Tag Archives: career guide


This checklist is from  my book, How to Ask the SMART QUESTIONS for Winning the Games of Career and Life

Checklist: Spotting the important judges

  • Who are the important judges of how well I’m doing my job? Why are they the key judges, and not others?
  • What criteria are they using to judge me and my contribution?
  • Are these the most appropriate measures? If not, what should be the criteria be, and how can I “educate” them to recognize and judge by the criteria that are truly important?
  • Are the apparent judges the truly important judges? For instance, is my outside client a more important judge than my supervisor? If not, what should I do about it?
  • If I am locked in with inappropriate judges, is there a way to bypass them and get the attention of ones who are more appropriate—or more open to me?
  • Overall, what are the practical implications for me?

5 steps in responding to questions and objections

If you’re making a presentation, or even just sitting in a one-on-one meeting, and someone throws out a question, or even an objection, it seems only natural to respond directly to it.

But that’s not always the best approach, for a variety of reasons. First, you may not really understand the point they are raising (for that matter, the other person may not themselves really understand the issue they are raising). If you respond, more or less blindly, then you may fail to address the issue; worse, you may open up other issues.

Second, it’s best if you understand just why they are asking.  Sometimes the best response to a question is a really smart question.

To somewhat paraphrase — was it Yogi Berra? — if you don’t know where they’re coming from, you’ll never be able to get them on the right track to where they need to go.  Are they asking this to clarify things? Or to draw you into a trap and set you up for an attack on your idea?

Third, what sounds like an objection (“I don’t think your approach will ever work here”) may actually be a question (“Why do you think that’s going to work here, given our situation?”)  Conversely, what seems like an innocuous question may be the tip of an iceberg of deeper concerns, and if you don’t look deeper you’ll lose the chance.

Beyond that, what may seem like  a simple yes-no question may offer the opportunity to deal with other related issues . . . if you know what’s really on the other person’s mind.

Of course, if it’s a simple question, or a simple, direct objection, then do respond directly. You don’t want to detour into unnecessary issues.

Otherwise, I suggest these five steps, though adapted to the situation and the individual.

1.    Explore. Ask questions to get the person talking about what they really mean by the objection, and why it’s important to them.  (“Why do you feel that way? ” will do if nothing better comes to mind.)

2.    Listen well to their response.  You may have heard this objection a dozen times already this week, but this person may put a different twist on it.  Don’t be too quick in cutting off their  response in order to interject your answer or rebuttal.  The more you know about this individual’s needs and mindset, then the better you can target your response.

Sometimes, if you listen without cutting in, you will find that the person asking the question will actually respond to her own concern, and say something like, “Never mind, I think I’ve answered myself. That’s really not so important, after all.

3.    Restate, if appropriate.  In many cases, it can be helpful to both yourself and the other person to paraphrase your  understanding of the core of the the issues they are raising.  For one thing, it forces you to listen closely, so you can restate it clearly. Second, it forces the other to listen to you in turn, to ensure that your restatement is accurate.  Further, in some cases, by restating, you may be able to defuse, or take the edge off, the customer’s concern.

4.    Respond to what they have actually said
.  There may be a deeper meaning behind the objection, so focus on that. Example:   “You say that your firm has already tried using consultants, and isn’t interested.  But I’m picking up a deeper message  that your dissatisfaction was with the work of one particular consulting  firm that didn’t work out for you.  I’d like to explain how  . . .”

5.    Move on from there; don’t get bogged down in your response.  Respond to the objection, then go on with your sales call.

If you say too much in response to an objection, you may blow it up into something larger and more significant than they originally had in mind.  If you bog down on it, repeating and elaborating your reaction, the other person may begin thinking this really must be a major concern, and take that as a reason not to buy.

Conversely, if you treat the objection as a small issue that can be disposed of quickly and easily, then  you send  the subliminal message that it is just that— minor, not a significant concern, not an issue that could possibly prevent your proposal from being adopted.


This post was originally published in my older site CareerSuccessHow-to.com, which I am integrating into this MichaelMcGaulley.net.  To see other posts not yet brought over, go to http://www.careersuccesshow-to.com/

SMART QUESTIONS –People Skills for Winning the Games of Career Success and Life

Ever feel that you’re being moved as a pawn in the games others are playing around you? Ever get the sense that you’re not winning — maybe not even aware of  — the subtle games of business and life?

As one federal executive put it, “You’ve got to be aware of the games that are being played. You don’t have to play the games yourself, but you do need to recognize when they are being played against you.”

SMART QUESTIONS FOR WINNING THE  GAMES OF CAREER SUCCESS (& OFFICE POLITICS!) provides a unique take on career development skills for success. The book  is structured around common-sense but often-overlooked questions questions like these:

  • For me, in this situation, What is “winning”? What is it for the others, including hidden players operating through stand-ins?
  • What’s really going on here? Is this a real issue, or a subtle test?
  • What are the “real rules” that operate here, beneath the coded language and disinformation? What real rules govern communications here?
  • Do I really need to be involved in this? Or am I being drawn into someone else’s problem?
  • What’s my best move at this point? Is a confrontation necessary? If so, is now the best time?
  • What should I consider before taking action? Am I thinking enough steps ahead?
  • Are there broader opportunities hidden within this situation?
  • What can I learn from this situation? How should I handle a similar case when it comes around again?
  • Am I being given the recognition and compensation that I (honestly) deserve? If not, why not, and what can I do about it?

SMART QUESTIONS is Book 1 in the Career Savvy People Skills Series.

Book 2 in the series is How to Use MENTAL PICKPOCKETING  to Get to the Truth Without Seeming to Ask

These smart questions —- part people skills, part communication skills, part career savvy -— drew from my work  a lawyer (NY,VA,DC), and as a consultant to organizations that included the U.S. State Department’s Foreign Service Institute, Xerox companies in the United States and abroad, U.S. Navy, Kodak, HUD, USDA, Citicorp, and others.

You can find SMART QUESTIONS at Amazon and other retailers.

Here’s the Amazon link: