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Shawna Schuh

Ask Away: Assign Tasks with the End Goal in Mind

How to ask them to do the actual task.



There are many times when I hear from my clients these kinds of laments: “I should have said that differently.” Or: “Maybe I used the wrong words …”

When this happens, I’m delighted because that leader is becoming more aware that she has control over those words and how they may or may not land. However, sometimes it’s not the actual words; it’s the intent behind them that makes or breaks the situation.

Let’s dig deeper into this.

Here’s a standard miscommunication:

When you say, “Would you please do X task?” Your words, in your mind, may be clear and determined.

You are asking them actually to do the task, right?


That’s what you think.

In reality, it’s an inquiry with no clear intent of when it must be complete or even a determination of end result.

When I’m coaching clients, we take it down to the elements that will actually produce results.

First question: What do you want? And let’s go deeper than having the task done. Aren’t tasks the means to an end result? If you are spending a lot of time on “tasks,” you may have a checked-off to-do list and still not have the results you desire.

Ask yourself instead: “What will having this task done accomplish in regard to my big goal or highest priority?”

That question will shift your thinking to shift from “task doing” to “results producing.”


But what do you ask then if not, “Will you do X task?”

You have many choices. and all of them depend on the intent.

Intent one: Get a task completed. To do this, ask it as is with the addition of a timeframe: “Will you do X task by 3 p.m. today?” The specificity will help you both.

Intent two: Get a commitment to a result rather than a task. Say: “To further the goal of X, please provide me with a list of tasks and who is best to accomplish them inside our timeframe.”

This request will allow the other person to take leadership of the goal and either take on the tasks or find those abler to do so. Remember, of course, to include a timeframe.

Intent three: further action on your end goal. Ask a new question: “To make sure we reach X place, what do you think is the best plan or path to accomplish it?”


This will help them buy into the goal and give you new ideas.

As a leader, we usually know the goal and know the steps or actions to take. That doesn’t mean we should do those actions, nor that others know the goal.

When you shift your thinking like this, things in your world begin to improve. I see it all the time in my coaching clients. If you want the same results, the first step is to stop and think, “What is my intent?” and then the words will come easier.

Shawna Schuh is a certified speaking professional, an executive coach, master neuro linguistic program- ming practitioner and president of Women in the Pet Industry Network. Email her at




Webinar Replay: How to Keep That Holiday Momentum Rolling

Catch a replay of the recent PETS+ Live! webinar, in which host Candace D'Agnolo discusses how pet business owners can maintain their sales momentum after the holidays are finished. To see more PETS+ Live! webinars, visit

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Shawna Schuh

Keep Score. Are You Missing a Big Piece of the Business Puzzle?

When you keep track or keep score, you have so much you can do with that information.



IS TRACKING YOUR PROGRESS a missing piece of your business puzzle?

Vince Lombardi once said: “If it doesn’t matter who wins or loses, then why do they keep score?

When you keep track or keep score, you have so much you can do with that information:

1. Know how far you’ve come. One of my business coaches pointed out how often we are focused on the future, and so we miss celebrating how far we’ve come. When you track your progress it’s easier to say, “Wow! We’ve come this far, let’s keep going!”

2. Know if you are winning and by how much. We wouldn’t watch basketball, baseball, or any of the ball sports if two teams were simply playing for fun. We want to know who is the stronger, better or luckier team that day, and we know there is an ending point. We stay to see who won, by how much and how each team acts afterwards. When you keep track of your results, you know where you are and when.


3. Tweak your actions to shift and improve your results. When you track things, patterns emerge. As a coach that’s one of my jobs: to note my clients’ patterns and tweak to improve results. When you track your progress and results, you are giving yourself the gift of seeing what is working and tweaking or eliminating what isn’t.

4. Celebrate along the way. This is something I missed when I was starting out, and it cost me some team members. I was too focused on the doing, going, getting-it-done attitude, and so I didn’t stop and recognize some of the milestones that would have given me and the team a break, a bigger reason to keep going and a way to create culture. Like dog training, when you recognize and praise the right actions, you get more of them.

5. Teach it down and out. When you track your efforts and results, you have the opportunity during the review of those efforts and results to teach, to demonstrate, or to ask for a lesson in how it worked and how to repeat it. “Show me how you got this result” is a powerful request for when it’s going well and when it isn’t.

If we don’t track what was done, it’s all a mystery. You’re planning or buying or reacting in a void. Are you willing to live in the dark this year?

