CorporateCoach eNewsletter

Issue No. 33, 3rd November 2003


  1. Editorial: Getting your message out
  2. Coaching notes: Asking clean questions (2)

1.     Editorial: Getting your message outRichard Winfield

Richard Winfield - editor and principal consultant

CorporateCoach is part of our publicity strategy. Our target is 20,000 subscribers, world-wide. We expect to pass the 6,000 mark this week. We hope you enjoy it and will pass it on to your colleagues.

We have gained a lot from other organisations, and believe that we can best develop our profile by making a contribution. Apart from what we publish in CorporateCoach we have a large number of free resources on our web site, as well as our free training needs analysis.

Our contribution this week is four more situations for asking clean questions. We also launch a new learning resource Imperial plc.

Last week I talked about how networking can help people meet you.

As well as meeting people, networking introduces you to new ideas and techniques. As a coincidence my networking over the last week has brought me in contact with some experts on public relations. I thought you might like to know what they told me.

Richard Haynes recently told a group of lawyers and accountants that they should expect to attend three networking events a week. This was at a joint meeting of the Institute of Directors and the local chartered accountants – bringing an additional mix into the evening.

He suggested that you should target your activities to:

  • develop a profile
  • select targets
  • research them
  • put them on your database
  • open the door
  • keep in touch

Ian Squires, managing director of Carlton Broadcasting, spoke to the Chamber of Commerce and gave four rules for public relations: -

  • Have something to say and get it to the person who needs to know
  • Tell the truth (particularly when things go wrong)
  • Be in control (you don't know where communications might end up)
  • Communication starts at home – with your own employees

Steve Holden of Haswell Holden recommends that you should aim to use three different media to get your message out.

These could include:

  • Advertisements
  • Direct mail
  • Press releases
  • Seminars
  • Public speaking
  • Networking
  • Literature
  • Directories
  • Web site



Managing people in-tray exercise – Imperial plc

Managing people in-tray exercise – Imperial plc

This realistic in-tray simulation set in a modern commercial office puts your team to the test. Participants play the role of Brian Harris, the new office manager in the Manchester office of Imperial plc. They are confronted with a set of unexpected and complex people management problems, more information than they can cope with, an impossible deadline and an unfamiliar political climate. In other words just a normal day.

Normally priced at 35, Imperial plc is currently available to download at an introductory offer price of 25.00 (+VAT).

3.     Coaching notes: Asking clean questions (2)

Last week we explained that we cannot describe in complete detail everything we mean. What is communicated is incomplete or inaccurate. In our practical world we delete information, generalise information of distort information.

We suggested that five key types of question would help you communicate with more precision and effectiveness. We introduced unspecified nouns.

This week we introduce unspecified verbs, rules, generalisations and comparators: -

Unspecified verbs

Ask "How (verb), specifically?"


"She hurt me."

"How did she hurt you, specifically?"
"She always fails." "How does she fail, specifically?"
"He ripped me off." "How did he rip you off, specifically?"
"That film upset me." "How did that film upset you, specifically?"
"I found out at last." "How did you find out, specifically?"


Use of words such as should, should not, must, must not, have to, cannot, ought to, ought not to. These words indicate rules which may or may not be legitimate. If accepted they limit our actions.

Ask the question "What would happen if . . . ? What causes/prevents it?"


"We must do it now." "What would happen if we didn't?"
"You've got to laugh." "What would happen if you didn't?"
"You shouldn't do that." "What would happen if you did?"
"You must do as he says." "What would happen if you didn't?"
"You can't do that now." "What would happen if I did?"


We generalise when we have one or more experiences and decide that all future experiences with similar characteristics will have the same result. Generalisation is a short cut which enables us to function effectively in the world. But inappropriate generalisation can create unnecessary pain and limitations in behaviour.

Challenge the assumption. “Do you really mean all, every, never? Surely there are some exceptions.


“All, every, never . . .”  
"All pensioners are poor." "All pensioners?"
"It's always the same story." "Always?"
"Nobody loves me." "Nobody?"
"He never gets it right." "Never?"
"They say it will rain." "Who say it will rain?"


Use of words such as better, worse, easier, too much etc. without a specific comparison to benchmark the statement against.

Too much, too many, too expensive . . . Ask questions that identify the benchmark, for example: "Compared to what? Better than what?"


"That's better." "Better than what?"
“She's the brightest." "Brighter than whom?"
"The greatest show in town." "Greater than what?"
"Things are faster now." "Faster than what?"
"This is far easier." "Far easier than what?"


Remember: many statements contain several levels of ‘fluff’ and should be challenged in the most appropriate way – possibly several times until they become sufficiently clear.
Here is an example:
“How is it that the French eat all the wrong foods and live longer?”
How many different clarification questions does this sentence suggest to you?

Now try some examples of your own.