A Really Good Question (Issue 1060)

In which we are encouraged to be clear about purpose and value when we meet with clients or prospects.

Mid-conversation, I asked a friend, “How’s your work going?”

“Pretty good.” Her voice tone was off a bit.

“So… what’s happening?” [That’s not the ‘Really Good Question’… read on.]

“I’m in meetings most of the day, every day. After those, I can focus on the work I’m responsible for. And I’m ignoring my team. I know that’s not right. They’re young, several are new to the firm. They need coaching. I don’t have the time.”

“Want an idea?”, I asked. [A reasonable question… and not “The Really Good Question”.]

“Sure,” she sighed.

“Let me tell you a quick story,” I said. “At a banking industry conference a while back, a widely respected Group Executive Vice President of a Very Large Bank gave a rousing talk about leadership and coaching and the importance of being in the field with her sales team, down to the branch level, rather than managing from her office in The Tower. I wanted to know how she managed her time. I caught her without entourage as she burst out of the Grand Ball Room.

“Two days a week,” she said, as we sprinted down the hall. “I block out two days a week for field time.”

“How do you do that?”

“That’s a longer answer than I have time for now and I’ll tell you one thing that works.”

Get ready. Here comes the Really Good Question.

“I’m invited to a lot of meetings. When I arrive, I ask the meeting organizers: ‘Why am I here?’ If their answers aren’t immediate and clear about my purpose – why I, personally, need to be in the room at that moment, I say, ‘Good to see you all, have a good meeting,’ and I leave.”

“How does that go?”

“Fewer meetings and, when I’m there, I’m there for good reasons.”

As I shared the story, I remembered that I’d heard the same question from a senior corporate turnaround consultant, a person you’d call for assistance if you were CEO of a failing company. If a CEO requested a meeting to discuss the awkwardness du jour, the turnaround guy’s standard first question was, “Why are we here?”

“Look,” I said to my friend. “It’s the question your prospects and clients ask when they invest time to meet with you. It’s the question that you should be asking of your colleagues internally. ‘Why am I here?’ ‘Why do you need me in the room at this moment?’ And, if the answer isn’t clear, either clarify it…. or leave.”

Nick Miller is President of Clarity Advantage based in Concord, MA. He assists banks and credit unions to generate more and more profitable relationships, faster, with business clients, their owners, and their employees through better sales strategies and execution. Additional articles on Clarity’s web site.

 

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