Access Client Needs


In times of confusion and uncertainty, organizations often turn to consultants for help in addressing troublesome problems. The consultant’s first task is to understand the exact nature of the client’s concern and then to assist in selecting appropriate strategies.

This article will provide a basic set of initial interview questions for a consultant to ask. These questions have been specifically prepared to ensure that all relevant information is considered before a consultant and client commit to a particular course of action.

Although a great deal has been written on the theory and practice of consulting services, relatively little mentions the first interview with the client. The importance of this first interview lies in the fact that it forms the basis for the continuing relationship. To help ensure a successful first encounter, the questions in this article focus specifically on key areas that build the foundation for the helping relationship.

One major task for a consultant is to help the client to reflect and to clarify concerns. Simply leading the client through the sequence of thought in this first interview may be an important intervention. By the end of the initial interview, the client may have found a solution that he or she is fully empowered to enact without further consulting assistance. On the other hand, this first interview may well be the beginning of a productive long-term consulting relationship.

This article begins by introducing the purpose of the first interview and the stance the consultant needs to establish in building a productive working relationship. Next, each question is examined in detail to expose any underlying nuances. Several suggestions then are made as to how to use these questions most effectively. Finally, a sample work sheet incorporating the questions is provided for consultants to use or adapt.

1. What is the problem that exists?
2. What is the impact of this problem?
3. What factors contribute to perpetuating the problem?
4. What have you tried so far to address the problem? What have been the results?
5. Ideally, what would you like to happen?
6. What interventions might bring about this preferred solution?
7. What forces support this intervention?
8. What forces inhibit this intervention?
9. What are you willing to invest in finding a solution?
10. What do you want from me?
11. Is there anything else that I need to know in order to understand the situation?
12. What are the next steps we need to take?


The first client interview has the following basic purposes:

  • To build rapport with client
  • To gather information
  • To form an agreement for proceeding

Typically, the initial interview is not intended as a complete diagnosis of the client system. Furthermore, the initial interview may not necessarily result in a contract for conducting an intervention. Instead this first interview is designed to help the consultant get a sense of how to approach the overall client system in order to move forward with diagnosis or intervention. Therefore the consultant and the client both need to be clear that the interview is a preliminary stage of the consultant’s involvement with the client system.


Certain basic elements in the consulting stance can help to build rapport, gather information, and form agreements. These elements are outlined in the section that follows.

1. Be supportive. In order to establish an optimal relationship, clients must feel safe enough to be vulnerable. Vulnerable areas often are areas of potential incompetence or areas in which the client might be criticized for not addressing the problem successfully. Autonomy is a key to maintaining a person’s self-esteem; the very act of calling in a consultant sometimes can threaten that sense of autonomy. Therefore, it is important for the consultant to communicate a general message to the client that it is perfectly acceptable to ask for help and that the client will not be judged, blamed, or criticized for the information he or she is about to share.

2. Be attentive. Although the twelve questions suggested provide a basic progression of thought, consulting should be fundamentally client centered. Therefore the consultant needs to be aware of the client’s progress through the discussion. That may mean following digressions, tolerating apparent irrelevancies, and sharing control of the interview process. The consulting stance is to view everything the client does as data that may or may not be immediately comprehensible.

3. Be definitive. Much of the initial interview consists of the consultant’s “taking in” the client’s reality, and it is essential that the consultant understand how the client sees and experiences the world. Having done that, the consultant must establish his or her own identity and role in the process. A healthy consulting relationship requires an explicit and concrete understanding of the client’s and the consultant’s mutual expectations. Although each of these principles is important, their relative emphasis may shift at different phases of this initial interview. For example, it is generally important to avoid being too definitive until the later stages of the discussion; however, showing support may be important throughout the interview, especially with an edgy client.


Each of the twelve questions is quite simple. Understanding the rationale for each question will enable the consultant to concentrate on its intent rather than simply to complete a rote sequence of information gathering. Understanding the objective of each question is also important in being able to generate appropriate follow-up questions and probes.

1. What is the problem? This is the obvious starting place, inasmuch as clients call consultants to help solve problems or address issues. This question opens the door to understanding the source of the discomfort, pain, or unfulfilled potential with which the client wants assistance.

Sometimes the answer a client initially gives takes the form of a solution, as if the interviewer’s question had been “What do you want to do about the problem?” For example, one client was asked what the problem was and replied, “We need a team-building session.” A natural follow-up question could be to ask what had been happening that led to that conclusion. It is important that the consultant have a clear picture of the current situation that the client wants changed and not simply the mechanism the client has established for making that change.

A client may be reluctant to discuss the problem for a variety of reasons. It is helpful to remember that maintaining control is a critical need for many people, especially managers. For some people, to admit to problems that they cannot solve is an admission of being out of control. Therefore getting the client to focus directly and openly on describing the presenting problem may be a delicate task requiring tact and interviewing skill.

2. What is the impact of this problem? After exploring the client’s perception of the problem, the consultant examines the dimensions of the problem:

  • Where is the problem occurring or not occurring?
  • To whom is the situation a problem?
  • When does the problem occur or not occur?
  • When the problem occurs, what is the result?

The nature of problems is that they cause pain; inasmuch as most people prefer to avoid pain, they often choose to avoid looking closely at problems. This question (along with follow-up probes) is intended to support the client in taking a closer examination of the problem—perhaps in new ways.

3. What factors contribute to perpetuating the problem? Once the consultant understands the basic dimensions of the problem, it is important to know the client’s perception of why the problem is occurring. Despite asking the client to assess the forces contributing to the situation, the consultant must be aware that the client may well bring his or her own sources of distortion to this assessment. The consultant must remind the client that this is a preliminary interview and that in most instances there will be additional data gathering prior to the consultant’s drawing any conclusions. In this way, the consultant also opens the client to the possibility of forces other than those that have been previously identified.

This may also be a time for the consultant to offer other possible interpretations, not as conclusions but simply to test ideas and help the client expand the range of possibilities. Note that the phrasing of this question assumes that problems are multi-determined. Although this premise sometimes may be argued, the consulting stance here is one of open inquiry into possible explanations or interpretations without prematurely closing on a single explanation.

4. What have you tried so far to address the problem? What have been the results? In general, people like to believe that they can solve their own problems. This is especially true of managers, who are paid to resolve management issues. To preserve the self-esteem of the client (a key process goal of the interview), it is essential to acknowledge the client’s efforts to address the problem and his or her perceptions about the results. These may be important data for what might not work in the future and for factors that must be considered for a successful intervention.

5. Ideally, what would you like to happen? After exploring the current situation, the client may well be ready to focus on the future. This is the time to assess and potentially to tap into the client’s energy and enthusiasm for having things change. Although this may well not be the final goal statement, posing the question invites the client to a more empowered position.

In exploring this area, the client should be asked to describe the preferred situation as specifically as possible, using questions such as the following:

  • If the situation were how you want it to be, what specifically would people be doing?
  • How exactly would people be feeling?
  • What would be happening in the environment?
  • What would customers be saying, doing or thinking?
  • What specifically would the product or service be like?

When the client is finding it difficult to commit to a particular vision for the future, another question might be “What might it be like if the situation were more the way you want it?” This can free up the client to discuss possibilities that he or she is not yet ready to support. If the client seems reluctant or de-energized by the question, other factors may not be clear to the consultant. It may simply mean that the client is not ready to move forward, in which case the consultant can simply acknowledge that in a non-judgmental manner and allow the client to indicate the next move.

6. What interventions might bring about this preferred solution? This brainstorming question is intended to elicit a range of possibilities. An underlying premise in much of a consultant is “equi-finality”—in other words, there are various ways of doing things. More precisely, equi-finality means that equally valuable results can be achieved through a variety of means. Therefore if the client provides only one option, a good follow-up question might be “What other options might be helpful?”

After generating options for bringing about the preferred situation, it may also be helpful to ask what criteria need to be met by whatever option is selected. For example, criteria might concern costs, timeliness, who is involved, how much data gathering is required, and so on. Once these criteria are known, the various options can be tested against the criteria and a tentative decision can be made.

The consultant should also contribute expertise in terms of options and their likely consequences. If the client is overlooking an important option or is leaning toward an option that the consultant’s experience has shown not to work, this is the time to speak. After all, the process consultant is being hired for his or her process expertise.

7. What forces support this intervention?

8. What forces inhibit this intervention? After a direction has been determined, it is important to detect any hidden mine fields and to identify additional support that could be enlisted to help ensure success. Examples of forces (either supporting or opposing) include the following:

  • The motivation levels of the employees involved;
  • The presence (or absence) of key allies within and outside the client system;
  • The adequacy of resources, including money and time;
  • The level of support for such activities within the organizational culture; and
  • The timing of the activities and how they fit with other events or stages within the larger organizational context.

Once these forces have been identified, the client should be asked to reassess how reasonable the selected approach will be. Assuming it is still a “Go,” these forces should be incorporated into any plans.

9. What are you willing to invest in finding a solution? By this point in the discussion, the client and the consultant will be much clearer about the nature of the situation, the potential benefits of addressing it, and the likelihood of success or failure. It is now time to address costs and risks.

For most interventions, the primary costs focus on money and time. Risks may include potential loss of the client’s credibility in the organization, the situation worsening, or the emotional pain of going through the intervention.

In asking the client to assess these costs and risks, it may also be necessary for the consultant to help reality-test the situation. For example, the client may wish to know whether a team-building approach is likely to succeed. This can be addressed by discussing the consultant’s overall experience with the success of team-building approaches. However it is done, the client needs to be clear about the costs and risks and make choices as to whether or not to proceed.

10. What do you want from me (the consultant)? Assuming that the intervention is still a “go,” the consultant can move toward exploring his or her role in the effort. Although in some cases the client will be ready to move toward formal contracting, other cases will need additional data gathering or a time lapse before a contract can be developed. In either case, the consultant’s role in the intervention should be explored. It is especially important to clarify the following points:

What specifically will the consultant do and what conditions does the consultant need to meet (Time frames, checking out products or processes before use, confidentiality, and so on)?

What will the client do and what conditions does the client need to meet
(Introducing the consultant, handling administrative details, making payments, and so on)?

This discussion needs to produce a mutually satisfactory agreement on roles and conditions for the future relationship, in which the following points are covered:

  • The consultant’s role is defined in a way that will allow successful performance
  • The client’s role is defined in away that will ensure the necessary support and commitment

Before reaching a final agreement, the client and/or consultant may want additional time to gather more data or simply to reconsider this agreement and to renegotiate. This may also be a time to hit the “pause button”; if there is any sense of discomfort or uncertainty about the direction being taken, either party might request or suggest a delay. However, if it seems that both parties are comfortable and committed to moving forward, the time may be ripe for concluding an agreement.

11. Is there anything else that I need to know in order to understand the situation? This is a catch-all question. Experience also shows that human communication is not always a linear process; questions that are addressed early in a discussion might be answered in a different light or with different information later in the interview. This is a last check so that the client may reflect on the total discussion and add whatever additional thoughts he or she might have.

12. What are the next steps we need to take? Before ending, there need to be agreements about how and when further communication or contact will occur. If the results of the meeting need to be documented or contracts prepared, responsibility needs to be assigned.

In addition, this might be a time to recognize that a relationship has begun. Two or more individuals have come to know things about one another that may be quite intimate, perhaps exposing vulnerabilities that normally are not shown. There may be value in acknowledging the level of discussion that has taken place and reassuring the client that their problems and concerns will be handled with care. If appropriate, it may also help to offer whatever level of reassurance can be genuinely provided on hopes for improvement or on the likely success of what the client is attempting to achieve.


These twelve questions are intended as a general framework for discussion and are not meant to be restrictive or a prescriptive formula for success. Clearly there are variations on questions and avenues that either extend the questions posed or go off in other directions. The first rule is to follow the client. However, having so followed the client, the questions may help the consultant to reorient by providing a checklist of areas to have covered prior to finalizing an agreement for further work with the client.

The questions primarily focus on the client’s perspective on the problem and what is needed. This is not to preclude the consultant from providing his or her own expertise and perspective in either suggesting interpretations or providing options for proceeding.

