It’s been said before that leadership is not about having the right answers, it’s about asking the right questions. Many people hear that and picture the leaders thoughtfully posing deep, introspective questions of their followers. Asking questions that cause them to think differently and ultimately come to the right conclusions on their own about the decisions they need to make. That’s a great way to cause people to examine and be proactive about their decisions. What might be more important though, are the questions the leader is asking himself or herself.
Every leader I’ve ever worked with who is getting great results and driving real meaningful change has been focused on his or her own behaviors and actions in additions to the actions of others. That often manifests itself in the questions that they ask themselves each day. There are many great questions that would cause leaders to think carefully about how they lead a team or an organization, here are three.
1. What kind of culture am I supporting today and building tomorrow?
Culture is one of the critical jobs of any leader and you either build it consciously or you end up fighting it in order to execute new strategies in the organization. The behaviors of leaders are largely responsible for creating that culture each day. I worked with a leader once who called one of his team members every Monday morning and asked them what their priorities were for the week, who on their team would they help most to improve this week and which customers they would focus on that would make a difference this week. With that one action he created a culture that said, focus on yourself, your people and the customer. You can bet that even though he only called one member of his team each week with those questions, everyone on the team was ready to answer in case they got the call. What are you doing to build and support the right culture on your team? The question is not whether you are creating a culture or not, you are, the question is what kind of culture you are creating.
2. How am I creating opportunities for connection in this organization or on this team?
If you want the commitment of the people in your organization they need to either be directly connected to the goals and the mission of the organization or they need to be connected to the work that they do each day. Watch the commitment that people have as they work with charities and not for profit organizations. They typically work very hard, with no pay and sometimes in extremely disorganized environments pitching in to do whatever is necessary. What if everyone in your business worked like that? How clear and compelling is the mission of the organization and how are you communicating it? Are you giving people opportunities to learn and do the things they love most inside the organization so that they can connect to their own work, as well as the overall mission of the business?
3. What kind of coaching is happening in my business?
People are no longer just working for a paycheck, they are looking for a place where they are coached and developed, especially early in their careers. Even if they weren’t, good coaches consistently build teams that drive growth in the business. I’ve seen many instances where coaching is about pulling out the metrics that the organization focuses on and holding the individuals feet to the fire about whether or not they look good on the scorecard. How effective do you think Tiger Woods’ coach would be if he didn’t watch him play but merely checked his scorecard at the 9th hole and tried to help him improve his game on the back nine? He’s only looking at the results of his actions, not the actions themselves. No one can coach effectively like that, that’s reporting not coaching. Coaches on your team and in your business need to bring the power of observation to the conversation and earn trust and respect by making sure the individual’s best interest is the focus as they work to help them develop and succeed.
There are many questions that leaders need to ask on a daily basis in order to ensure that they are leading the business and the team along the right path, the right way. Try these three if you want to build a strong, sustainable business that can grow even during the most challenging of times. These are certainly not the only areas that demand a leader’s focus but they are often the ones that are most neglected yet they can help build a team and a business that many leaders only dream about.
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