How many times in your life have you purchased toothpaste because you want toothpaste? The answer, most likely, is never. The fact is, most of us don’t want toothpaste, per se. We want the “afters” that toothpaste provides us: clean teeth. It turns out that the concept of “afters” applies to a great many situations in the business world as well. When your boss makes a request, he or she typically has a deeper intent, with their request being what they envision as the way to achieve that deeper intent. For example, imagine your boss asks you to host an internal seminar to improve sales representatives’ cold calling abilities. The deeper intent of your boss may be to book more on-site meetings, even if the meetings are arranged by tactics other than cold calling. We call this the “afters”. Knowing how to get to the root of the matter is key. We present a framework below for discovering the “afters” of any request made to you:
- Ask a probing question such as:
- “What are you looking to achieve with this project?”
- “What is your end goal with this project?”
- “What keeps you awake at night?”
- “What does success look like to you?”
- “How will you know when you’ve arrived at success?”
- Ask deeper probing questions on top of the initial question to gain even deeper clarity into the requestor’s intent.
- “Tell me more.”
- “Anything else?”
- “When did this problem begin?”
- “Why is the issue ‘x’ a problem?”
- Consider using who-, what-, when-, where-, why-, and how-type questions
- Repeat their last few completed words to show that you are understanding them. For example, if they say, “Our weakest link in the supply chain is assembly-line downtime,” you might say, “Oh? Assembly-line downtime as your weakest link? Tell me more.”
- Make sure to W.A.I.T. to hear their reply in full. The acronym W.A.I.T. stands for why am I talking?.
- Ask the requestor to outline their #1 priority among all of the issues that have just been uncovered. Then ask for priority #2. Then #3.
- Conclude the conversation by reiterating your understanding of the deeper issue in terms of priorities. If you have better ways of achieving their deeper intentions, make sure to bring those up.
The Crestcom Bullet Proof® Manager program develops your managers into great leaders than learn to think about and communicate the “afters” for optimal results.