Further, the questions are primarily intended to orient the consultant to areas of inquiry and do not necessarily represent the optimal phrasing or level of detail. For some areas, it may be necessary to employ numerous probes; in others, the simplicity of these questions may suffice. These questions should not preclude the consultant from following additional lines of inquiry based on the information the client is providing, nor from phrasing questions in a manner that is natural to the consultant and the situation.


In exploring the client’s answers to the questions, the consultant may use a variety of interviewing techniques to draw out, probe, or extend the client’s responses. These techniques, outlined in this article, help to ensure that the client and the consultant have a highly productive discussion around the questions and the answers.


Although the questions are presented in a set sequence, the interview may not flow in such a linear fashion. It may be necessary to jump around or cycle back through questions that were addressed earlier.

Finally, these questions are intended for use during an initial diagnostic interview; however, there may be situations in which the consultant might provide the questions to the client in advance of the interview. This might be particularly helpful under any of the following conditions:

  • The presenting problem is particularly complex or requires extensive thought as to its roots
  • Time for the initial interview is limited
  • The organization’s norms are more consistent with the submission of written questions in advance of meetings
  • This particular client prefers to reflect in advance on the questions

Verbal Interviewing Techniques


  • General leads: questions that are nonspecific
  • Binary questions: yes/no questions
  • Follow-up leads: specific questions based on prior responses
  • Cue-exploration leads: questions phrased in responses to cues given by the client
  • Continuation leads: questions designed to keep the client talking about a particular topic
  • Amplification leads: requests for further explanation
  • Testing: questions that test out theories that the consultant is forming

Understanding Responses

  • Restatement: repetition of the client’s words
  • Paraphrase: restatement of the client’s response in the consultant’s words
  • Reflection: mirroring back to the client of the feelings that the consultant believes the client is experiencing
  • Summarization: recapitulation of the data gathered thus far


  • Sharing: descriptions of situations that the consultant has experienced that are similar to those being described by the client
  • Consoling: sharing feelings of concern for the client
  • Expressing caring: demonstrating that the client and the consultant are building a relationship

This set of twelve questions is a general framework for dialogue. Used skillfully, the questions allow the consultant to draw on all of his or her powers of observation and skills so as to establish rapport and ensure a productive and valuable client-consultant relationship.

Initial Diagnostic Interview Work Sheet


What is the problem or the reason that you called me in?
What is the impact of this problem?
For whom is it a problem?
Where is the problem occurring or not occurring?
How big is the problem?
What would be the consequences of not addressing the problem?
What factors contribute to perpetuating the problem?
What are people doing or not doing that is creating or sustaining the problem?
How might such things as organizational reward systems, structures, rules, policies, relationships, and so on contribute?
What have you tried so far to address the problem?
What have been the results?
What has worked?
What has not worked?
What would you like to happen?
What would it be like if the situation were the way you want it to be?
What interventions might bring about this preferred solution?
Which do you see as most likely to succeed?
What forces support this intervention?
(Key people, resources, time, outside events, and so on.)
What forces inhibit this intervention?
(Key people, resources, time, outside events, and so on.)
What are you willing to invest in finding a solution?
Your time? The time of others? Money? Risk? Involvement? Commitment? Resources?)
What do you want from me?
Support? Active involvement? Resources? Type(s) of consulting services? Nature of the relationship?
Is there anything else I need to know in order to understand the situation?
What are the next steps we need to take?
Who? What? When? How? Where?

Coping with Disaster

The Manhattan skyline filled with smoke and debris as the towers of the World Trade Center collapsed is an image few of us will soon forget.

Feelings of shock, fear, anger and helplessness filled all of us. Americans were walking around with a dazed, hollow expression – unable to comprehend the enormity of what had happened. As human beings, we look for answers. Why did some live while others died? Why didn’t we see this coming? Why us? Often when terrible things happen to good and innocent people there simply are no answers.

We have to feel our pain, work through our grief, then accept what has happened. This is a good time for us to reflect on our own lives. We tend to think we’ve got 70 or 80 years on this planet, but in this dramatic example, it’s clear that we have no idea how long we have and little to no control over events. That can terrify you or it can wake you up.

Maybe it will do both.

How would you listen to music if you knew it would be the last time you could hear it? Would you eat a meal differently if you knew it was your last? Would you spend time talking with those you love rather than watching television if you knew it was your last night? We are living our lives as though we have forever, and as this terrible day has proved, we do not.

We are always getting ready to live, but never living. -Emerson

The terrorists who committed these acts did so to frighten us, to demoralize us, to steal the very zest for life that has become an American trademark. The best revenge many of us can take is to do the following:

Be grateful. Be grateful for all you have – your health, your family, people who love you and who you love, the tremendous beauty of the sky, a soft bed to sleep in, being an American. The list can go on and on. We are so fortunate in this country and we have so much. Be grateful for all the good things in your life you often take for granted.

Reach out. This is the perfect time to reach out to others. We are all in a state of shock right now – giving comfort to others is a great source of comfort for you too. Be a little kinder – hold the door for someone, give a warm smile to a stranger, give up a parking space with a wave. When thousands of our fellow citizens are killed, it makes us realize how very precious everyone is. Your kindness can change someone’s life, and it will definitely enrich yours.

Pursue Your Passion. These acts were not committed so a nation would wake up and her people would live passionately. They were committed so we would become afraid, so we would feel vulnerable and weak. Fear is what keeps us from pursuing our dreams. Use this tragedy as a wake-up call to figure out what brings you joy and pursue it relentlessly. Is it starting a business? Building a home? Starting a family? Taking a trip? Turn tragedy into triumph – live your life so that you become all you are capable of.

R. Wade Younger, MBA, CSP, CSM, TEFL – International Speaking & Business Consulting – The World’s Largest Collection of Life Skills for Kids

Complex Selling Made Simple

Many, many years ago a colleague and good friend of mine, Dr. James B. Anderson were discussing the complexities of mathematical equations and theories as it pertain to Electro-magnetic Physics. I should mentioned that Dr. Anderson has 2 B.S. degrees, 2 M.S. degrees and a PhD….all technical degrees. He currently works as a chief scientist for a very well know high tech wireless company.

Now, I don’t remember how we go onto the topic or why, but I do remember telling the good “Docta” how in college I had a great professor who had the wonderful ability to explain complex subjects like calculus in a way that I understood. Dr. Anderson then made a simple, off-the-cuff statement that has stuck with me through the years.
“The sign of a great professor (or teacher) is the ability to take the most complex subjects and break them down in their most simplest forms so anyone can understand it.”


Up until that comment, I always felt guilty or responsible for not being able to understand complex things. In short, I felt like an idiot. Many of us have been in a situation where something is being explained and we don’t understand it. We look around to see if we’re the only ones who are lost in the fog.

Wade’s Rule: If you’re confused, chances are, someone else is also…so don’t feel stupid.

The above statement by the good Dr. allowed me to go easier on myself and begin to analyze, not so much the student (me), but the teacher. At seminars, product presentations or training courses, I began to put more responsibility on the teacher for explaining the solutions. Instead of slinking into my seat when I don’t understand, I then started asking more questions. And if the answer was still too difficult to understand, I asked for more clarification. I started to notice something funny when I asked for more clarity…some were able to break it down into simpler components, others couldn’t. Dr. Anderson’s statement above helped me understand why.

What does this have to do with sales? In selling you are both Teacher and Student at any given time.

Scenario 1: As a salesperson in the high tech industry, how many time are you explaining something during a presentation and notice that you’re not getting any questions or feedback? Could it be that your solution or explanation is so complex, the customers are too afraid to ask any questions so they won’t look like idiots? A salesperson should be able to take the most complex solution they have to offer and break it down into its simplest form.

Scenario 2: As a salesperson, how many times has a customer explained their problem to you, but you couldn’t quite grasp it? And how many times were you too afraid to ask a question for fear of looking stupid? Let me take it one step further; you don’t ask questions and then you propose a solution that is off the mark. The customer then accuses you of not listening to his or her needs and rejects your offer…that’s if they’re kind enough to let you know at all.
In both instances, the problems could’ve been solved by simply having the courage to ask questions.

Wade’s Rule: Don’t assume or presume; verify.

In scenario 1 you’re the teacher. Don’t assume the audience understands what you’re talking about. Ask questions and solicit responses that confirm your audience’s understanding and their ability to follow your presentation.

Here are some probing questions during a presentation:

• Having said that, give me some applications for your company?
• Does this solution remind you of (fill in the blank)?
• What’s missing from this plan?

In scenario 2, you’re the student and you have to ask for clarification if you don’t understand. Keep in mind that people love talking about themselves and their company….so don’t be bashful when it comes to asking for more clarification.
Here are some clarification questions during a customer visit:

• So if I understand what you’re saying, then (fill in the blank)…
• I’m not clear on the application, can you give me a specific example?
• How does this compare to (fill in the blank) solution?

Whichever the case, teacher or student, don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you’re not understanding something, you can be sure there is someone else in the room who doesn’t understand it either.

If you want make sure others understand you, test them. Ask them questions you know the answers to. The objective is not to make them feel stupid, but to make sure they understand what you have to say, and offer.

Final sales note: There’s nothing worse, if not sadder, than a salesperson who travels to a customer premise and at the end of the meeting both parties are still unclear of what the other does or has to offer. The client didn’t understand your products/services and you didn’t understand their current needs. That’s a lose-lose situation.

Creative Destruction

This past weekend I decided to revisit my bookshelves to poke around and reminisce with books I’d read over the last decade. You see, I not only like to collect great books, I also date each one to remind me of when I read it. My ‘invisible finger’ guided me toward a book I read seven years ago titled, “Wealth and Freedom” by David Levin. Wealth and Freedom (I know…sounds boring) is a great read on political economy for non-economists…like me. LOL!

In the second chapter titled “Capitalism”, Levine dedicates a segment to a phrase made popular by the Economist Joseph Schumpeter; that phrase being ‘Creative Destruction’ which describes the chaotic changes that occur when a new product (i.e., technology) or service is introduced into the market. For example, remember when the Compact Disc was introduced ushering in the dramatic decline of the use of audio tapes. The most current example is how Digital Video Discs (DVDs) are now ousting VHS tapes from our local video stores. Soon, even DVDs will be replaced by high-speed internet downloads.

What happens to the old products? Gone. What happens to the people that use to work for the audio or VHS tape companies? They eventually move to another position or go to work for these new digital companies. In the end, the consumer wins because a new and more efficient product has been created making our lives more convenient (e.g., no more fast forward, less shelf space for CDs and DVDs, etc.).

Change is the ongoing cycle of capitalism. Introduce a new product. It then creates an upheaval in the marketplace. The upheaval settles into normality until the next creative destruction (new technology) comes along.

As I reread Levine’s description of creative destruction, my mind wandered onto the topic of success. I began to think about the many people who are so comfortable with their lives that they don’t want anything to change. Yet, many of them live quiet lives of desperation; who deep down inside want change. They want something exciting to happen to their existence. But when something new is introduced into their normal daily life, they’re quick to reject it. Herein lay one of the greatest conundrums of success. We want our lives to change, but we don’t want anything to change that would cause us to have to make changes. Huh?!

In the marketplace, change is forced upon us by the creative minds of individuals with new ideas and visions. But in our personal space, who will force change upon us? Who will force us to change our habits of failure into habits of success? Who will force us to try something we’ve never done before? Who will coerce us to move beyond our comfort zone? Who? You, that’s who!

Many of us are waiting for a ‘change agent’, a creative destructive force that will make our lives, in the end, better. Unfortunately, the majority of people wait all their lives for such a creative force of change that never shows up.

I don’t need to tell you that you can’t wait for a creative destructive force to make you do what needs to be done. No ‘great power’ is going to intercede in your change until you consciously decide to make it happen. Nothing will happen until you creatively destroy the old patterns that haven’t been working over the years.

Creative destruction for you is a commitment to stop, evaluate and redirect your energies toward your aspirations regardless of the unintended consequences. You can’t predict what may come when you start to reconstruct your live. You can’t prognosticate every outcome. You can’t always assuage your fear of failure. What you can do is convince yourself that your present life is not enough and that if something is to dramatically change, you must make a dramatic change in your approach.

