you do with a quality question (which she changed four times), the answers start flowing. She came up with three right away:

  • She reframed the question of asking people to renew their personal training to asking them if they’d like to renew their health account. She knew that her clients were healthier and had been achieving the goals they set up to achieve. She also knew how much they valued the amazing work she’d done with them and wanted to continue. After all, they were there working with her to better their health and they were doing just that. Why wouldn’t they want to continue?
  • She thought she could add more value by getting the clients more excited about upcoming events. She knew what we had planned, but also knew that we didn’t do as good of job communicating those plans to the clients, thus giving them something to look forward to. Many of them had hit their original goals and after enjoying the many benefits of being healthier, they needed something else to set their on.
  • For her third answer, she came up with creating more community events for them to get involved in both inside and outside the private training studio. By creating more of a sense of community, it would allow clients to connect and form bonds outside of the training studio. From this answer she went on a creative brainstorm session and created four events that everyone could get excited about and would bring people together outside the walls of the studio and in something different then their Lu Lu.

 

The third step, for the business owner, or coach is to do one of three things when the solutions are presented: accept, modify with reason, or reject and provide new alternative solutions. In her case, her ideas were great and all I could do is sit back and smile. She took what was a problem and came up with ways for us to grow the business. All I did was help her put the formula into use. Now her problem is solved and since she came up with the solutions, she owns the process and the next steps.

I like my job.

To summarize the process:

  1. Describe the problem in 1-2 sentences. Make sure this is crystal clear and the problem has been defined with precision. Turn your problem into a question. Make sure your question doesn’t have too many parts or “chunks”. Don’t try to solve every problem with one question. Remember, clarity is power.
  2. Describe 3 intelligent solutions to the problems. Make sure your solutions are not only intelligent, but are also practical and viable.
  3. If you are helping someone through this process, then your job isn’t to answer the question, but rather provide feedback. In a managerial role, this can take the form of accepting the answer, modifying with a reason why, or rejecting the answer and providing new alterative solutions.

 

In Tony’s course, he gives six problem solving questions to use:

  1. What can I learn from this?
  2. What’s great about this?Demand the answer.Even when it’s hard, demand an answer.If you can’t answer it, then change the state and answer it.Ask your questions from a place of certainty.
  3. What is not perfect yet?
  4. What are you willing to do to make it the way you want it?Write it all down.
  5. What am I will to not do to make it the way I want it?I’m not willing to … be in a position of living in fear everyday… make him my excuse for being frustrated everyday…Write it all down.
  6. How can I enjoy the process?

Try this process the next time you run into a problem. Odds are if you’re like me, you have a few on your plate right now. If you take a moment to break out this process, return to this post every now and then, you’ll find that your problems become your advantages. This is especially true in the area of business… though I’ve been told it works wonders with kids too.

Take a moment to list out a problem and walk through the process below in the comments. By sharing yourself, you’ll help not only you, but countless others who don’t yet have the courage.

And remember… enjoy the process while growing your business!

Get Clarity & Start Thriving