One of the biggest ways to reveal your ultimate competitive advantage in business is to get up close and personal with your market, with your team, and with your employees.
I’m not talking about intimate, we’ve all experienced a moment or three when someone in business over shared. This is about baring those parts of yourself that generally fall under the WHO you are instead of WHAT you do. This is about the being side of you rather than doing.
I pulled this from an exercise that I created and share with executive and professional audiences and teams. The questions are simple, results are inspiring and build stronger relationships and networks across all channels. The questions shared here are just a few of the more than a dozen that I ask. You are sitting on a gold mine of one-of-a-kind talent, history, experience, expertise, and skills. This will help you bring it to the surface where you can leverage it for greater success.
This is also about your vulnerable bits, those real life stories that everyone can relate to; the pieces of your life that make you human beyond the title you wear and the responsibilities you have. Here are five simple, powerful questions to pull back your curtain and connect like you never have before. Oh and there are no wrong answers, only your answers and they are all right! Here are the FIVE KEY questions.
#1 Where Have You Lived?
Whether you were raised a military brat and have lived in over a dozen countries by now or you’ve stayed in one place your entire life, write it down. These are an integral part of the fabric that makes up who you are and can be easily leveraged in a conversation to become a point of connection with someone you have either just met at a networking event or perhaps have known through business circles for awhile but never really went past the professional formalities.
I had one client who hired me because we were both from California originally. She was from Northern California, I was from Southern California. It was my tipping point for her since I was well qualified in every other arena. The fact that we both were from the same state gave me a point of connection that other service providers she was considering didn’t have.
#2 Are You Married (Partnered)? Single? Divorced? Widowed?
What? You think this should be private. Hate to burst your bubble, but it’s public record. And married people often connect with how long (or short a time) they’ve been married. Singles can talk about dating and keep everyone married (at least now I can, now you know!) Divorced can connect with singles and relate to having been married. Widowed relates to being married and single too though in a different way. We all fall into one of the categories and this applies to straight, gay and transgender.
I’m single, not yet married, but I’ve learned that my tales of dating keep my clients laughing and when married, keeps them together. I’ve also actually gotten a client or two from online dating sites when there wasn’t any chemistry but they needed my business services. Being single and on the same site became a tipping point.
#3 Do You Have Children? If so, give the details!
Kids around the world are the same. They all experience the terrible twos, the inquisitive eights, the troubled teens, and the feisty fifteens to name a few of the stages. Parents around the globe, no matter your profession or title, can all relate. You can relate to someone in conversation if your kids are older than theirs and by the flipside you can relate if your kids are younger. Children are a universally uniting factor. You can talk about their education, sports, fashion choices (or faux pas), their dreams and more.
And this applies to mothers and fathers, in fact, in today’s world it is becoming the new normal to have a stay at home Dad and a professional Mom.
I don’t have kids so can’t use this one, but I do have years of childcare experience with friends and even ran a daycare one summer when I was in college. That experience can be helpful if I want to chime into a conversation regarding your kids.
#4 What Are Your Hobbies and Interests?
It used to be that men bonded over sports and women over boutiques; today there are just as many women rooting for their team in the stands as there are men to be found at the mall. Do you love to golf? Can you be found on a boat, skiing or fishing at the weekend? Maybe you stay closer to home and enjoy gardening or channel surfing. You may be a closet karaoke star or heading up the monthly supper club and trying out new recipes all the time. Whatever that talent is, it brings with it a set of skills that is valuable in the workplace (following a recipe requires discipline, karaoke requires someone who loves the spotlight) and can make for great points of connection. You may end of swapping recipes with a favorite client or closing business on the links.
All things being equal I’ve had people hire me because we both love old movies and can swap our favorite ones on DVD. They also get a kick out of knowing that I have my mother’s Oscar. She was a well recognized film star in the forties through the sixties, Anne Baxter.
#5 Where Have You Traveled?
Most people have both fond memories of as well as occasional horror stories about trips they’ve taken and destinations they’ve experienced. Now you can laugh about both. Even if you are speaking with someone who doesn’t like to travel, they will often have an armchair fascination for your adventures. And if they happen to have been to the same places, you can compare notes or swap new places to experience.
I met one client when we sat together on a bus for a day long art tour in Atlanta. We talked at length about our respective travels and places we’d been. A year later she hired me in business, doubtless having met many other equally qualified providers, but we had travel in common. Never underestimate the power of your unique history, experience, expertise, talents, and stories!
The questions shared here are just the tip of the iceberg in establishing who you are as a person, what matters to you and finding out the experiences that have shaped you and your outlook.
Additionally your answers will become the opportunity to connect in ways you never imagined including becoming your tipping points when a client is considering your business as well as another provider. It is personal connections that will tip business in your favor when all else is equal. Get personal to get more profitable. Bring your personality to play at work and it will will boost your profitability.