038: Diane Testa | Phrase Your Problems as Questions

Today we’ve got the founder of Koi Consulting Group, Diane Testa. Diane began her career in Corporate America and held several executive roles over 25 years. With her mission to empower individuals and organizations to discover and fully express their purpose with great success, Diane founded Koi Consulting to fulfill her goals.
We talk about how your coach should remain curious and ask you a lot of questions. We get into how the group, Four Quarters, that she co-created, is building and supporting start-up companies, and how you should rephrase your problems as open ended questions.


The Mastermind Effect:  There’s so many ways that we can learn. But I feel it’s really changed over the last five to 10 years. When we were younger, you know, we learned from textbooks and teachers. And for me, that wasn’t always the best way. The textbooks was kind of difficult for me, I always learned best through people’s experiences and learning from how they have been successful and through their failures. You know, eventually it was learning from your friends and your co-workers. How has your learning changed over the last several years versus today?

Diane Testa: I think it’s changed dramatically. So I did go to the traditional route and went to college, and then grad school, and then got a corporate position. And once I was in those jobs, it was all on the job training. I think I got stagnant in those positions and those roles. Not that, I was not being promoted and moving into new roles. But I stopped learning on the outside and really stopped reading a lot of books, you know, doing kinds of different kinds of classes outside of that world. Once I left that world, it was like a whole new world of learning to me. So especially in today’s environment, I am constantly doing webinars, I’m doing certifications, I’m reading books, and guess what? I absolutely love it. I feel like I’m always on the leading edge. Creating new things, new ideas, and also helping my clients because I am reading the latest and greatest stuff.

The Mastermind Effect: Yeah. And it’s interesting how the education system is changing, and what we thought we used to have to learn and have to get to that next, that next pillar, that next level of job satisfaction, it’s really changing what people are expecting from just the workforce today, wouldn’t you say?

Diane Testa: Yeah, absolutely. I think, you no longer expect a company to provide training for you. That there’s those expectations that you also as an individual are on the outside, always upping your game always learning some new software, new technology, new ways and processes of doing things and that’s sort of an expectation of being an employee these days and being able to progress in leadership roles, etc. The company no longer says, “Hey, we’re gonna send you to school” or most don’t send you to school to get your MBA and pay for it, or will send you to school to get the certain classes. They may have a budget or smaller budget depending on the company. But for the most part, the onus is on you, and something that to embrace as a lifelong learner.

The Mastermind Effect: Yeah. And you and I both went, like we said, we want the standard education away, but the way that that we view it now might be a little bit different. Maybe it’s not about getting that MBA, maybe it’s not about this traditional way of learning but it’s learning through possibly, whether it’s a mastermind, or it’s a course, or through group teachings, that you’re able to take that information. And that kind of leads us to my next question. We have a lot of ways to take in information, almost too many, or it’s just like, you look at it, and it feels like you’re drowning on the amount of information. Some people learn from mentors, accountability, buddies, masterminds, and other people take online courses. So there’s obviously a lot of ways to learn. Who are you currently learning from? And how did you find them?

Diane Testa: So great question, I have a coach myself. She is my business coach. And so I learned quite a bit from he. We meet on a regular basis. And that kind of learning is different than you would learn, say, online or through a webinar. And, you know, I love the variety. I love that it’s both a combination of some interactive things on zoom, breakout rooms, collaborating with others, sharing ideas and concepts, and then coming back, and then learning something along those lines. Whether it’s coaching, consulting, strategic planning, how to facilitate better online, all those things are different ways of learning. For me, I like the variety, but I do learn best by doing and I think most people do. I think that you can learn it conceptually and philosophically, but until you actually apply it and begin to use it in your life, it really doesn’t sink in completely. I think that speaks to what you’re saying about going the traditional route, going to college and learning a certain way and then coming out and going, “Oh, my gosh, well, that was theory.” Now, I’m like “This the real world.” And I’m learning something completely new. I’ve got a foundation of writing and being able to listen and engage. But now, I’m learning something that looks so different.

The Mastermind Effect: Yeah. And you touched on something there, coaching, and mentorship. In episode nine, I go into one of the pillars of why it’s so important to have mentorship. How has it changed how you do things by working with your coach and your mentor?

Diane Testa: I think with coaching, there is a different philosophy. And basically, it’s that, at least when I coach, I’m coming from a perspective that the person is creative, resourceful, and whole, and they have all those answers within as a coach. And my coach will do this as well to remain curious and ask a lot of questions. And then to begin, reflect back on what you’re actually hearing that person say, and then really understand where their goals are, and where there’s a gap, so that they can understand it from a perspective that makes a real mind shift. You know, sort of a transformational change within them that says, “Oh, okay, I see it, now I get it.” And here are the things that I need to do to make those changes in my work or my life. That’s what a good coach will do.

