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I have a habit of turning things around and looking at them from a different perspective from most people. So while many are pre-disposed to think in terms of finding the answer to a question, I prefer to step back and question the question before answering it.

This habit goes back to my days of working in the family business in my early twenties. When we needed to hire someone to fill a position, the task of finding good candidates somehow fell to me.

I suppose that it was because we did not yet have an HR person in those days, so the occasional need to fill a position became a project that went to “Steve Junior”.   So here I was being put in a position where I needed to first figure out a number of things before I could even begin.

The department head’s question would start with “Can you find someone to fill this job in my department?” While there was a brief answer (“Yes, of course”), what became more important was the series of questions that soon followed. What is the job description, what kind of experience are you looking for, what is the salary, etc.

I got into the habit of asking lots of questions, and I still do lots of it today. Like many things, the more you do something, the more comfortable you become doing it.

Sometimes when doing job interviews I would ask candidates “What is more important, knowing the all the answers or knowing the right questions?”  I can tell you that we never hired anyone who did not hit that one out of the park.

Many people spend a lot of their time trying to find answers, even though they may not have taken the time to make sure that they are answering the right questions.

Somehow when we begin looking for the answers we feel like we have started down the road to finding a solution, while thinking through the questions still feels like we are in neutral and not making progress.

Many businesses bring in consultants hoping to find “the answer” to their problem. I believe that anyone who promises you answers without first ascertaining that you are looking at the right questions is someone to be avoided.

I maintain that if you take the time to ask all the right questions, the answers often take care of themselves.

An outsider can often bring a different perspective to your situation, and the simple fact that they must ask a lot of questions can make you think in terms that you might not have thought of, and this can in turn help you with both the questions and the answers.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions, but try to avoid Yes/No questions. Learn to ask a lot of “why?” questions, as hearing people’s answers to those are usually the most enlightening.

It should go without saying that actually listening to the answers that you get is pretty important too.

Every once in a while, it is good to ask yourself a couple of big picture questions, because the answers you come up with on those will help you put a lot of things in the proper perspective.

I like to start with “Where are we trying to go?” followed by “How do we plan to get there?”

They are very simple and quite general, but I think if more people in more businesses took the time to stop and ask themselves these two simple questions, on a regular basis, they would be more likely to make progress and stay on track.

So, where are you trying to go? And how do you plan to get there?

 

Steve Legler “gets” business families.
 
He understands the issues that families face, as well as how each family member sees things from their own viewpoint.
 
He specializes in helping business families navigate the difficult areas where the family and the business overlap, by listening to each person’s concerns and ideas.  He then helps the family work together to bridge gaps by building common goals, based on their shared values and vision.
 
His background in family business, his experience running his own family office, along with his education and training in coaching, facilitation, and mediation, make him uniquely suited to the role of advising business families and families of wealth.
 
He is the author of Shift your Family Business (2014), he received his MBA from the Richard  Ivey School of Business (UWO, 1991), is a CFA Charterholder (CFA Institute, 2002), a Family Enterprise Advisor (IFEA 2014), and has received the ACFBA and CFWA accreditations (Family Firm Institute 2014-2015).
 
He prides himself on his ability to help families create the harmony they need to support the legacy they want. To learn how, start by signing up for his monthly newsletter and weekly blogs here.

I like to think of myself as a good guy. I think most guys do. But don’t nice guys finish last? That’s not true, is it?

A couple of weeks ago my partner Tom came into the office and lamented the fact that he was “too nice” and sometimes felt as if people were taking advantage of him because of it.

I told him that I often felt the same way. But I also said that I didn’t think he could or should ever change. And I am pretty sure that he won’t. It just isn’t in his DNA. Nor is it in mine.

But that doesn’t mean that we just simply let people walk all over us, because that is not the case either. Tom and I have a lot of traits in common, and of course we are different in many ways as well.

One of our common traits is empathy. We are both quite good at looking at things from other people’s perspectives, and then being able to understand how they feel about a situation. This is exactly what Tom was getting at when he talked about being too nice.

Getting back to the conversation we had that morning, I asked him if these feelings occurred more often in his personal life or his work life. I already knew that he would answer “personal” when I posed the question.

I have worked with Tom in many situations and seen him when he is acting for someone other than himself. When he is representing a company, a client, or another person, he is still polite and generally friendly. But when things get hairy, he can quickly lose the “good guy” persona.

I’m not sure why it is, but it is far easier for me to take on the “bad guy” role when I am representing someone else as well. Maybe we just don’t like it when we have to resort to tough tactics for our own good. Do we really want to be thought of as an A–hole? Not really.

The other day I was explaining this blog idea to my daughter, who is 11. I told her that when it comes to representing someone else, I find it easier to be the bad guy and ask the tough questions. Or to raise my voice when that is what is required.

She loves drama class and has taken improv and acting classes, so I told her that when I am in a position where I am representing someone else, I look at it kind of as a role, or, as I put it, a “schtick”.