So here’s what I want you to do. Introduce the cycle of success (creative destruction) into your life. Start a new activity or good habit today. That habit will create some upheaval (i.e., change) in your life which will eventually settle into normality until you introduce the next creatively destructive habit.

Where do you begin? You begin by doing things you’ve always feared doing. Read a book that will inspire you. I usually recommend the bible, however as this is a business topic, I am directing in this genre. Begin by doing little things you’ve always put off for tomorrow. Begin by taking small risks and a few leaps of faith so you can begin to reformulate, reconstitute, reconstruct the new you while at the same time creatively destroying the old you.

Like anything in life that’s worth pursing, change comes with a cost. You will have moments when you are uncertain of the direction your headed. There will be moments when you’ll want to revert to the old you because it seems easier. There will be times when you wish you could just go back to your old life. Don’t do it! Although these tendencies are a natural reaction to change, you must resist the urge to regress back to mediocrity.

The outcome of creative destruction will not be immediately evident. Only as time passes and as you begin to redefine your life will you be able to appreciate the benefits of your self-inflicted upheaval. New patterns bring new thoughts which lead to even newer patterns of success.

Albert Einstein defined the definition of insanity as doing the same thing, the same way over and over again and expecting a different outcome. Both Einstein and Schumpeter understood that a new YOU will only emerge as a result of a change in YOU.

R. Wade Younger, MBA, CSP, CSM, TEFL – International Speaking & Business Consulting – The World’s Largest Collection of Life Skills for Kids

That’s just semantics…

That’s just semantics….” Said scornfully, the remark implies that time spent understanding the meaning of words is wasted.
In fact, words are extremely important. Clear language is not only essential to communications. It’s the basis for clear thinking.
The importance of clarity in communications is readily apparent. Too often, leaders make a request, and by the time it filters through layers of management to the people who ultimately fulfill it, its meaning has changed dramatically and results are unsatisfying.
Even in one-on-one discussions, clear language is essential. A leadership team disagrees about the need for team-building. He thinks people work well together, and team-building would be a waste of time. She complains that teamwork just isn’t working, and something needs to be done to improve it. He says “team” and means the people who report to him. She says “team” and means the people from throughout the organization who are working together on a project. It’s no wonder these two leaders disagree!
Similarly, people in organizations make commitments to one another; but when one requests this and the other promises that, their agreement is meaningless and disappointment is inevitable.
Beyond communications, precise language is also essential to clear thinking. People think by manipulating symbols — words and numbers — in their minds and in writing. If those symbols don’t distinguish differing concepts, the differences are likely to be lost.
Phillipinos have at least 22 words for “rice,” and perceive the differences. Eskimos have at least 20 words for “snow,” and perceive the differences. On the other hand, as an American, I know only a handful of words for “rice” and “snow,” and do not appreciate the subtle differences. It’s not that my eyes cannot see what Phillipinos and Eskimos see. Without the right words, it’s hard to even think about a concept.
You have a “budget” for 15 people, and all are quite busy with current commitments. A customer approaches you and requests another project — requiring that you hire an addition person — and is willing to cover all costs. Do you take her money and hire the person, or turn her away for lack of “budget?”
That depends…. If “budget” means “spending power” (like a checkbook), then your checkbook may be empty; but you’re happy to take on the work (and the additional headcount) as long as the customer pays all costs. On the other hand, if “budget” means a “cap” on your headcount, you cannot take on the project without risking a poor performance appraisal. The difference between spending power and caps is significant; it’s crucial not to use the same word for both concepts.
Sometimes, business slang leads people to serious misunderstandings.
For example, in business, people have come to use the word “own” synonymously with the word “produce.” Managers might be heard to say, “I own this product line,” when in fact they mean to say that they produce it. When staff within an organization use language in this way, they often come to believe that they have the right to decide what products and services they produce. This misconception undermines a culture of customer focus, and often squanders the organization’s scarce resources on products for which the corporation has little use.
Another common example of semantic sloppiness in organizations is using the word “customer” synonymously with the word “client.”
Let’s presume that the word “client” refers to people outside the organization who benefit from its work. If we take the word “customer” to mean the same thing, then clearly one’s peers within the organization are not customers.
However, high-performance teamwork depends on internal customer-supplier relationships where, for every project, a prime contractor is accountable for all its deliverables and forms teams by “buying” help from peers. With this paradigm, teams form quickly, involving just the right people at just the right time. Furthermore, everyone on each team understands his or her individual accountabilities, and the chain of authority within the team is clear.
On the other hand, if the concept of “customer” is limited to clients (outside the organization), it’s easy for people to abandon commitments to peers in favor of clients’ requests. In such an environment, it’s difficult to trust one’s peers and teamwork disintegrates. Results include dissatisfied peers and clients, political strife, and reduced organizational performance.
Clients are people outside the organization. Clients are generally customers, but peers within the organization can be customers as well. Occasionally, clients serve as suppliers, as do peers. In fact, a peer may be your customer on one project, and your supplier on another. “Customer” and “supplier” refer to relationships, not a set of people. To think clearly about one’s accountabilities, it’s essential to use different words for these very different concepts.
In most business discussion, definitions found in conventional dictionaries suffice. But there are some situations where distinctions are critical and common semantics are ambiguous. In my experience, leadership and organizational design are particularly sensitive to misunderstandings. Where this has proven the case, we’ve been pressed to define terms very carefully.
It’s not important that others adopt our words. It is important that people within an organization agree on a single meaning for each word.

R. Wade Younger, MBA, CSP, CSM, TEFL – International Speaking & Business Consulting – The World’s Largest Collection of Life Skills for Kids

Dragging Mental Bricks

The majority of things we worry about never come to pass. The majority of bad things that have happen to us are in the past so why worry about them. The majority of bad things that have happened to us seldom repeat themselves. Suffice it to say, that most of our worries and anxieties come from the past and have no bearing on our current state of mind.
Yet, I’m constantly amazed at the type of issues people carry with them day-to-day, month-to-month, and year-to-year. It’s common knowledge that we can’t change the past, so why dwell on it? It’s common knowledge that the past, once survived, can’t hurt us, it can only help us become stronger.

Having stated the obvious, why do most of us continually drag our past with us every day. We take our past to work with us, bring it into our personal lives and we even tuck into bed with us every night.

I want you to start thinking about these past incidents you carry with you as individual bricks. And every day, you load up your bricks into your “self pity” sack and off you go. Yes, a sack of bricks. Every time I see negative people walking around I visualize them carrying a large sack of bricks. For everything wrong that’s gone wrong in their lives, they add another brick to the sack. Although the bricks are not real, but imaginary, the weight of each is undeniable and directly proportional to the credence the person gives to it.
When things don’t go your way, you get upset and add another brick ‘labeled’ resentment into the sack. When you get rejected for a job or get terminated by no fault of your own add a brick called ‘dejection’ to the sack. How much emphasis you place on these setbacks determines the size of the brick. Over time that sack will weigh you down to the point of inertia; you can’t move.

In real life if I asked you to carry a sack of bricks with you to work, in your car when you’re in traffic, or when you go to bed you’d think I was crazy or a sadist. So why is it that most people choose to carry a sack of mental bricks of the past around with them every day? But more importantly, how is it that others seem to be free of the sack?

There are two categories of people in the world, a Brick Carrier and a Brick Layer. Brick carriers like to carry their bricks with them everywhere they go. They never seem to stop worrying about things in life. They’re always worried about money, always resentful of something and always suspicious of everyone. They always have a great excuse of why they haven’t been as successful as they’d hoped. They always blame things outside of control for their lack of success. These carriers will go through life weighted down by their own mental bricks and blaming everyone for their misfortune but themselves.

Brick layers carry their bricks for a while when things go wrong. No one can immediately discard a mental brick when something in life goes wrong. But brick layers know that eventually, sooner or later, they have to take the brick from their “pity” sack and lay it down and begin to either lay the foundation for a better future or a new road toward success. With bricks you can build foundation or build a road towards the future.

Brick carriers always see problems even when an opportunity to move ahead presents itself. Brick carriers are so use to seeing bad in things, they’ve lost their ability to see opportunity. They’ve gone blind. They take every opportunity to pull out their mental bricks and show the world and others how life has cheated them in the past. They love showing the world their bricks of discontent. You can usually identify these bricks carriers by how often they whine about their situation, or complain about others.
These brick carriers also have a perverse sense of pride in their bricks. They never miss an opportunity to share with other how life has done them wrong and the bricks are their proof. They are quick to pull the bricks from their sack, hold it up high in front of everyone, like a badge of honor.

Brick carriers also have a tendency to grow their bricks as time goes on. Feeling like a victim, each incident of injustice, in their mind, will grow over time as the mortar of resentment is glommed onto every brick in their sack. Time has a way of distorting the past; often making it seem either worse or not as bad as you remember. Brick carriers always remember past incidents as worse. And as time distorts their memory of a past incident, so too does the brick become larger and more distorted. Over time, as the mortar of discontent hardens, the bricks begin to resemble a large mass of concrete of a defeated mind.

The reality is that we all carry a sack of bricks. Each brick representing something that went wrong or when someone did us wrong. But time and maturity help us deal with the past and allow us to pull those bricks out of the sack and move on with our lives more freely.
So the question is, are you a brick carrier or a brick layer?

R. Wade Younger, MBA, CSP, CSM, TEFL – International Speaking & Business Consulting – The World’s Largest Collection of Life Skills for Kids

Business Acumen

After I finished writing the book, “Touchstone, An Atlas for Organizational Wellness,” I started to think about our business and how well do we really implement this model. I also thought about how we can convert this roadmap into a seminar type course for other companies, not just a consulting tool, but as a actual classroom offering? Why was this so heavy on my mind?

Because given the speed and unpredictability with which the world is changing, a company cannot rely exclusively on its most senior people to make sense of the business environment. Someone who is 20 might make sense of signals very differently from the way a senior executive would. Moreover, people who are not necessarily senior in the hierarchy can become sophisticated about what it takes to get a deal signed in India, to grow a trading business in a new arena, or to evaluate a package of offers in the area of sustainable development.

At Fruition, we have found that business acumen can be cultivated. Several practices are critical. The first is setting an expectation that our people will make connections outside the company, not just for transactions and deals, but also to explore broader issues outside the normal business relationships. As an example, Fruition has conducted an intensive weeklong executive development program at the Fruition Leadership Institute, where senior executives talk with people from a variety of backgrounds — athletes, anthropologists, political historians, economists, and actors.

Businesses also need to open up conversations within the company. In our organization, we’ve held in-depth dialogues where people talk about the business they want to do, the context in which they want to do business, and what they’re looking for from a company like Fruition. Then, it’s important to give people the space to experiment: to construct and implement their own theories, let them get on with it, and be there to support them if they fail.

Another practice, which we ourselves sometimes miss, is sitting back and reflecting: “I tried something. It felt like a risk. What are the broader lessons? What’s going well? What’s not going well? What do we need to change or confront? What do we need?” We just launched a company called, and we are scheduling time to talk about what we’ve learned from this online learning system.

These kinds of conversations can easily go off the rails unless the individuals involved are grounded, self-aware, and confident enough to admit mistakes or ask for help. Therefore, we deliberately invest in people’s personal growth — not in a self-indulgent manner, but in a business context. People with higher levels of self-awareness are less likely to be limited by their own preconceptions when they look at the world around them. With PODinar, for example, we gradually discovered that companies have a much more complex and subtle set of needs and objectives than we had originally expected. Meeting these needs requires a more nuanced and multidimensional approach to the learning.

We want to help our people develop the kind of self-confidence that will allow them to wait long enough to make sense of external subtleties, instead of immediately jumping to an answer or theory. This is often the real test of whether our people are cultivating a more advanced understanding of the external world: Are they willing to wait, to tune out the daily “noise” of press announcements, to stay focused on the long-term fundamentals of the environment, and to act accordingly?

As people at all levels become more sophisticated and strategic in their outlook, strategy can move from an individual capability to an institutional capability. And with that transition, the quality and speed of our business improves as it increasingly reflects knowledge and insights from across the hierarchy.