I think what I feel so strongly about is, it’s a truly a fun and transformative process. It’s a place where you feel good about who you are, and what you’re doing all the time is very different than therapy. It’s not to say that a coach won’t challenge you, right? And won’t say, you know, these are the things you said you really wanted to accomplish, to hold you accountable. But progress is made based on the foundation that, that you do have the answers with it.

The Mastermind Effect: Absolutely. So we kind of started diving into this here about people getting stuck, or how they get away from themselves. So I think there’s, a lot of people that get stuck, and they just don’t know how to execute like, what’s in their head. Now, our country’s recently gone through and still going through a pandemic. To me, it’s causing what I would say is a reset in how we actually accomplish things. How have masterminds, coaching, mentorship helped you when you want to find that reset, to be able to change how you do things?

Diane Testa: I think it comes from this idea that we have this brain that is used to doing things a certain way. And so we have these grooves in our mind about our habits and how things are supposed to be done. So, a pandemic comes along and says, “Hey, you can no longer meet with someone in person.” Now, the only way to see them is via zoom. So how do you adjust and make it work? And sometimes there’s people that naturally know how to do that. And other times people get stuck and they say, Well, I have no idea where to start. What are my first steps? What does it supposed to look like? And with coaching, it’s a thinking partnership. So you have this person you can bounce ideas off of. They’re an advocate for you. They facilitate you, and then they help you through anything that’s stopping you from taking the next step. Really, a lot of times, what’s stopping people is fear. Like they’re afraid of the unknown, they’re afraid of how to do it, or that they might look silly, or whatever it is. And so in a good coaching, mentorship, consulting relationship, you are sort of uncovering that and addressing it. Most of the time, it’s not real, their fears aren’t real. But it stems from something that happened to them many years ago.


The Mastermind Effect: We talk about occasionally about the fear of failure, the fear of success, and we’ll get into that here in a little bit. But, getting over that fear and utilizing the mentorship, the coaching, the mastermind mentality can help you see around corners that you might not have access to. So sticking with that, masterminds been around for a long time. From the apostles to the founding forefathers to Napoleon Hill, writing about it, making it come to life. So really, it’s about self-education. And I’m seeing such a boom over the last five years of self-education, going away from the traditional, what you and I originally had learned from. Where do you see the self-education world going forward over the next 5-10 years?

Diane Testa: I think there’s a lot that can be done with it in so many ways. I mean, if we look at traditional education, where you look at a college and a university setting, now, they all have to be online. You know, there’s Zoom, and interactive online sessions. It leads you to that next question: how do we make this available to anyone that wants to go back to school? And even the more executive education programs are saying the same thing, they’re saying, you know, guess what, if you can pay for it, we’ll let you learn, you know, they’re those bars that those big edge, those like Harvard’s, in Wales, and Northwestern and put into place somehow need to be broken down so that this kind of education is applicable to so many people that many people can take advantage of it. It’s not just those that get into their school, or who can afford it.


The Mastermind Effect: Typically, when someone invest in their future, they have a better than vague idea of what they’re going to get, they’re able to have an expectation of what the outcome is going to be. What should people expect when they enter your reality and what you’re doing?

Diane Testa: So I think what people should expect is that no matter who I work with, whether it’s an individual, or it’s a company and a leadership team, that we always start with embracing their core values, really identifying that mission or that purpose, their why, and also their vision, that is their vision for the future. What does it look like and very clear ways of describing it, and that we use as a foundation for working together.

So that foundation allows us then with that vision of, you know, the word stated in the current state as if it’s already happened, really looking at what is it they want, really important? And then whether it’s work or their relationships, etc. It all goes together, what are they creating? What do they want to co-create, and then to hold that vision for me, it’s a sacred thing. It’s very much heart centered, to hold that vision for them with them, partner with them, and then put an implementation plan together. Again, company, individual, the implementation plan is 90% of the work, right? The strategy, the vision, the mission, really key really important. It’s our guiding light, but it’s about 10%. The rest is okay. Now, how do we implement? Yeah, and so that’s no matter who I work with, and I work with a lot of individuals who want to start their dream business who want to create a nonprofit, or they want to improve their current company in one way or another. It’s the same process.

The Mastermind Effect: One of the things we’re going to throw out there is, you’ve got something that you and a couple other people called Four Quarters. And if you could explain that a little bit because that is, you know, an extension of Koi Consulting Group is Four Quarters. Are you able to utilize what you hear from your consulting, whether it’s from an individual or group standpoint, and translate that over to Four Quarters, and how does that work?

