15 Superb Questions

15 Superb Questions For Pivotal Leadership - by Jeff Haltrecht

Jeff Haltrecht is a principal Leadership Coach at the Polaris Learning Academy and the Facilitator of the Polaris Alumni; he is a regular contributor to Polaris Digest.

Asking yourself the hard questions is one of the best leadership skills a Top Leader can practice.  In his opening article, David challenges us to think about the impact our actions have on those who work with and for us, putting forth four easy to grasp concepts on how to better engage individuals in our organization.

For the Top Leader, reflection is critical to focusing the desire for change and facilitating the new reality.  This begs the question ‘How best to reflect on the issues and opportunities facing the company?’  The answer lies in the questions you ask of yourself and your team.

The more tough you are with the questions, the more open you are to disciplined debate, the more honest the answers will be; helping you focus and prioritize the organization on initiatives that build long-term value.  

Here we go…

  1. How can we simplify the business model in order to do fewer things better?
  2. What is our single biggest obstacle to doubling sales?
  3. What should we be working on, but can’t get to?
  4. What and/or who is keeping the organization from attaining it’s 5 year plan?
  5. Which personal goal do I wish I hadn’t missed last year?
  6. Can I articulate the organization’s competitive advantage in 2 phrases or less?
  7. How do we fit into our customer’s strategic plan?
  8. Who will run the organization/department if I became unavailable tomorrow?
  9. Do I know what motivates each of my direct reports and how they want to be rewarded?
  10. What would happen if I encouraged my front line employees to deal with customer issues on the spot?
  11. Am I comfortable surrendering more and more to the process and letting my people lead?
  12. Are we building a learning culture where people can thrive?
  13. How are we measuring the organization’s productivity?
  14. What’s going to happen if we don’t adapt the business model to the new consumer/customer behaviours caused by the recent economic crisis?
  15. Do I know what I should stop doing because of the stress it’s causing my body?

And one bonus question for you to ponder:

  • If my people are fearful of change, what am I personally doing to help them overcome it?

With answers in hand, pick 2 or 3 issues at a time and make them a priority for debate and change.  It could be organization-focused or it could be personal.  Either way, a few must make it into your monthly action plan.  When complete, tackle the next couple, trying not to overload yourself or the company all at once (obviously this is counterproductive).

Ask yourself these questions at minimum quarterly, if not more often.  Then start asking your direct reports similar styled questions that get their mind thinking around items that matter to you and the company’s success.

Don’t give people the answers and don’t make them feel insecure if they struggle with the truth.  The purpose is to stretch their thinking and let them know what matters to you.  You will find that over time, and it won’t take long, they will begin asking the questions of themselves and start evolving their behaviour.  Best of all, they will thank you for the opportunity to learn and grow together.

Do you have a favorite ‘tough-minded’ question of your own to share with readers of Polaris Digest?  Send it to me at jeff@jeffhaltrecht.com and we'll include it in the October issue.  Thanks!