The ability to gain insight, construct and act upon the mental model of the big picture requires plenty of practice. The essence of the skill is to find patterns from among a wide variety of trends and to posit the missing ingredients that could catalyze convergence. Many great leaders began to practice this exercise when they were younger, in less complex contexts, and over the years they have developed the requisite skills and judgment.

One simple way to begin is by asking yourself a series of six questions, exploring the ideas with colleagues and peers:

1. What is happening in the world today?
2. What does it mean for others?
3. What does it mean for us?
4. What would have to happen first (for the results we want to occur)?
5. What do we have to do to play a role?
6. What do we do next?

Working through these six questions helps executives assess the validity of the company’s moneymaking approach. This is an iterative process that tests the leaders’ mental abilities to qualitatively see how the world is changing — almost always including the perspectives of others. It requires transcending the old rules of thumb that are etched deep in the psyches of many executives, and it means giving up the habitual reliance on precedent that worked for many companies during times of more linear change.

But the ability to perceive trends quickly, or even to make sense of them, will not automatically guarantee success. Rather, success depends on the rigor and discipline applied to the entire process of envisioning the changes, deducing specific actions, and implementing the plan.

Some leaders do this by deliberately seeking out diverse perspectives and listening to a wide variety of sources. They meet regularly with other top CEOs to bounce ideas off one another; they regularly read not just magazines and newspapers. They attend confabs like the annual World Economic Forum. Their social networks are filled with sharp observers who share their intense curiosity but come from diverse backgrounds. Leaders with business acumen are accustomed to informal chats with others, during which they feed their hunger for other viewpoints. They seek out younger leaders who understand how new technologies are being used or who are less bound by past ways of doing business.

Of course, there is a good deal of noise out there, too. Not every conversation will add clarity to the big picture.

In closing, great leaders can stay on point. They build their big-picture view, listen to and sift out extraneous threads, bounce their opinions off others, retest their qualitative hypotheses, and reformulate their big-picture view. This unseen iterative process provides the vital foundation for developing business acumen. Such leaders know that they are responsible for the organization’s ability not just to adapt, but also to choose its course; the long-term survival of the enterprise depends on their ability to learn to see more effectively. That’s the skill you want every single employee to have or at least understand.

R. Wade Younger, MBA, CSP, CSM, TEFL – International Speaking & Business Consulting – The World’s Largest Collection of Life Skills for Kids

Acres of Diamonds

Sometimes Opportunity is Right Where You are At

There once lived not far from the River Indus an ancient Persian by the name of Al Hafed. Al Hafed owned a very large farm with orchards, grain fields and gardens. He was a contented and wealthy man, contented because he was wealthy, and wealthy because he was contented.

One day there visited this old farmer one of those ancient Buddhist priests, and he sat down by Al Hafed’s fire and told that old farmer how this world of ours was made.  He said that this world was once a mere bank of fog, which is scientifically true, and he said that the Almighty thrust his finger into the bank of fog and then began slowly to move his finger around and gradually to increase the speed of his finger until at last he whirled that bank of fog into a solid ball of fire, and it went rolling through the universe, burning its way through other cosmic banks of fog, until it condensed the moisture without, and fell in floods of rain upon the heated surface and cooled the outward crust. Then the internal flames burst through the cooling crust and threw up the mountains and made the hills and the valleys of this wonderful world of ours. If this internal melted mass burst out and cooled very quickly it became granite; that which cooled less quickly became silver; and less quickly, gold; and after gold diamonds were made. Said the old priest, “A diamond is a congealed drop of sunlight.”

This is a scientific truth also. You all know that a diamond is pure carbon, actually deposited sunlight — and he said another thing I would not forget: he declared that a diamond is the last and highest of God’s mineral creations, as a woman is the last and highest of God’s creations. I suppose that is the reason why the two have such a liking for each other. And the old priest told Al Hafed that if he had a handful of diamonds he could purchase a whole country, and with a mine of diamonds he could place his children upon thrones through the influence of their great wealth.

Al Hafed heard all about diamonds and how much they were worth, and went to his bed that night a poor man — not that he had lost anything, but poor because he was discontented and discontented because he thought he was poor. He said: “I want a mine of diamonds!” So he lay awake all night, and early in the morning sought out the priest.

Now I know from experience that a priest when awakened early in the morning is cross. He awoke that priest out of his dreams and said to him, “Will you tell me where I can find diamonds?” The priest said, “Diamonds? What do you want with diamonds?” “I want to be immensely rich,” said Al Hafed, “but I don’t know where to go.” “Well,” said the priest, “if you will find a river that runs over white sand between high mountains, in those sands you will always see diamonds.” “Do you really believe that there is such a river?” “Plenty of them, plenty of them; all you have to do is just go and find them, then you have them.” Al Hafed said, “I will go.” So he sold his farm, collected his money at interest left his family in charge of a neighbor, and away he went in search of diamonds.

He began very properly, to my mind, at the Mountains of the Moon. Afterwards he went around into Palestine, then wandered on into Europe, and at last, when his money was all spent, and he was in rags, wretchedness and poverty, he stood on the shore of that bay in Barcelona, Spain, when a tidal wave came rolling in through the Pillars of Hercules and the poor, afflicted, suffering man could not resist the awful temptation to cast himself into that incoming tide, and he sank beneath its foaming crest, never to rise in this life again.

When that old guide had told me that very sad story, he stopped the camel I was riding and went back to fix the baggage on one of the other camels, and I remember thinking to myself, “Why did he reserve that for his particular friends?” There seemed to be no beginning, middle or end — nothing to it. That was the first story I ever heard told or read in which the hero was killed in the first chapter. I had but one chapter of that story and the hero was dead.

When the guide came back and took up the halter of my camel again, he went right on with the same story. He said that Al Hafed’s successor led his camel out into the garden to drink, and as that camel put its nose down into the clear water of the garden brook Al Hafed’s successor noticed a curious flash of light from the sands of the shallow stream, and reaching in he pulled out a black stone having an eye of light that reflected all the colors of the rainbow, and he took that curious pebble into the house and left it on the mantel, then went on his way and forgot all about it.

A few days after that, this same old priest who told Al Hafed how diamonds were made, came in to visit his successor, when he saw that flash of light from the mantel. He rushed up and said, “Here is a diamond — here is a diamond! Has Al Hafed returned?” “No, no; Al Hafed has not returned and that is not a diamond; that is nothing but a stone; we found it right out here in our garden.” “But I know a diamond when I see it,” said he; “that is a diamond!”

Then together they rushed to the garden and stirred up the white sands with their fingers and found others more beautiful, more valuable diamonds than the first, and thus, said the guide to me, were discovered the diamond mines of Golconda, the most magnificent diamond mines in all the history of mankind, exceeding the Kimberley in its value. The great Kohinoor diamond in England’s crown jewels and the largest crown diamond on earth in Russia’s crown jewels, which I had often hoped she would have to sell before they had peace with Japan, came from that mine, and when the old guide had called my attention to that wonderful discovery he took his Turkish cap off his head again and swung it around in the air to call my attention to the moral.

Those Arab guides have a moral to each story, though the stories are not always moral. He said had Al Hafed remained at home and dug in his own cellar or in his own garden, instead of wretchedness, starvation, poverty and death — a strange land, he would have had “acres of diamonds” — for every acre, yes, every shovelful of that old farm afterwards revealed the gems which since have decorated the crowns of monarchs. When he had given the moral to his story, I saw why he had reserved this story for his “particular friends.” I didn’t tell him I could see it; I was not going to tell that old Arab that I could see it. For it was that mean old Arab’s way of going around such a thing, like a lawyer, and saying indirectly what he did not dare say directly, that there was a certain young man that day traveling down the Tigris River that might better be at home in America. I didn’t tell him I could see it.

R. Wade Younger, MBA, CSP, CSM, TEFL – International Speaking & Business Consulting – The World’s Largest Collection of Life Skills for Kids

Autopsy of Inaction

How do people get to the point in their life where they aren’t motivated to do anything?   Why do people lose hope?  As I go around the U.S. speaking, too often I come across people who seemed to have given up on their dream or aspirations.  They’ve settled for what they’ve gotten and there’s no more fight in them.  I can see it in their eyes; they look defeated.

I’ve put together here ONE scenario of what I think happens to some who lose that spirit of achieving their highest potential.  I like to think of this diagnosis as an autopsy of inaction.  This is what happens to people who don’t take action in life and simply accept their fate accompli.

You didn’t take time to write down your goals, because you didn’t need to.  You have them right in your head…no need to write them out.  Everyone reminds you to write down your goals, but you insist it isn’t necessary.

Time goes on and you get this uneasy feeling that you are NOT progressing in life as fast as you’d like.  But you can’t be sure of this lack of progress because you have no goals by which to measure your progress.

Since you can’t measure your progress, you decide to look to a surrogate measurement by comparing what you have to what others have.  You do this comparative analysis and you ultimately conclude that you don’t have as much as another person your age or as much as the person you went to High School with.

Now you get more depressed and become irritable.  You become so irritable that people find it hard to talk to you because you’re either grumpy all the time or you bite their heads off when they say anything that triggers some insecure feeling about not making progress in life.

The result?  You start losing friends.  Now they won’t tell you that they’re not your friends any more, they just stop calling you or find excuses of why they can’t get together with you.
Now resentment kicks in and you affirm to yourself that you don’t need friends any way.  So you close in on yourself and now the television become your new, best friend.  It’s a wonderful companion because it helps you forget about your worries by numbing your mind.

But then you start noticing that people on the television seem to have a better life than you do.  Your discontent grows as you see how much other people have on the television and how much you don’t as you survey your skimpy apartment.

Even though television is NOT a reflection of reality, you get more depressed and unmotivated to do anything.  You soon realize (or imagine to yourself) how far behind you are compared to others when it comes to material measures of success. Now you’re totally depressed or deject and you don’t want to do anything.

When you get to this point, you’ve reached the “I Accept” point of your life:

I accept that I will never be happy.
I accept that I will never have the things others have.
I accept that I will never be able to achieve the dreams I once had.

Once you’ve reached this point, you join the millions who live out their lives in quiet desperation every day.  Although you have an almost mute yearning for more in life, you reconcile within yourself that maybe this is all there is to have in life.  You tell yourself that you will never be more than what you’ve already become, The Living Dead.

Although you have not been officially pronounced dead, your spirit and will have long since abandoned you.  And one day, as the final moments of life close in on and you feel the reaper’s breath upon the nape of your neck, what will you say?  I don’t know, but I can imagine that it might go something like this:

I settled for less, I didn’t do my best,
Early I faltered, My life I did alter,
My mind retreated, My spirit now defeated,
I wish I had…
One more smile,
Just one more laugh,
One more kiss,
Just one more hug,
One more love,
Just one more friend,
One more chance,
Just one last dance,
some more time…

When the end comes I’m sure that you won’t be asking for money, a new car, a bigger house, etc.  The things you’ll long for the most in those final moments will be those things you could’ve had for free.     Success is measured by the quality of your life, not by some comparative analysis of what you do or do not have.  Remember:

  • Don’t be discouraged to act because you feel you’re too far behind.  Nonsense!
  • Don’t compare what you want to what others have.  Mistake!
  • Don’t let your dream suffocate under indecision.  Tragic!

And finally, don’t let inaction lead you down a path of despair.  It’s a dead-end.

As the Star Wars’ Jedi Master Yoda would probably say, “Umm, lonely you’ll be!”

R. Wade Younger, CSP

401 North Tryon Street
10th Floor
Charlotte, North Carolina, 28202, U.S.A

WadeYounger.comInternational Speaking & Business Consulting
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Ali and Winning

The other night I was watching a documentary on that famous boxing match called The Rumble in the Jungle.  The fight was between Muhammad Ali (Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee) and George Foreman.

The fight was held in Kinshasa, Zaire back in 1974.  This fight was crucial to Muhammad Ali who was at a career low-point after having lost his last two big fights.  He now faced George Foreman, the unstoppable power-punching champion who was bent on beating Ali.

Everyone believed that there was no way Ali could beat Foreman.  Foreman was a power puncher and Ali was a ‘dancer’.  During practice Foreman would hit the punching bag so hard he would leave a dent when he was done.