Diane Testa: So Four Quarters is a group of start-up businesses. Most of them are start-up or most people in them are serial entrepreneurial. So they’ve had many successful business. They want a place where they can gather, once a quarter, talk about what they’re doing, maybe even do a pitch about what they’re doing. And then have others listen and hear and say, “Okay, here are the resources. Here’s some people I’d like to connect you with, you know, or give them some support in some way.” So my role in that process is to help facilitate those meetings. So I am a facilitator as well, and that facilitation, every time we do it is kind of a different thing where we’re bringing in improv to open up the group meetings. We’re bringing in different break outs where people are working together, you know, as pairs, etc. So we’re designing the session based on what we think and as adult learners what we think they’re going to get the most of from that session.

The Mastermind Effect: Talking about the people that you’re working with, I feel that people have a way of surprising us due to their willingness to learn. You know, the rooms that you are involved with, whether it’s Four Quarters, or it’s, you know, consulting group, you’re kind of hand selecting them, because you want to make sure that people that are in there have a like-minded mentality. Has anyone been to an event or something that you’ve run yourself? And the outcome because of them being in that room has surprised you? What, what’s been the outcome that you’re just like “Wow, look at what they did because they were here.”

Diane Testa: I think the outcome for me that’s always really surprising is if you set up the space properly, and make it a very engaging, interactive, positive environment, where every voice is heard, I think that’s really key, especially with strategic planning, or with doing some kind of mastermind, that everyone feels heard, acknowledged and accepted for what they bring no matter what it is, people don’t need to agree with it.

But that’s where you get diversity and diverse ideas and people in the back of the room who normally never speak, being able to speak up and add their thoughts and ideas. Sometimes what you walk away with there is no way as a facilitator, I could create it myself. What people walk away with is these breakthrough ideas, ideas way beyond something they could have come up with themselves. And these are ideas that are so inspiring, that people walk away with.

Okay, let’s begin to implement let’s begin to put a plan together and really put the structure around whether it’s a business plan or a marketing plan. Okay, what do you know? What’s certain what’s uncertain? What kind of scenarios and then what are you going to do so in this session? What is it you want, what can you create in the next six months? What can you create in the next year knowing what you know right now?

And that’s where I’m sometimes blown away by the end of the day where you see what these brilliant ideas that people have come up with, because of the right setting, and the right learning environment.

Right. So we’re not just, you know, using post-its on a flip chart. We’re also using Play Doh, Legos, pipe cleaners, we’re using whatever it takes to say, “Okay, I’m going to create this vision of the future. Here’s a model of it. Here’s the structure in a Play Doh, Lego kind of image. Remember, this is learning, right? I’m going to now describe it to you and what it looks like, here’s the art I’ve created.” So you’re using different mediums to get people to that next place a place of visioning.

The Mastermind Effect: It sounds like and correct me if I’m wrong, it’s almost like you’re taking them back to a childlike state from the aspect of like, when we were children we’re like, well, I don’t care what someone thinks of me, I don’t care what I wear, like I don’t understand, making fun of somebody. So from that standpoint, by taking us back to where our walls are down., we’re just like, we can say whatever we want, even if it doesn’t sound right, like someone be like, “Oh, cool. Show me that.” Is that right?

Diane Testa: That is absolutely right. So we do is we give people guidelines. And you know, in the creativity, space, creative problem solving space, is called diverging and converging. And when we diverged, like, we’re in that idea, that space of what is the vision look like? What are all the ideas you have, you know, we’re asking them to, really to defer judgment. So you’re listening to this presentation, to strive for quantity, come up with a lot of ideas and see what is going to eventually be the right ones, and to seek those wild and unusual ideas, right. And then to also build on each other’s ideas. So really, anything goes and the more crazy, the better. Because, you know, you’re not going to be at the implementation stage. At that point, you’re then saying, “Let’s convert and decide which ones we think are going to work in this environment,” and then develop those ideas. So then that’s when you’re more affirmative, but in that, you know, more deliberate about what you choose, and, you know, checking it against your objectives for the goals for the company, etc. and then taking one of those ideas and creating them. But what happens, what comes out of an environment where you’re really diverging, and there’s no judgment and people are creating is, as you say, very much like when you were in a young kid, and you were creating things, and you really didn’t care what people thought. It was just fun.

The Mastermind Effect: I think, sometimes, we come to the table with an idea. And immediately the people around us, like we call them the crabs, when we talk about the three C’s crabs, challengers and cheerleaders, the crabs will sit there and they find the immediate problem, like you might have the best idea in the world. And all they’re looking for is “What is the problem?” as opposed to just figure that out later. Like, how do we actually make this come to light as opposed to these problems over here?

