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What starts you on your path – and what prevents you from taking that first step?

While there are many contributing factors, consider this concept: you don’t start a bonfire; you light a spark. Those who are so focused on lighting the bonfire often give up. The enormity of the big picture prevents us from knowing where (or how) to start. And doing nothing takes less effort than doing something.

What are the sparks?

  • identifying the one or two baby steps, to help you get going.
  • finding the low hanging fruit – those tasks that are easy to do, and yield great benefit
  • motivating others to buy in to your project
  • delegating an early task to someone who is keen to run with it.

This Week’s Action Item: What is the “spark” that will will make the most difference for you? Is it in your current job? On the home front? Education and training? Before the day is out, do something about it.

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)


The Five W’s

by Randall Craig on February 21, 2006

Filed in: Blog, Make It Happen Tipsheet,

Tagged as: ,

During school, we learned about the five W’s as elements that should be used in a great story. But as managers, they serve an even more important purpose. These Five Words, Who, What, Where, When, and Why, along with others like “How”, are words that start questions. In particular, they start Open-ended questions.

“Did you have a good day?” is Closed; “What did you do today?” is Open. The Closed question can be answered with a one word answer: Yes, No, Good, or Bad. The Open question must be answered with a sentence. And sentences are what start productive conversations.

In the workplace, we often rely on Closed questions because they provide the information that we think that we need: “Is the new system finished yet?”. Using an Open-ended question (“How have people reacted to the new system?”) allows us to look behind the scenes and discover whether there are any issues lurking. It also lets our staff and colleagues express what is important to them – not just what is important to you.

Asking Open-ended questions also yields another benefit: it can encourage creativity and resourcefulness. How often have you said “It can’t be done” when approached with an idea that you don’t think has wings? What if you replaced this expression with “How could it be done?” The person making the suggestion may have already spent time considering the answer. Letting them answer the Open-ended question might provide a perspective that you hadn’t considered before. It also sends a more important message: innovation and new ideas will be considered. Open-ended questions suggest an open-minded manager.

This week’s action item: each time you ask a question, commit to using an Open-ended version – it’s easier than you think. To start, try rephrasing your question with Why or How. (Or maybe I should have asked, “How can you make a difference with the Five W’s?”)

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)
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