Witnessing the power of the question
This weekend Lynnda and I are attending Influence 2020, the National Speakers Association’s annual convention.
We were supposed to be in Washington, D.C. Unfortunately, like most other conferences due to COVID-19 it is now virtual. We will be attending from our home office. It will be interesting to see how they will handle the formal annual awards dinner on Monday night. Lynnda informed me she was not going to wear an evening gown to eat pizza on the back porch.
It is easy to feel like a midget among giants at convention with the celebrities from the sports, entertainment and business world who attend. We know them from TV, movies or the books they have written. At my first convention years ago I found myself getting coffee next to the now late author and well-known sales expert Zig Ziegler. He was a great guy and easy to talk to. I had seen Zig speak a number of times. Zig always said,
“You can have anything you want as long as you first help enough other people get what they want.” I learned Zig was right. What he said is true in sales, business and all relationships. When a relationship is about our needs first, it usually doesn’t last long.
If I focus on my customers’ needs or my wife’s needs, my needs always seem get met. How do we know what our customer or our spouse needs? We need to care enough to ask good questions and then listen. We learn a lot more from listening than speaking. People don’t care how much we know until they know how much we care.
During our COVID-19 lockdown Lynnda and I spent a lot of time together without the pressure of things that needed done because there weren’t many. We talked more. Even after 40 years of marriage, I learned things about her. One question I ask since the COVID outbreak to many of the executives we are working with is, “What keeps you awake at night?” I get some deep surprising answers and learn a lot about them. That is not a question I ask until a have a good relationship with someone. Many times, they will bring up a need someone in our network can help them with, creating a win for both parties.
One of the best ways to build a relationship is finding what we have in common with someone. We do this by asking caring questions and then listening. I have had conversations where I said very little and was complemented for being a great conversationalist. In the past two weeks, I had discussions with people who were strangers and learned, one played high school soccer with my son. The other young man’s mother now lives at Kiawah Island, SC where my daughter and I run half marathons.
Asking good questions isn’t an interrogation. It is about finding a topic people like to talk about and getting to know them. If I wanted to start a conversation with a drilling rig crew all I had to do was to mention the big buck I almost hit on the way in or any other topic related to deer hunting. Most people’s favorite topic is something about themselves. I was at a wedding and met a retired Union Carbide Ph.D. Chemical Engineer. I mentioned a little about Shale Crescent USA, then asked what he did. I didn’t need to say much more. He was fascinating even though I didn’t understand all of the chemical engineering. We can’t help someone until we get to know them.
I have been on Jim Bohannon’s nationally syndicated radio show a few times, most recently in April. The guy asks great questions. When we were talking about bringing back manufacturing jobs to the U.S. or energy I had no problem answering his questions. We had a good discussion. At the end of the show he stunned me when he asked, “Greg, if you had the President’s ear right now, what advice would you give him?” I had never thought about that. On a live show, you don’t have a minute to think about it. My subconscious mind must have kicked in when I responded, “Tell the truth no matter what. The American people can handle it.”
We just watched a movie with Will Farrell in it called “Eurovision.” It was on Netflix since movie theaters are closed. It is about an Icelandic music group whose dream is to represent Iceland and win the Eurovision Song Contest where every European country is represented. It was a fun movie.
After it was over I wanted to know more about Iceland. I was fascinated to learn they don’t use fossil fuels to generate electricity. For the past 20+ years they have been using geothermal energy to generate their electricity and to heat 85 percent of their homes. It works 24 hours a day.
They made the change because geothermal is available and cheaper than oil, natural gas or coal which they don’t have. They use some gasoline or diesel for transportation and petrochemicals for all of the same things we do including their electric vehicles. They have a very low carbon footprint and abundant economical energy.
My question to the Green New Deal folks is; “Why don’t they mention Iceland or the success the U.S. has using natural gas to successfully meet Paris targets? Why are they stuck on wind and solar that are expensive and intermittent energy sources? How people respond to a question tells a lot about them.
Learn to ask great questions. Care about others. You can have anything you want if you first help others get what they want!
Greg Kozera, firstname.lastname@example.org is the Director of Marketing and Sales for Shale Crescent USA. He is a professional engineer with a Masters in Environmental Engineering who has over 40 years’ experience in the energy industry. Greg is a leadership expert and the author of four books and numerous published articles.