Diane Testa: Yeah, absolutely. And I think you bring up a really good point is how do you get people out of that mindset, because those crabs, man, they’re just going to stop you in your tracks from any creativity, any positivity. That meeting, that session can go downhill from there. Now that energy is very draining, and can weigh down people. So what we do in that is there’s always problems in any organization. But what we ask people to do is rephrase their problems as questions. So for example, we don’t have enough money, how are we going to do that? The turnaround on that is, how might we fund that? What are all the ways we might do that? How might we be all that? What are all the ways? How might we our statements, starters to put in front of that problem and rephrase it? So what happens is, then people are very open. There’s a lot of possibilities, right? It’s no longer we can’t and this is a problem. It’s “How do we solve it? How might we? What are all the ways?” Right?


The Mastermind Effect: Yeah, absolutely, completely agree on in the phrasing and how you bring it back to someone so you can be a challenger and not the crab. So I was working with my coach recently, kind of, you know, shifting gears as we get ready to wind this down. We talk about a lot of different things, but mainly, what does it take to create success? And you know, I believe to create success, you need mentorship, willingness to fail, experimentation, finding the right partnerships. And the one that I always come to, and even more so today is the willingness to succeed. I think there’s such a sensitivity with social media out there, that we’re afraid to actually succeed, and then talk about our successes. On top of that, what do you feel? Or what do you think it takes to get over the hump to actually sit there and be successful?

Diane Testa: I think it’s always really important to have a vision, right? So have that clarity around your why your purpose? What is it? What’s the gap, you’re filling and in society? And to have that perspective of how is it going to help the greater good, that piece of it is always an essential piece in my mind to success. So once you have that you have your core values within your company that you live by those principles, those guiding principles that allow you to decide, is this on track? Or is this not on track? When someone comes and says, “Hey, I’ve got a great idea.” Does it fit with your mission? And then a clear vision for what does it look like when you’re finished? What’s the end result?

That’s all your strategy from there to really put a plan together step by step. What does it look like? What am I doing on a monthly basis on a quarterly basis? What does that look like? How do I know if I’ve gotten there? What are my measurement pieces around it, and that structure allows you to, to both hold that vision, but also know, here’s the steps I’m taking personally, or my company is taking to get to that vision. And I really believe that when you’re really clear about your vision, you embrace it, you feel like you’re in it, you see yourself in it. You also, you know, really look at it on a regular basis, because it’s inspiring, and it’s amazing. It’s using vibrant words, describe what you’re creating, that the universe also supports you at the same time, right? I always think of that Quaker prayer, pray and move your feet, right? So you have the vision, that’s your prayer. But you also have to move your feet you also have to implement.

The Mastermind Effect: So there’s always new ideas brewing, especially in times of prosperity. You know, when times are good, it’s easy. There’s so many people winning. But I think real innovation and ingenuity come out of times when we feel the squeeze like we do now. Yeah, what are you working on right now? That’s going to take place over the next 12 months that excites you?

Diane Testa: So what’s most exciting for me right now is working with my clients. I’m so inspired by them and inspired by what they’re doing. So all of them have pivoted, right. So instead of saying, “Oh, my gosh, I can’t survive in this world anymore. It’s, it’s not the way it used to be, I can’t do it.” They’ve taken everything and shifted so that they can be successful. So the things that they’ve been talking about for so long, like, Oh, I want to put my courses online, I no longer want to do traditional face to face, or I want to take everything my store and make it available online. Or I want to take everything this nonprofit offers and put it online, they’ve done it, you know, they’ve actually pivoted, and their business is very successful, whether they’re a nonprofit, or they’re, you know, for profit, they’ve really figured it out. And again, it’s a partnership, a thinking partnership that I have with them is, you know, how do we get to that next solution? What makes most sense, and then actually doing the implementation of it, right? So it’s one thing to talk about, it’s a next to say, “Okay, yes, this makes sense.” And now my business can be even more successful than I thought about and for me I’m super inspired to see that and to work with clients who are just amazing.

The Mastermind Effect: Yeah, absolutely. And that might kind of have answered the last question. But I will still ask anyways. What is a tip, tactic, or an actual item that if a listener took over the next 30, 60, 90 days, they would see an immediate impact in what they’re building?

Diane Testa: I think one tip would be to take small steps on a regular basis. So, you know, say that you want to build your clients or you want to do marketing and say you’re going to spend 15 minutes a day on marketing. Don’t be overwhelmed with this huge thing that you’ve got to create or that you want to create, Take small steps and work on it consistently every day. And I think that’s my biggest message right now. Because the environment, the world, everything’s so different. If you make little progress every day towards what you’re working at, you know, your vision, some of your goals, and that shifts along the way, that’s okay. But then take small steps every day to get there and feel good about what you’ve accomplished on a daily basis.

You can connect with Diane on her website https://www.dianetesta.net/ or follow her on LinkedIn.

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