Despite losing his last two fights and knowing the power of Foreman, Ali continued to tell the media how he was going to ‘whup’ Foreman and make him look bad.  Foremen ignored the taunts confident that he could beat Ali.  During his training Foreman practiced ‘cutting off the ring’ so Ali wouldn’t be able to dance away from his powerful punches.

Ali in the meantime continued to practice his ‘dancing’ and didn’t let up the verbal assaults and insults on Foreman.  He was clearly asking for beating!

On fight night, both men went at it.  Foreman did everything to corner off Ali so he wouldn’t dance, forcing him up against the ropes and then unloading massive punches to the body and head.  Ali was clearly taking a beating on the ropes.  Yet, he continued to taunt Foreman in the ring.  Every time they were tied up, you could see Ali trash talking Foreman.  Everyone feared Ali’s rounds were numbered and that it was a matter of time before he would go down.

Then something happened.  Foreman was getting tired.  By the 5th round he had punched himself out.  By the 8th round he was in trouble.  Out of somewhere deep inside of Ali came a barrage of punches off the ropes that pushed Foreman to the center of the ring.  And with a few more punches, Ali watched as the titan known as Foreman hit the canvas floor.  Ten counts later, Muhammad Ali was the champion.  David had beaten Goliath.

Ali’s strategy, wasn’t to dance as he had led on, but it was to let Foreman tire himself out since he knew he couldn’t go toe-to-toe, punch-for-punch with Foreman.  His now famous Rope-a-Dope strategy worked.  Ali was written into history as “The Greatest” but for George Foreman, he would go into the deepest depression of his life for the next two years.

It’s easy to admire a champion like Ali because there is no denying his greatness in the sport.  We as a nation admire strength and skill.  We like winners.  But when I look at George Foreman the Entrepreneur today, I have a deeper admiration.  For here is a man who suffered one of greatest defeats in sport’s history in front of the world and yet was able to redefine himself.

Foreman has emerged as a true human champion having amassed the courage and strength within him to become a successful businessman and humanitarian.  They say adversity reveals the true character of a man.  Well Foreman has been revealed!  And he has revealed that defeat isn’t final or fatal; that we can all make a comeback in our own way.  He has revealed that success can be redefined.  He has revealed to us that greatness isn’t what happens inside the ring when the whole world is watching, but what happens outside the ring when no one cares any longer.
Side Note: Foreman recaptured his title on Nov. 5, 1994 at age 45 with a 10-round KO of WBA/IBF champ Michael Moore, becoming the oldest man to win heavyweight crown.  That’s character !

R. Wade Younger, MBA, CSP, CSM, TEFL – International Speaking & Business Consulting – The World’s Largest Collection of Life Skills for Kids

Cold Calling Your Way Up!

I was inspired to write this after having an interesting conversation with a friend of mine.  This was a classic case of cold calling to the right people.  That said, “Does cold calling really work?”

Well, you can safely answer this question with a lawyer’s default response, “It depends.”


A friend of mine, Director of Sales was trying to break into a company, legally of course.  He was trying to find out who the decision makers were.  His company offered what could be termed an Asset Management Reduction Strategy.  In simple layman terms, he helped track company assets and re-appraise them in order to reduce their overall tax base.

Who to contact?  He thought the best place to start was with the legal and finance department.  So he called and gave them his sales pitch; but he met with resistance.  He kept sending them the documentation they requested and would follow-up, but with little success.

He couldn’t understand it.  He knew, based on his assessment of the company’s asset structure and tax base that he could save the company over $1 million dollars.  He just couldn’t understand why he wasn’t able to drive this point home.

This is where I come into the story.  The Director tells me this whole story.  He shows me how he’s done his research, the documents he’s prepared and specifically how the company could save a load of money.

It was then that I pointed out the obvious to him.  I said, “Why would a department that’s in charge of helping the company save money hire you if you’re going to do their job better than they are?”  I continued, “By hiring you as a financial consultant, they are in affect admitting to their own inadequacy.”

I could tell he was stunned by the remark.  He nodded his head.  It was a cross between you’re right and, why didn’t I think of that.

I said, “What you need to do is start calling on the top of the pyramid, not the bottom.  The people at the top are VERY concerned with the bottom-line where the salaried employees at the bottom may be more concerned with keeping their job.”

He said, “You know, you’re right.  I bet if I showed the CEO these numbers, he’d listen to me.”  I agreed.
About two weeks later he called to thank me and give me an update.  His comments were something along these lines:

“Wade, it was incredible.  I spoke with the CEO of the company after seven attempts to get his assistant to put me through.  I gave him my three minute sales pitch on what I knew I could do to save his company money. He liked what he heard and directed me to speak with his CFO.  He personally called the CFO to make sure he took my call.  And guess what?  I didn’t have to call him, he called me.  After giving him the same spiel, guess what? He said, “Your timing is impeccable.  I am in the process of putting together a finance review for our board and I needed to bring to the table some cost saving measures; when can I see your proposal?””

He was one happy salesman.  About two months later, after all the terms and conditions were agreed to, he was awarded the business.  His commission for the deal after it was completed in 5 months, $45,000.  How do I know?  He showed me the check over a $7 breakfast he bought me.  What a friend 🙂

Cold Calling Rules of Engagement:

Cold Calling works when you know who your company/customer is.
Cold calling is effective if you talk to the right person.  The higher you aim, the higher the accountability.
Cold calling uncovers hidden opportunities (e.g., cost saving measures needed by the CFO).
Finally, my friend called 7 times before the assistant put him through.  His persistence was driven by the fact that he KNEW he had something good to offer the company.  He was so sold on his idea that he couldn’t keep himself from trying to sell it to someone else. That’s passion!  That’s selling!

R. Wade Younger, CSP

401 North Tryon Street
10th Floor
Charlotte, North Carolina, 28202, U.S.A
980.200.3000 – International Speaking & Business Consulting – Project Leadership & Organizational Development – The World’s Largest Collection of Life Skills for Kids

Being Your Best When You’re Feeling Your Worst

A great question I’ve been asked recently by several of my seminar attendees is “How do you do it? How can you produce that incredible energy on demand? Don’t you ever have a bad day?”

It’s a great question because no matter what, I owe my clients and my audiences everything I’ve got. I can’t contact a meeting planner who has been slaving for months and months to put together a fabulous meeting and say, “Oh, I got dumped last night, I don’t think I can motivate your 500 attendees.” The month my Mom passed away I had speeches a few days before and after her funeral. My clients never knew.

Most of you have to perform on demand as well – you can’t tell your boss, “I’m feeling a little upset about my problems at home, I don’t think I can give the big sales presentation today.” You’ve got to pull it together and do what needs to be done. Excellence isn’t about waiting until you feel like performing – excellence is about performing when you need to, whether you feel like it or not.

So how do you do it?

1.) Do what you love. Anyone who has seen me speak knows I am passionate about The Value Wave and I consider any day I get to speak a great day. I can honestly say that I love the people I get to work with and I love what I do.

2.) Know where your energy comes from. I’m an extrovert and my energy comes from people. Put me in a room full of them and I come to life. This matches my performance needs. If you need to be alone to recharge, try giving yourself alone time before you have to produce or finding situations where you get to be alone when you need to be “on”. If you truly aren’t suited to the work you’re in, it will be much harder to excel on demand.

3.) Take outstanding care of your physical body. My health is my number one priority; I regard it as the foundation for my performance. Eight to nine hours of sleep a night, regular exercise (both cardio and resistance training), and good nutrition keep me running on high octane. Am I perfect with these habits all the time? Heck no, but I’m pretty darn consistent and it pays off big time. I haven’t taken a sick day that I can remember and I feel great. If you are too sleepy or too overweight, it’s going to be much harder (if not impossible) to focus when you need to and produce your best.

4.) Be aware of your mental state. If you are in a funk, figure out why. Maybe it was that phone call from your Mother. Maybe it was that run-in with your annoying co-worker. Then understand it – realize your Mother didn’t mean to make you feel guilty, she’s just lonely and wants to see you. Then you can decide if you want to keep feeling guilty or would prefer to choose another state of mind. This becomes much easier with practice. The key is to realize how much control you have over your mental state.

5.) Do something. When we’re feeling hurt or upset, it’s easy to wallow: to think about all the other times we’ve been hurt, to dwell on the unfairness of it, to feel terribly sorry for ourselves. We’ve all done it, but it doesn’t do us a bit of good. It makes us feel even worse and gives the person or event that hurt us way too much power. The best thing to do is dry your tears and act. I might call a good friend who I know loves me or hit the gym. Maybe even run some errands – anything!

6.) Learn to let go. Again, this one becomes easier with practice. If you can’t do anything about something – let it go. I can’t make someone love me; I can’t bring back the dead. But I can refuse to let those things stop me. Let go of pain – there’s just no need to hang onto it. Focus your thoughts on things you can do something about.

7.) Check your beliefs. Do you believe you fall apart at the first sign of trouble? Do you believe that if a certain person leaves you, your life will be meaningless? Do you think you are an emotional basket case? You better work on changing those incorrect beliefs, because you are what you believe yourself to be. I believe that no matter what happens in my life, I will be okay. I will never give up on myself. Will you give up on yourself?

I believe we give up on ourselves when we don’t take care of our physical bodies. I believe we give up on ourselves when we allow people who mistreat us to stay in our lives. I believe we give up on ourselves when we do work we hate because we are afraid to change. I believe we give up on ourselves when we don’t try to become everything we are capable of becoming.

The only one who can bring out your best is you. The more you learn to be your best when you are feeling at your worst, the easier it becomes. It feeds on itself – you learn that you are in control of your destiny. At anytime, in any place, it is YOU who decides what your life will be.

R. Wade Younger, MBA, CSP, CSM, TEFL – International Speaking & Business Consulting – The World’s Largest Collection of Life Skills for Kids

Retreats That Really Work

Many of you are involved with associations, chambers of commerce or other nonprofit organizations governed by Boards of Directors. As a former nonprofit executive, I find this structure can be awfully hard to work with— the Executive Director is supposed to run the show and the board members are key volunteers, but the Executive Director actually reports to them.

Many times the Executive is a professional in the operation of the organization and knows much more about how it should operate, but he or she answers to the Board—sometimes well intentioned community volunteers who have no idea how an association, chamber or nonprofit is supposed to operate. Yet they are in charge. This can be frustrating and confusing for all involved. The most recent Executive Director resignation at the NAACP is a great example of how difficult these relationships can be.

What can truly help is bringing in someone from the outside to clarify roles and help the organization move forward. I have recently facilitated several board retreats where this is exactly what happened. Organizations that had gotten away from their missions were refocused and put back on track. How did this happen?

It makes all the difference in the world when you bring in someone from the outside. They have no personal agenda and can ask all the hard questions. It’s very difficult for an Executive Director, who serves at the pleasure of the board, to tell Board members they have lost sight of the big picture or have conflicts of interest, but an outsider can.

The Value Wave can do it in a way that motivates the group to achieve excellence. It’s an exciting process and because of the dramatic results I’ve had, I’m adding this to my list of services. This is not designed as a big pep rally—it’s designed for organizations that need to advance to a more professional level or need to clarify their missions.

Think of it as hiring a personal trainer for your board. We get results you can’t get alone.

R. Wade Younger, MBA, CSP, CSM, TEFL – International Speaking & Business Consulting – The World’s Largest Collection of Life Skills for Kids

Failure – Be Bitter or Be Better

“You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it.” Margaret Thatcher

Failure. Even the word sounds bad, doesn’t it? That is because since the time we were young children we were taught that failure was bad. But is that true? Is failure all bad? Let’s consider some things.

If I shared with you the trials and tribulations that I have been though over the past few months,

I like a baseball analogy. Do you know what the record is for a season batting average (That means how many times the batter successfully hit to get on base)? It is a gentleman by the name of Ted Williams and his season batting average was .406 one year. That means that out of 1000 times at bat he would get a hit 406 times. That is considered by baseball fans as one of the greatest records ever. There are players making millions of dollars who hit .280!

But what does that stat also tell us if we flip it around? It tells us that the best season any batter ever had in the major leagues was a FAILURE RATE of .589! Even the best fail on a regular basis!