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Shawna Schuh

Make Your Business Binge-Worthy

How to make your business like a TV series you can’t stop watching



HAVE YOU EVER BEEN hooked on a television series?

OK, I get that it’s a shameful thing to admit from a successful and seeking business person. Our conscious mind says, “I should be reading a business book, learning how to use social media better, or do the paperwork that’s long overdue.”

But somewhere in our mind, we are compelled to turn on one more episode of this series that is doing really nothing for us but taking up time. We keep doing it because it feels good.

Why we do this may just be the secret to getting people to be that sucked into our business story.

So let’s break this down. People follow:

Interesting characters: That would be you, and those you employ, and those you attract. In your favorite series, you begin to feel for the characters. I say “feel” because sometimes you hate a character too. The secret is this: The characters are interesting.

Are you being your most interesting self for your customers?

Tip: Those who are interesting are usually interested — asking questions, telling stories, being quick to laugh and having a sense of fun.

Ongoing challenges: Things to overcome that others can feel involved with. When your characters are tackling an obstacle (many times that they created themselves), we love to watch, weigh in and talk about it.

What are you sharing with your customers?

Tip: Share more of your goals and journey with your clients. Let them in on your big plans. The feeling of, “We’re in this together” is a sure way to keep them tuning into you.

Real connecting: Most great storylines show people deeply connected, sharing times, laughter and tears and sacrifices for each other. Day to day seems so much less dramatic than our shows, but it’s only that way if you think it is.

Do you consider your life like an epic novel?

Tip: Your life is like a novel. Focus on those big and small connecting moments and put as much energy as those you’re watching do.

Cliffhangers: Often, not knowing how it ends is the most tantalizing thing (and sometimes frustrating too!), but we keep watching and giving our time to something that makes us curious.
Businesses do this all the time with sneak previews and hints about new products. Are you doing this enough?

Tip: Give your customers something to look forward to. Either surprises or annual events that are fun and engaging. If you are already doing this, how can you use the techniques from successful series to add more mystery or intrigue?

Next time you watch your favorite show, note what you love most and ask yourself, how can I do this for my pet business?

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Shawna Schuh

What Running an Excavator Can Teach You About Business



This spring, we started a project to put in additional roads around the barn and a huge parking lot to accommodate horse trailers coming to use the new trail course we’re creating in the woods. Highly exciting and fraught with risk.

If you have a pet business, you know all about excitement and risk.

On the one hand, you know expansion is smart, needed and potentially lucrative. The end goal, right?

On the other hand, there is a lot of outlay, many moving parts, and it’s uncertain how much or how fast the investment you’re making will pay off.

Somewhere the expression, “If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much room,” crossed my mind. Though funny at the time, that feeling of hanging on by my toes is a good description for what I  experiencied as the project swirled around me.

To make this project work, friends stepped in to lend their expertise. To do the work, we ordered a bulldozer and an excavator at great expense. One of my friends can operate both, and both were needed. But he couldn’t do both at once, so the excavator was sitting idle a majority of time that first day.

The cost of this idle time was weighing heavily on me. You know that feeling?

So, I thought to myself, “How hard can it be to run this thing?”

I think that most lessons or experiences begin with a question like that. You might have thought something similar before you jumped into business, “How hard can it be?”

And then we find out.

Running an excavator is not that difficult, after all, and so the point is made that nothing is impossible or difficult, at first. What I learned, however, is how difficult it is to do it well. And how frightening it is when you get yourself off-kilter or to close to the edge. I nearly tipped it over a handful of times and scared myself silly in the process. But I figured it out, same as you do.

What I learned from this adventure are a couple of things that will help me, and you, do business even better:


Take the risk. If you’re not growing, expanding and stretching, what are you doing? And if something really scares you, remember you are strong enough.


When you get on shaky ground, back up a bit. It’s unlikely you’ll tip over, but moving back a bit will gain you confidence and help you reposition for higher success.


Even when you can do something, hiring an expert, or turning it over to an expert, is smart, especially if you want to get more done and in a better way. Necessity may be why you climb into the seat, but it doesn’t mean you should stay there. I was happy I took the controls and even happier to relinquish them to a better operator who magically appeared.

The project is still in process, but it’s turning out even better than imagined so far, and I have a feeling the risk, the stretch, the fear will not only be worth it, I will remember all of it fondly when I say, “I even ran that big excavator myself!”

Shawna Schuh  is a certified speaking professional, an executive coach, master neuro linguistic programming practitioner and president of Women in the Pet Industry Network. Email her at

This article originally appeared in the September 2018 edition of PETS+.   

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