Smart Questions for Entrepreneurs to Ask by Meggin McIntosh, PhD

Apr 8th, 2013

question markAs some smart person once said, “There is no such thing as a stupid question – only stupid mistakes.” Learn to ask questions before you make a mistake and to help yourself stay productive.

  1. When you call someone on the phone or stop by someone’s office, ask, “Good time, bad time?” Doing so shows respect, which is an excellent way to start off a conversation.  Depending on the other’s answer, you can proceed or schedule time later.

  2. Ask, “When would be a better time?” Saying, “Well, I’ll call back later,” or “Let me just stop by another time,” is weak and open-ended.  You run the risk of calling back and it is STILL a bad time.  You might also drop by, and even though it is not a good time for the person you are calling on, he/she feels compelled to make time for you and the entire encounter doesn’t feel great or work well.

  3. Query, “Is this the right time for us to talk about this?” Regardless of whether you are talking to an employee, independent contractor, colleague, or client, if your intuition is tickling you, just query with this question.  You are asking out of curiosity, not because you have an answer already determined.

  4. Wonder out loud, “Should I/we be doing this project?”  Your time is precious (how many times should I say that for you?) and you do NOT want to be spending time and energy on projects that aren’t going to support your entrepreneurial goals.  Just ask the question – of yourself and of others.

  5. Muse, “Is this the best use of my time right now?” You might want to post this on your desk.  Don’t just read the question, answer it.

  6. Ask outright, “Is this worth the time, effort, and/or energy I’m/we’re spending?”  When the answer is, “YES!” then you and your team can stay fired up and keep moving forward with it.  If the answer, is, “Well…” or “No,” then you have some discussions and rethinking that you need to do.  As entrepreneurs, we hate to give up and sometimes we need to let something go because it is not worth it.

  7. Determine the answer to: “Am I being paid to do this?” If you are a one-person shop, then it appears you are paid to do everything, but of course, you really aren’t.  Ask and answer the question and then based on your answer, proceed or find an alternative.

  8. Answer the question, “Do I really want to be doing this?”  You can ask that about seemingly inconsequential tasks or you can ask it about much larger projects and ways that you are serving your customers and clients.  Entrepreneurs can shift nimbly and it’s only be asking questions of ourselves (and others) that we know where and how to shift (and when!)

  9. Be bold enough to ask, “Am I having fun and does this give me energy?”

  10. A rather big and somewhat philosophical question to ask is this one:  “Is my life turning out the way I intended it to.”  Depending on your answer, be thankful…or start making changes.  You can do that.

© Meggin McIntosh, Ph.D (also known as “The PhD of Productivity”®) was a university professor for over 15 years and spent five of those years working with faculty at the University of Nevada, Reno.  Since leaving the full-time academic life, Meggin writes, consults, and does workshops for smart people who want to be more productive, thereby being able to consistently keep their emphasis on excellence.  Thus, the name of her company is Emphasis on Excellence, Inc.

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