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A friend of mine is a consummate dealmaker. It’s his job to know the details, to be able to lay out all the workflows and scenarios.

But all those little pieces often take on a frantic life of their own. As tensions escalate, the team can lose sight of the original motivation for pursuing the deal. When that happens, he doesn’t push harder. He takes a time-out, grounding the group with a simple question.

“Stop. Pause. What are we doing?”

That phrase is a showstopper, and that’s why it’s important for the May series, Coping With Crazymakers. It’s a quick and easy technique to step back from the commotion and get a fresh perspective.

Organizer Hellen Buttigieg faced this challenge when she consulted a couple rebounding from a long financial crisis.

The wife was a champion crafter with limitless energy. She sewed, she beaded, she made wreaths and flower arrangements. She enthusiastically told Hellen, “I see a use for everything!”

Their house showed it. It was filled with piles of half-finished and never-started projects. Letting go seemed wasteful.

Then there was the sentimental value. You see, her husband loved his wife as much as she loved to craft. They made desperate spending cutbacks to save their townhouse. However, as a delivery man, he constantly found “free” things she could use during his trips around town.

That worked…until all that stuff took over the house. Every room was filled to the brim when Hellen arrived.

By now you might be thinking, “Isn’t it obvious? Throw everything away! Start over!”

Maybe, but that would have only been cosmetic. The real work was shifting the couple’s anxiety and well-founded fear that they would never have enough.

Purging stack after stack of freebies refreshed their vision, in every way. They started seeing a future filled only with things they really loved. And that future was beautiful. Compulsive collecting lost its appeal.

In short, they let go of the crazy.

So what can you do if you’re faced with a crazymaker going in a million different directions?

First, shift nervous energy into a neutral, collaborative discussion by using “what” questions. Try phrases like:

  • What are we trying to achieve?
  • What’s our end result?
  • What are we getting done today?
  • What would you like to see when we’re finished?

“Why” questions are emotional dynamite, especially with crazymakers. Did you ever have someone ask, “Why did you do this?” or “Why is it like this?” without feeling defensive? Skip “why” questions – they just amplify hostility, taking you into a whole other level of foolishness!

Second, make something real by writing it down. Hellen left the crafter with a “Top 10” project list to use as a North Star. There was just one caveat – it had to stay at ten. The crafter could change her mind at any time, reordering the projects or removing them. What she couldn’t do was keep adding more and more.

A crazymaker in overdrive may frustrate you this week, but staying frustrated is up to you. Redirect all that combustible energy into a common goal by asking, “Stop. Pause. What are we doing?”