What about the richest people on Wall Street? Do they fail? Of course they do. They pick the bad stocks sometimes, but they cut their loses and learn from their failure.
Did Michael Jordan miss shots? Over 50% of them!

So what about all this? What does this mean for us? The fact is, I think we can learn a lot about failure that will actually make us a great success. So here are some thoughts to help you use failure to further your future!

Failure is inevitable if you are trying for greatness.
Failure is something we must accept as a part of the road we travel to success. This is a very important item and number one on the list because a lot of what stops people from pursuing success is their fear that they may fail and not reach their destination. When we embrace the fact that we will fail, and that is okay, then we have nothing to fear anymore. Instead, we keep our eyes open and pick ourselves up, adjust from the failure, and move on.

Failure is never failure unless you fail to learn something from it.
That’s right, we ought to stop calling these bumps in the road “failures” and start calling them “Learning Experiences!” When you fail, the first thing you should think is “What can I learn from this?” If you can pull just one idea out of that question, then the experience was worth it.

Sometimes failure is a blessing in disguise.
Just ask the 3M Company. They were looking for an incredible adhesive and actually got a sticky paste that held, but not permanently. What a failure! No, instead, they spread some on the back of little sheets of yellow paper and called them “Post-It Notes.” Have some? I’m sure you do. The 3M company thanks you for rewarding their “failure.”

People won’t think poorly of you if you fail.
This is perhaps the biggest myth, and the one that causes us to never attempt our dreams. We don’t try because of what Aunt Martha may say about us at the family reunion. The truth is, however, that people will actually respect you for trying. The only thing I have found that people think poorly about you is if you handle yourself badly when you fail. Sore losers get the bad press, not people who attempt great things!

Failure isn’t the end but the beginning.
One of our greatest fears is that our whole world will collapse if we fail. Or at least the project will. The truth is that that rarely happens! Most of the time we can pick back up again, make some adjustments and be on our way! This is a new beginning. Now there is no need to go down the road you have already taken, so there is one less option you have to try on your new journey.

Sometimes we miss out on success because we quit in the middle of a problem and it becomes a failure instead of an obstacle we could have persevered through.
When people encounter trouble they have a tendency to quit. And then they see themselves as having Failed. My question is this: What if they would have kept on going – persevered? Perhaps they would have struggled a bit and then broke free again. The failure happened only because they quit! So don’t give up – keep pushing – and perhaps you will see yourself through to victory!

The greatest thing to overcome is the fear of failure.
Most of the battle is right between our ears. It has been said that “we have nothing to fear but fear itself,” and that is true because in most of our “failures,” the end result is usually much less than we feared it would be. Yet in giving into fear and not trying, we suffer the ultimate consequence – no success! So begin to tell yourself the good stuff! Change the direction of your thinking and begin to see the possibilities of success, not failure.

Remember, properly looked at, failure can help you further your future!


Questions to ask yourself when you “fail”:

What can I learn from this?
What did I do right in this?
Where did this go wrong?
How can I start again?
What resources do I need to make sure this doesn’t happen again?

Then use the answers to these questions to plot your new course. There is a choice to be bitter or be better….I choice better.

R. Wade Younger, MBA, CSP, CSM, TEFL – International Speaking & Business Consulting – The World’s Largest Collection of Life Skills for Kids

Being the change

Ghandi said “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” And he was absolutely right. But how many of us really believe him?

I find that most people are waiting for someone or something else to be the change they wish to see in the world. Let me give you some common examples:

Employer X wants Employee Y to sell more. Rather than being excited about the new products and offering more training and reward opportunities (i.e. being a better leader), he requires Employee Y to make more cold calls. You can force an employee to take certain actions, but they will only be effective if they do them with all their heart. They will only do that if you have inspired them with YOUR actions. Employer X can only get real change by changing himself.
Jill X wants more love in her life. Rather than working on being more loving or loving herself more, she tries to get Joe Y to love her more. This will never work. The only person Jill X can ever change is herself.

If you pay attention, you’ll see this phenomenon all the time. This summer season I went to Washington State and fell in love with hiking. When I returned home I wanted to join a hiking club. When I found none existed in Charlotte, I took the next obvious step and started one. Over eighty people have since contacted me and all have said, “I’ve been waiting for a club like this!” Starting the club wasn’t hard. But someone had to be the change. What change have you been waiting for?

Do you realize how much power you have if you simply act? Want to mend a relationship? Pick up the phone. Need a new job? Reply to some job listings. Want a better employee team? Start being a better leader.

What change do you want to see in the world? Be it!

R. Wade Younger, MBA, CSP, CSM, TEFL – International Speaking & Business Consulting – The World’s Largest Collection of Life Skills for Kids

A Process for Innovation

Our thinking has created problems which cannot be solved by that same level of thinking. –  Albert Einstein

A problem presents itself; people work very hard to solve it; they decide on an action that appears to be a change for the better; yet, after a period of time, it becomes clear that although the surface issue may have been resolved, the basic problem has not been touched.

In the results of an organizational-effectiveness survey that the author helped to develop one item began to show up as highly predictive of the success or productivity of a company: “Even though my fellow team members and I agree to solutions, the same problems keep coming back over and over again.” The score on this item is among the lowest for every organization surveyed, regardless of location, size, or type of industry. It appears that organizations in the U.S. do a lot of what is called “problem solving” without addressing the real issues or problems. Typically, the things that need to be discovered and changed continue to exist just under the surface of the group’s attention, then rise to the surface somewhere else as the same or “another” problem.

This happens for two reasons:

1. The solution agreed to was not a good one because it failed to contact the deeper issue of which the “problem” was a manifestation; or
2.  People did not follow through on what they decided. (It might have been a good decision, but nobody carried it out.)

The STRIDE process is designed to identify the root issue(s) and to produce high-quality solutions that are actually carried out. The process also creates the potential for a “breakthrough,” which is very different from the typical “solution.”


A breakthrough is a fundamental shift in the situation, usually experienced as a basic or profound change in the way those involved “hold” or view the problem. A breakthrough is a new way of thinking. It creates the space for something totally new to happen. People explore the “problem” at a different level than the one at which it shows itself at first; they “get to the bottom of things.”

A breakthrough solution is always accompanied by unusual amounts of energy released in the people involved as well as by a high level of confidence in the ultimate success of the decision, even in the face of early evidence to the contrary. This happens because of a strong commitment to see that the solution works.

The Ingredients of a Breakthrough

It often happens that all of the information needed for a successful resolution of a situation is already present in the system. For example, three incidents from U.S. history—the Titanic disaster, the Bay of Pigs invasion, and the war in Vietnam—all revealed that people had data and points of view that, if brought forward and accepted, could have produced the breakthrough decisions needed.

Valuable information or a crucial point of view may not be recognized by the person who holds it, much less by the group; or it may not be available in the right format at the right time in order to be utilized. After a breakthrough occurs, people usually say, “That was simple; why didn’t we think of it earlier?”

The STRIDE process is a common-sense method for creating the mental environment (the frame of mind) in which a breakthrough can occur. It is designed to help a group to determine and find access to the information it needs (1) to address a problem, not a symptom; (2) to make an intelligent decision about what to do; (3) to obtain sufficient commitment to guarantee success; and (4) to be able to determine how the solution is working later.

In “breaking through,” there is a clear sense of hurdling or surmounting an almost tangible mental boundary. This boundary represents the group’s (or person’s) belief in the existence of certain limits or circumstances, characterized as a “mental rut” or a pattern in the way that problems are approached. This mental rut is, in most cases, a major contributor to the problem, the inability to solve it, and the frustration that results.

Resistance to Breakthroughs: Why We Fight the Best Solutions

Ironically, most groups have a natural resistance to obtaining the breakthroughs they are seeking. We are afraid of the alternatives, of what might be “outside.” People instinctively realize that in attaining something, they must give something up; and the way that one has been thinking about something is very personal and, thus, very precious.
By unwittingly holding on to a problem while “trying” to solve it, we allow ourselves to retain our view of the way things are. Many of us would rather be “right” and have valid reasons for why things do not work than be willing to be “wrong” about something and obtain the results we want.
Conditions for Breakthrough Problem Solving

In order to achieve breakthrough, the individual or the group must be in the right frame of mind (context) and then think about the right things at the right time (process). The context is characterized by four conditions. They must exist before the problem is attacked. Within this context, however, virtually any problem-solving process will work.


Alignment implies a “critical mass” of participants around the ultimate purpose or mission of the group and agreement about how the breakthrough will contribute to it. This means that the people involved in the process must agree on the overall purpose of the larger system. To generate sufficient commitment to achieve breakthrough, the effort must be connected to something “big” and must be important to everyone in the system. People must perceive the opportunity that is inherent in the breakthrough.  There also must be clarity and agreement about how the final decision will be made, that is, how much influence the group will have and how much influence the boss will have. It is imperative that this be clear in each person’s mind before the process begins.


Each individual in the group must believe that the others will do what they say they will do. In a context of mistrust, no breakthrough is possible except, perhaps, to create a shift toward greater trust. It is imperative that a condition of integrity characterize the discussion and decision making. If this condition does not exist to begin with, everyone must commit to make it happen, regardless of the past, and then act accordingly.


The people involved must be willing to take 100-percent responsibility for resolving the situation. The group must identify the ones who have the power to create the change. Blaming someone else or waiting for something else to change creates an atmosphere of powerlessness in which breakthrough cannot occur. Only those who decide—often despite common sense or “fairness” or the chain of command—to take 100 percent of the responsibility for producing the breakthrough will be in a position to make a difference.
An example of this can be seen when two people attempt to shake hands. If both of them simply extend their hands, the hands may not meet. If, however, one person takes responsibility for making it happen, he or she will reach out and pursue the other person’s hand until the two make contact. Progress is rarely made when people limit their efforts to a portion of what is needed.


If there is commitment, the group goes on record that it will make the breakthrough happen, no matter what. Commitment implies the will and the energy to make the breakthrough occur.

Creating the Right Context

Any group, no matter what its history, can decide to act in accordance with the four conditions just described. In fact, just the act of reaching agreement about these conditions may change the nature of the “problem.” The lack of one or more of these conditions may be the real problem that needs to be solved.

To help the group to prepare for the STRIDE process, each member must do the following:

1. Tell the truth, at least to himself or herself.
2. Adopt the position that “I don’t know…” rather than “I already know….”
3. Be willing to let go of whatever is not working.
4. Keep the image of the transformed situation and the ultimate mission in mind at all times.
5. Approach the problem-solving session as if it definitely could transform the situation.
6. Allow any cynicism and resistance to be transformed by the process.

Each member must think of the breakthrough process as a holographic one. The “problem” is actually a manifestation of something else. The group members must ask, “What is this specific problem trying to tell us about our group or situation?” and “What still will be left unresolved even if we successfully resolve this specific problem?” Each “trip” through the STRIDE questions may produce a new awareness of the situation, and the process may have to be repeated again and again until the group reaches the “source issue” or root of the problem. Every superficial solution produces new dilemmas.

When the group generates a breakthrough concept or proposal, everything else will be seen in a transformed perspective. Any new problems that may be engendered by the solution will not seem to matter very much. The group’s whole way of approaching the situation will change, even though many of the details of the situation may appear
the same.


S: The Situation Now
Any breakthrough must start with what is. Clearly identifying the present situation, including any pain in it, can help to provide the commitment needed later. The potential breakthrough is an opportunity implicit in the current reality.

The group members must identify the following:

1.  What is happening now in the situation that we intend to transform?
2. What is a recent, concrete example of the problem?
3. What/how is the situation costing the group or organization? Who is suffering the most?
4. Who else do we need to be talking with (or involving in our deliberations) if we are to succeed? Who is affected by or will have to carry out our solution? How should we involve these people?
5. When we have produced a breakthrough in this area, how will it impact our mission/purpose?
6. Where is the impetus for change coming from? Who currently “owns” the problem?

T: The Target
When you don’t know where you are going, you’re liable to end up somewhere else.


A clear picture of the possibility that a breakthrough represents is necessary to direct efforts toward it. Groups that focus only on the problem achieve less than do groups that focus on desired outcomes. The following questions can help the group members to develop a “target”:

1. What would success look like? What will happen/not be happening (in concrete examples) when we create the breakthrough?
2. Who shares this picture of the way things could be? Who would like to see this picture become reality?
3. How should these people/groups be involved in the process?

One way to help the group members to envision the way things could be is to use guided imagery. Group members may be directed to close their eyes, to travel into the future, and to hover over various aspects of the situation, listening to and noticing the things that surprise and delight them—things they never thought could be achieved. Many useful insights, as well as positive mindsets, are generated by this process.

R: Reasons/Restraining Forces
An accurate analysis of the forces that restrain or oppose a solution or breakthrough is necessary. The group members also must identify the “opposition,” that is, people who may hinder the envisioned solution. There usually are several reasons that a problem continues to exist. Every problem serves some function in the situation and will leave a hole when the breakthrough occurs.

The group must accomplish two things in order to deal with these issues:

1. Determine why the problem continues to exist. (Why has it not taken care of itself?)
2. Conduct and draw a force-field analysis of the situation. (What is working for and against a breakthrough in the situation?)

I: Identifying Key Restraints/Ideas
It is necessary to identify the one or two most important aspects of the analysis of the situation developed thus far. A single factor, or a cluster of them, usually emerges or is sensed by the group. If the members can agree to a commitment to transform that factor or cluster, they have won half of the battle. The following questions may help in this process:

1. Which of the restraining forces are both significant and reducible?
2. Which ones seem closest to the source of the issue?
3. What specifically needs to happen that is inhibited by these forces?
4.  What might the group do about these things?

D: Deciding/Doing/Designing
To decide to do something means to commit 100 percent. It helps to be clear from the beginning about how the final decision will be made and by whom. If this information about the decision is not clear, resistance, reluctance to commit, or picky arguments about details may emerge. If the group is aligned as well as committed, progress will be greatly enhanced. The following questions can help the group members to ready themselves for action:

1. What do we agree to do? Are we willing to commit ourselves 100 percent to do this?
2. What do we need to have others do?
3. What is our plan of action? Who will do what? By when?

E: Evidence of Success/Evaluation
This is an important step that is often overlooked. It closes the loop and creates accountability and expectancy. When signs of success are identified, the breakthrough is supported and nurtured in the face of resistance. The following questions will help the group members to evaluate their progress:

1. What will be the signs of success?
2. Who will be responsible for ensuring that these things are achieved?
3. What evidence will convince us that a breakthrough has occurred?
4. How long will it take for us to decide or know?
5. How will we celebrate or acknowledge our success?

During the STRIDE process, the group must check continually to ensure that all four contextual conditions (alignment, integrity, responsibility, commitment) are present. If one or more is absent, the group must stop the process and work on the contextual issue(s).
Although the process is presented in a linear sequence, it need not occur in that order. If a great idea emerges, it may be most feasible to work outward from there, going backward and forward in the model until all of the steps have been covered. If confronted by an obstacle, the group members would be wise to start with identification of the restraining forces and proceed from there.

As with any new process or skill, the time that it takes (and the self-consciousness that it engenders) to use the process diminishes as the process or skill becomes familiar and as experience is gained in using it. After a while, it can become part of the way in which the group operates.


With a work team or other type of group, the STRIDE process can be used for problem solving. A suggested format for this use is as follows:

1. Deliver a lecturette on the four contextual conditions necessary for breakthrough.
2. Obtain a statement of group alignment on the ultimate purpose or mission of the group or organization.
3. Ask “Who is willing to take personal responsibility for ensuring that a breakthrough occurs here?” Do not proceed until at least one solid commitment has been made.
4. Deliver a lecturette on the STRIDE process.
5. Post a sheet of newsprint on the wall and record all aspects of the STRIDE process. Tell the group members not to worry about “getting ahead” or “being off the subject.”
6. Start with the situation and move ahead.
7. Stop periodically to check for the four contextual conditions.

The process can be used as a consulting model to guide the conditions required in one’s working relationships with clients. A description of the STRIDE process can be distributed to key participants, and the similarity between STRIDE and an action-research model of change can be pointed out.
The STRIDE process can be used as an interviewing framework or in making a first personal or telephone contact. Covering each of the steps in the STRIDE process creates a framework for the discussion and helps to keep it on track.
In designing training events, the consultant/trainer can use the model to ask the client the right questions. Substituting “Design” for “Do” turns STRIDE into a
design process.


STRIDE is particularly effective as a problem-solving process, both in meetings and for thinking through a problem alone before deciding how to handle it. STRIDE also has value as a model of transition management because it clarifies how one wants to work with a new group or organization. Finally, the process can serve as a consultant-client model from the manager’s point of view, to guide the consultant in dealing with the manager’s issues and in working with the manager and his or her people.

R. Wade Younger, MBA, CSP, CSM, TEFL – International Speaking & Business Consulting – The World’s Largest Collection of Life Skills for Kids

Why Customer Service is so Bad?

We all frequent a lot of businesses; most have so-so customer service at best. (But not if you hear their advertising! Customer service is always outstanding!) We’ve become used to clerks who seem put out if they actually have to help us, and we even find ourselves feeling bad if we have to ask for their help! Customer service has become a customer guilt trip. Sure, we all know there are tough customers – but the majority are nice folks who just want the products or services each company is supposed to provide.

Since I conduct customer service training, I know why customer service is often so bad:

1.) Company leadership stinks. They haven’t defined what they expect OR they enforce the rules with some front line people, but not with others OR they have no idea how to motivate and inspire their people OR they assume their people know how to give good customer service. This list could go on and on. I ALWAYS attribute poor service to poor leadership. Period. It starts at the top.

2.) Nobody in the company has truly defined what good customer service is. How can front line people deliver it if no one knows what it is? One of the biggest things missing in customer service today is friendliness. It’s also one of THE most important things. Do you train your people how to be friendly? If not, don’t be surprised if they aren’t. How do you define “friendliness”? When FireStar gives customer service training, we spend a great deal of time on just that – tone of voice, body language, facial expressions – we talk about how to be friendly!! You would be surprised how many people don’t know how to be consistently friendly to customers. And when we give leadership training we talk about how to define expectations for employees.

3.) Front line people are treated poorly by the company. Imagine that! The most important people in the company – the ones who deal with the customers on a daily basis – are treated the worst! You know it’s true. They often get paid the least, have the least amount of freedom and get hammered if they mess up one phone message. They get it from all sides, all day. And the ones who are good – who show up on time and handle things well – are usually ignored. Leaders spend all their time trying to fix the problem employees and these superstars of dependability get nothing. If you treat your front line people like dirt, how do you think they’re going to treat the customers? You got it – like dirt!

4.) Companies want short term profits and forget the long term. They focus on speed of processing and don’t give their people time to be friendly. They set up crazy policies and procedures and don’t do a good job of educating customers. This is guaranteed to result in problems that front line people will have to straighten out. It’s one thing to sit in the corporate office and invent policy – it’s another to battle the 100 irate customers in the lobby. A short term view usually makes companies harder to do business with (ex. it’s cheaper to hire people in India – so what if they can’t understand our customers? We’re saving millions!). Making it hard to do business with you is not providing good customer service. It may make money in the short term, but in the long run, customers will go elsewhere.

These are just the tip of the bad customer service iceberg. It’s just a matter of time before this iceberg sinks some companies. And just like the crew of the Titanic, you may never know how bad it is until it’s too late.

R. Wade Younger, MBA, CSP, CSM, TEFL – International Speaking & Business Consulting – The World’s Largest Collection of Life Skills for Kids

Sometimes Opportunity is Right Where You Are

An old Arab guide told a story of an ancient Persian named Ali Hafed who once lived not far from the River Indus.

He said that Ali Hafed owned a very large farm, that he had orchards, grain-fields, and gardens; that he had money at interest, and was a wealthy and contented man.  He was contented because he was wealthy and wealthy because he was contented.  One day there visited that old Persian farmer one of these ancient Buddhist priests, one of the wise men of the East.

He sat down by the fire and told the old farmer how this world of ours was made.  He said that this world was once a mere bank of fog, and that the Almighty thrust His finder into this bank of fog, and began slowly to move His finder around, increasing the speed until at last He whirled this bank of fog into a solid ball of fire.

Then it went rolling through the universe, burning its way through other banks of fog, and condensed the moisture without, until it fell in floods of rain upon its hot surface, and cooled the outward crust.  Then the internal fires bursting outward through the crust threw up the mountains and hills, the valleys, the plains and prairies of this wonderful world of ours.  If this internal molten mass came bursting out and cooled very quickly it became granite; less quickly copper, less quickly silver, less quickly gold, and, after gold, diamonds were made.

Said the old priest, “A diamond is a congealed drop of sunlight.”  Now that is literally scientifically true, that a diamond is an actual deposit of carbon from the sun.  The old priest told Ali Hafed that if he had one diamond the size of his thumb he could purchase the county, and if he had a mine of diamonds he could place his children upon thrones through the influence of their great wealth.
Ali Hafed heard all about diamonds, how much they were worth, and went to his bed that night a poor man.  He had not lost anything, but he was poor because he was discontented, and discontented because he feared he was poor.  He said, “I want a mine of diamonds,” and he lay awake all night.
Early in the morning he sought out the priest.  I know by experience that a priest is very cross when awakened early in the morning, and when he shook that old priest out of his dreams, Ali Hafed said to him:
“Will you tell me where I can find diamonds?” “Diamonds! What do you want with diamonds?”  “Why, I wish to be immensely rich.”  “Well, then, go along and find them.  That is all you have to do; go and find them, and then you have them.”  “But I don’t know where to go.”  “Well, if you will find a river that runs through white sands, between high mountains, in those white sands you will always find diamonds.”  “I don’t believe there is any such river.”  “Oh, yes, there are plenty of them.  All you have to do is to go and find them, and then you have them.”  Said Ali Hafed, “I will go.”
So he sold his farm, collected his money, left his family in charge of a neighbor and away he went in search of diamonds.  He began his search, very properly to my mind, at the mountains of the Moon.  Afterward he came around into Palestine, then wandered on into Europe, and at last when his money was all spent and he was in rages, wretchedness, and poverty, he stood on the shore of that bay at Barcelona, in Spain, when a great tidal wave came rolling in between the pillars of Hercules, and the poor, afflicted suffering, dying man could not resist the awful temptation to cast himself into that incoming tide, and he sank beneath its foaming crest, never to rise in this life again.
When that old guide had told me that awfully sad story he stopped the camel I was riding on and went back to fix the baggage that was coming off another camel, and I had an opportunity to muse over his story while he was gone.  I remember saying to myself, “Why did he reserve that story for his ‘particular friends’?”  There seemed to be no beginning, no middle, no end, nothing to it.  That was the first story I had ever heard told in my life, and would be the first one I ever read, in which the hero was killed in the first chapter.  I had but one chapter of that story, and the hero was dead.
When the guide came back and took up the halter of my camel, he went right ahead with the story, into the second chapter, just as though there had been no break.  The man who purchased Ali Hafed’s farm one day led his camel into the garden to drink, and as that camel put its nose into the shallow water of that garden brook, Ali Hafed’s successor noticed a curious flash of light from the white sands of the stream.  He pulled out a black stone having an eye of light reflecting all the hues of the rainbow.  He took the pebble into the house and put it on the mantel which covers the central fires, and forgot all about it.
A few days later this same old priest came in to visit Ali Hafed’s successor, and the moment he opened that drawing-room door he saw that flash of light on the mantel, and he rushed up to it, and shouted: “Here is a diamond! Has Ali Hafed returned?”  “Oh no, Ali Hafed has not returned, and that is not a diamond.  That is nothing but a stone we found right out here in our own garden.”  “But,” said the priest, “I tell you I know diamond when I see it.  I know positively that is a diamond.”
Then together they rushed out into that old garden and stirred up the white sands with their finders, and lo! There came up other more beautiful and valuable gems than the first.  “Thus,” said the guide to me, and, friends, it is historically true, “was discovered the diamond-mine of Golconda, the most magnificent diamond-mine in all the history of mankind, excelling the Kimberly itself.  The Kohinoor, and the Orloff of the crown jewels of England and Russia, the largest on earth, came from that mine.”
When that old Arab guide told me the second chapter of his story, he then took off his Turkish cap and swung it around in the air again to get my attention to the moral.  Those Arab guides have morals to their stories, although they are not always moral.  As he swung his hat, he said to me, “Had Ali Hafed remained at home and dug in his own cellar, or underneath his own wheat fields, or in his own garden, instead of wretchedness, starvation, and death by suicide in a strange land, he would have had ‘acres of diamonds.’  For every acre of that old farm, yes, every shovelful, afterward revealed gems which since have decorated the crowns of monarchs.”
When he had added the moral to his story I saw why he reserved it for “his particular friends.”  But I did not tell him I could see it.  It was that mean old Arab’s way of going around a thing like a lawyer, to say indirectly what he did not dare say directly, that “in his private opinion there was a certain young man then traveling down the Tigris River that might better be at home in America.”  I did not tell him I could see that.