She has heard me raise my voice more than once, and also remembers her grandfather and how it was better to remain on his good side. “Do you think I can play the role of the bad guy when I have to?” I asked. She nodded and gave me that “oh yeah” look.

We have all seen cop shows where they use the “good cop bad cop” routine to try to get a suspect to confess. What I have been talking about is different, but not completely.

Both my partner and I prefer to be the good cop, and the good cop can usually handle 90% of the situations anyone confronts. But in those situations that require it, sometimes you need to switch into the bad guy schtick.  From our experience, it is always easier to be the bad cop when you are doing it for someone else. Otherwise, you risk being the A—hole.

 

Steve Legler “gets” business families.
 
He understands the issues that families face, as well as how each family member sees things from their own viewpoint.
 
He specializes in helping business families navigate the difficult areas where the family and the business overlap, by listening to each person’s concerns and ideas.  He then helps the family work together to bridge gaps by building common goals, based on their shared values and vision.
 
His background in family business, his experience running his own family office, along with his education and training in coaching, facilitation, and mediation, make him uniquely suited to the role of advising business families and families of wealth.
 
He is the author of Shift your Family Business (2014), he received his MBA from the Richard  Ivey School of Business (UWO, 1991), is a CFA Charterholder (CFA Institute, 2002), a Family Enterprise Advisor (IFEA 2014), and has received the ACFBA and CFWA accreditations (Family Firm Institute 2014-2015).
 
He prides himself on his ability to help families create the harmony they need to support the legacy they want. To learn how, start by signing up for his monthly newsletter and weekly blogs here.

Yesterday I went to a funeral. Like most people, I really don’t like going to funerals, and certainly even fewer people actually look forward to them. But they always make me think, often about subjects that we don’t think about as often as we should.

A funeral brings together so many people from so many different parts of the person’s life, and even then the assembled crowd will likely only represent a small portion of the people whose lives one touched in some way.

The one I attended yesterday was a bit different for me in that I did not see a single familiar face, and not one person there knew me either. That made it easier in some ways since the tears that I witnessed were all those of strangers. But it was also more difficult, as my misery had no company.

I have attended funerals of people I had never met before, most often in cases of family members of friends or acquaintances, where my presence was out of respect for the person that I knew who had lost a loved one. But yesterday was the opposite. The man who passed away, “Stan”, was the only one I knew. I knew a bit about his family, but I had never met them.

Stan was a business associate that I had known for several years, and we had worked together on a couple of very important occasions. I liked Stan as a person and respected him as a businessman. That we had spoken recently and planned to meet for lunch sometime soon made it even harder to deal with his passing.

Our paths had crossed a number of times and he always stayed in touch. When I saw his name on my called ID, I always answered with a smile on my face, and in my voice. When we met face to face, it was also with mutual smiles and a firm handshake.

So as I sat there in the chapel listening to the words and hymns, I started to wonder what it was that made me enjoy Stan’s company and respect him as a person. And it should come as no surprise that the things that came up were just about all things that we have in common.

Stan did things differently. He was not “just another _______”. He had a lot going for him and did not see things the way most people did. He did not feel the need to be just like everyone else, even when fitting in would have made his life easier.

He was smart and stubborn, but in a good way, as far as I was concerned. He earned my respect because I understood that when he represented me, I knew that he was concerned for me first. I loved that about Stan. But unfortunately that made him an exception. I truly believe that the world would be a better place if there were more people like Stan.

Stan’s niece started off the eulogy reading a text written by her father, Stan’s younger brother. Just seeing him from afar, it was clear why he had asked his daughter to speak for him. We all heard of their great childhood memories growing up together and some of the silly stories that always do wonders for brightening the mood at these otherwise sad events.

Stan’s daughter spoke next. She fought back her tears courageously as she talked about what a great father he was and how much she and her brother looked up to him. I had never met Stan’s children, but having known him it was not hard to tell that they were his flesh and blood.

I hope that what they learned from him will stay with them for a long time. Look around you at those you will leave behind some day, waaaay off in the future, we hope. Don’t take things for granted. And don’t be afraid to do things your own way.

Steve Legler “gets” business families.
 
He understands the issues that families face, as well as how each family member sees things from their own viewpoint.
 
He specializes in helping business families navigate the difficult areas where the family and the business overlap, by listening to each person’s concerns and ideas.  He then helps the family work together to bridge gaps by building common goals, based on their shared values and vision.
 
His background in family business, his experience running his own family office, along with his education and training in coaching, facilitation, and mediation, make him uniquely suited to the role of advising business families and families of wealth.
 
He is the author of Shift your Family Business (2014), he received his MBA from the Richard  Ivey School of Business (UWO, 1991), is a CFA Charterholder (CFA Institute, 2002), a Family Enterprise Advisor (IFEA 2014), and has received the ACFBA and CFWA accreditations (Family Firm Institute 2014-2015).
 
He prides himself on his ability to help families create the harmony they need to support the legacy they want. To learn how, start by signing up for his monthly newsletter and weekly blogs here.