R. Wade Younger, CSP – International Speaking & Business Consulting – The World’s Largest Collection of Life Skills for Kids

The scare of making a sell?

  • What is it about selling that makes you so afraid?
  • Do you get nervous at the hint of having to sell?
  • Is it the fear of rejection that scares you?
  • Is it the fear of not being able to communicate effectively?

Defining Your Fear

What is it about selling that makes people afraid?  Next question, how did you develop this fear?  What is the bases of this fear?

a) Many people fear sales because they’re afraid of being rejected.
b) People simply fear being the center of attention; especially when giving a presentation in front a large group of people.
c) Some fear selling because they’re simply unprepared to answer tough questions or don’t have a deep understanding of the product or service they’re selling.
d) The rest don’t believe in the product or service they are selling?

Checking Your Premise. 

Question the validity of your fear.  If you see yourself in option C, for example, then your fear isn’t selling; it has more to do with being unprepared and the potential ‘shame’ of being exposed in public.  Take the necessary steps to learn the product; this confidence in your knowledge will minimize your fear.  If you chose B, you have to question why you’re afraid of getting up in front of others.  Did you have a bad experience when you were younger?  Or, are you still programmed by the “children should be seen and not heard’ parental reminder?  To overcome the fear, you must first check the premise (validity) of why you hold that fear. No one every died from giving a sales presentation…at least not to my knowledge.

Like What You Sell.

I can’t emphasize this enough.  When you sell what you love, you’re selling from a position of belief.  When you believe in something strongly, that enthusiasm squeezes out the fear.  Are you selling something your really believe in or are you selling in order to get a paycheck?  If the answer is the latter, you may be successful selling, but you’ll never achieve a true level of success (i.e., making money doing what you love).  If you don’t truly believe in what you’re selling, you will always be selling from a position of doubt.  Doubt breeds fear.  Seek out products you love to sell.

Measure Success Over Time.

Many trainers advocate measuring your successes on a daily basis.  Let’s get real here.  Some of my days are full of setbacks making measuring success on daily basis painful.    Daily actions are just minor events leading up to the main event; the sale.  Don’t measure minor events, measure main events.  A runner doesn’t count how many running steps it took to get to the finish line, he instead focuses on getting there!   Stay focus on the main event, the sale, and not the day-to-day ups and downs.

Small Elephant Bites. 

Remember, the only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.   Begin with small attainable objectives, than move on to larger ones. Build momentum.


When you succeed or have a win, take a mental inventory of how it came about.  Analyze in your mind the steps you took to manifest this win.  When things don’t go well, do the same thing; analyze your thoughts and actions and ask, “What should I have done differently?”.  Setbacks are indicators or guideposts on the road to sales success.

Don’t Take It Personal.

Earl Nightengale once said that success plays no favorites.  Success only favors those who persist and don’t give up.   Selling is about persistence.  Persistence is about not taking rejection personally.  When clients or people refuse to buy from you, learn to ask “Why?”.  And no matter the response you get back from the customer, learn to depersonalize it and then learn from it.   Only sissies take things personally (don’t be a sales sissy)!
There is one eternal truth about this free market we call capitalism…selling keeps the economy moving.  Selling is the grease that lubricates the economic machine and keeps all its moveable parts in motion.  From this moment on, as a salesperson, I want you to view your profession as the necessary component for keeping this economy going. I want you to see purpose in your profession.  Purpose squeezes out fear in order to make room for enthusiasm.

R. Wade Younger, CSP – International Speaking & Business Consulting – The World’s Largest Collection of Life Skills for Kids

You have to Ask!

When I was in college I remember getting my first interview opportunity.  I was excited.  I was also in a small panic when I realized I didn’t have a business suit to wear given our economic situation (broken, student assistance, etc.).   I don’t remember how, but we managed to scrounge up a few dollars before heading over to K-mart (Wal-mart of yesteryear) to pick up a cheap suit and tie.  Task one complete.

I then went over to the career center to find out more information on the company.  When I was going to college, there was no Internet to “Google” the company.  I went through the company prospectus and I read as much as I could about their products and services.  Task two complete.

On the way to the interview that Friday, I had to take two buses to get there which took a little over an hour just to get there.  On the way I mentally rehearsed various scenarios of questions that would be asked.  I was having mental conversation with myself anticipating what I would say to certain questions and what types of questions I should ask in order to sound “intelligent”.   I managed to arrive twenty minutes early and during that time I went into overdrive on the mental preparation.  I was ready!  Task three complete.

It was interview time.  I walked into the manager’s office and he closed the door behind me signaling that I was now in the ‘arena’.  It was time to get down to business. The interview started out well.  The more questions he asked the better my answers began to sound.  Then I countered with a few well-placed questions.  In the back of my mind, that little voice from within was routing me on saying, “You’re doing great!  Keep it up!”  I felt schizophrenic having another voice in my head encouraging me on while I was interviewing.  The interview concluded and I left the manager’s office feeling like I had nailed it!  My ego, and my head, was of gigantic proportions.  Task four complete.

On the way back home I began to mentally go over all aspects of the interview trying to recall every minute detail so I could analyze it carefully.  The more I mentally replayed the interview tape in my head the better I was feeling about the eventual outcome; a job.  I’m telling you, I was on cloud nine and my big, helium inflated head resembled a dirigible.

When I got home I was excited, talking a mile a minute.  As the conversation went on my dad was clearly excited for me.  Then he asked the single question that ‘popped’ my ego-balloon, “When are they going to call to let you know if you got the job?”

I stopped dead in my mental tracks and said, ‘I didn’t ask and they didn’t say.”
He nodded his head politely and my excitement went from 60 to 0 in 3 seconds.

What I didn’t tell my dad was that I was afraid to ASK when they were going to make a decision or when I could expect to hear from them.  I wanted to ask but I didn’t; I chickened out during the interview.  Task four…not completed.

Knowing that I should’ve asked and but didn’t, really bothered me.  But I reassured myself that things were fine nonetheless and I would probably find out next week whether or not I got the job.  It was time to enjoy the evening for now and wait for morning to come.

Mental Log of Events Starting Monday:
Monday rolls around and I don’t receive a call.
Mental State: “Well, it’s Monday.  They probably have a lot to prepare for and will most likely call me Tuesday.  Also, they probably don’t want to seem too anxious that they want me.”

Tuesday comes and goes; no call.
Mental State: “Well, maybe they’re reviewing a few things and need to be sure before calling me.”

Wednesday comes and goes; no call.
Mental State:  Concern begins to set in. “Why haven’t they called.  What could be taking them this long to decide?”   I’m a little worried but not too much.

Thursday comes and goes; no call.
Mental State: Concern now becomes anger.  “I wonder why the hell they haven’t call.  I mean, damn it, the interview went well.  What more could I have said or done?  What the hell is their problem?”

Friday comes and goes; still no call.
Mental State: Anger becomes resentment.  “Aw hell, I didn’t want the damn job anyway!  It would’ve probably been a lousy job anyway.”

By the time Friday ended, I did everything to “rationalize” why I they hadn’t call.  I tried to convince myself that it probably wouldn’t have been a great job anyway.  I tell myself that it was no big deal.  But the truth was that I was angry and feeling very resentful at the company not calling.

In hindsight, my anger at the end should not have been directed at the company who interviewed me.  It should’ve been directed at me for not asking the key question, “When are you planning to make a decision or when can I expect to hear from you?”  Although the outcome may have been the same (i.e., didn’t get the job), I could’ve avoided the mental anguish of waiting all week for a call that was never forthcoming.  Worst, for the following two-three weeks I was holding out hope that they would still call.    Deep down inside I was telling myself to expect the worse, but I was still hoping for the best.

The call never came and that experience taught me two valuable lessons:

1) Ignorance is not bliss.  Deep down inside there was a part of me that didn’t want to ask for fear of getting rejected.  We often times think it’s best not to know the truth thinking somehow that ignorance is bliss.  Wrong!   It’s best to know the truth no matter how painful it may be.  It was actually more painful not knowing for the next few weeks whether or not they would call.  When they didn’t, and I eventually accepted the reality that they wouldn’t, but I also realized that I had just spent the last few weeks worried about something I could’ve had the answer to sooner if I had only asked.

2) I deserve an answer.  I believe the other part of the reason I didn’t ask was because I was afraid to because I didn’t feel I had the right to ask.  I saw myself as someone begging for a job.  And we all know that beggars can’t be choosers.  What I should’ve done is see myself as an equal, offering my services to a company knowing that if they didn’t see my value I would simply go elsewhere.  But I didn’t; I felt inferior not superior.  I should’ve treated the person interviewing me as an interviewee also.  Because not only was I interviewing for the job, they were being interviewed by me to see if I wanted the job.  This change in mindset would’ve given me the confidence to ask the tough questions.

We often defeat our own means at success when we undermine our capabilities and sell ourselves short.  That’s what I did during this interview.  And in doing so, I lost the courage to ask because I didn’t feel worthy of asking.

That same little voice in my head who was encouraging me during the interview also held me back when it would whisper, “No, maybe it isn’t a good idea to ask for a date.” Or “If you ask you may get rejected because you seem to anxious.”  The voice in my head was undermining my confidence in asking.

What I didn’t anticipate, by not asking, was dealing with the mental anguish of not knowing what could’ve been possible.   I’ve come to the conclusion that it is more painful not knowing.  So today, when I need to know something, with little hesitation, I ask.

In everyday life we are presented with situations where we have to ‘ask’ for something.  If you want a raise in our pay or promotion in your company, you have to ask.  If you’re going to buy a new car, or house and feel you need a better price, you have to ask.  If you see or meet someone who strikes your fancy and would like to know their name or get their phone number to ask them for a date, you have to ask.  You may not always get the answer you want, but it’s better to know, than not to know.   The cost of asking may be high (i.e., rejection), but the cost of not asking is incalculable.   Life is too short…ASK!

R. Wade Younger, CSP – International Speaking & Business Consulting – The World’s Largest Collection of Life Skills for Kids

McDonald’s wins with all-day breakfast!

Give the customers what they want! You can never go wrong when you list to your customer.

McDonald’s sales at U.S. outlets open at least 13 months rose 5.7 percent in the quarter ended Dec. 31st, the best quarterly growth in nearly four years and far ahead of forecasts of 2.7 percent.


McDonald’s Corp (MCD.N) smashed expectations for quarterly same-restaurant sales as the launch of all-day breakfasts proved a hit with diners in the United States and demand continued to recover in China.  The performance adds fuel to McDonald’s revival, after the chain had seen its U.S. sales fall for two years up to the third quarter of 2015 following a series of missteps under former chief executive Don Thompson, who left the world’s biggest restaurant chain last year. This was due to a greater need for healthier food choices.

McDonald’s new CEO, Steve Easterbrook implemented a turnaround plan last year that involved making the menu simpler, improving service times and raising worker wages.

McDonald’s launched the all-day breakfast menus in October in the United States, a move aimed at countering increasing competition from chains such as Wendy’s Co (WEN.O), Starbucks Corp (SBUX.O) and Burger King (QSR.TO).

“All-day breakfast positions us to regain market share we had given up in recent years,” Easterbrook said on a post-earnings conference call, adding it would take at least six more months of positive sales to cement a more sustained turnaround.

R. Wade Younger, MBA, CSP, CSM, TEFL – International Speaking & Business Consulting – The World’s Largest Collection of Life Skills for Kids