Developing the habit of asking questions has made me a better decision maker. It has helped me develop better decision makers, too. Asking the right questions, getting the best answers, and putting those answers to use has countless benefits. The following questions are critical for every leader regardless of his or her leadership context or where they fit in the organizational structure. I believe asking and answering questions like the ones that follow are critical for continual growth and success.
1. What matters most right now?
Prioritize. Distinguish the urgent from the important.
2. How do I create an environment that brings out the best in the people I lead?
The environment in which your people work significantly impacts whether or not they perform at their peak. It is up to every leader within the organization to guard their environment against pollutants such as gossip, jealousy, and lack of accountability. Create an environment filled with humor, empathy, and well-managed anger.
3. Where are the answers I need?
Some answers are in books, podcasts, blog posts, etc. Some are found in difficult experiences that reveal the answers to tough questions. You never know where your answers will come from. Open up, receive them, and keep it moving!
4. Who am I, really?
Can you truly lead with authenticity and heightened emotional intelligence without asking this one?
5. What am I doing to keep growing as a leader?
Refuse to put your personal and professional development on the back burner. Be intentional with your growth. Make time for it. Make time for you!
6. Where am I going?
7. What do I really, really want?
This requires courageous soul searching. While we may think we want one thing-marriage, promotions, wealth, etc.-it is common to find we really want something else-prestige, power, fulfillment, approval, a sense of accomplishment, etc. Be honest with yourself about what you really, really want…that is, if you know what you really, really want.
8. How do I get what I really, really want?
One thing that can help us with this is to find someone who seems to have what you really, really want and ask them how you can find what you’re longing for.
9. What skills do I need to hone for where I am?
Blossom where you’re planted. Develop the skills that will empower you to add more value where you are.
10. How do I create and improve resonance with the people I lead?
The best leaders resonate with their people. Connect with your people with such qualities as empathy and supportive listening.
11. What are the most critical questions I should be asking right now?
Coaching can help tremendously with this one.
12. What skills do I need to hone for the next level?
Know what you need for the next rung on the ladder and develop the required skills. If you cannot utilize those skills in your current position explore whether you can utilize them in another context perhaps by volunteering in a local non-profit.
13. How do we know if we’re winning?
Just as sports have scoreboards, ensure your team knows whether or not they’re winning. Measure what matters most and keep performers abreast of how things are going.
14. Are my goals relevant for where I am and where I’m going?
As you move up and move on periodically review and revise your goals to ensure they’re relevant.
15. What is my vision for my team/organization?
16. What is my vision for my character?
Who you become is more important than what you accomplish. Picture who you want to become and press on to manifest character traits that matter most: integrity, empathy, patience, etc.
17. Am I serving according to my strengths?
18. Am I helping the people I lead discover and serve according to their strengths?
19. How do I make the people around me better?
When Michael Jordan figured this out he started winning championships. Invest in the people around you and make them better.
20. When do I come up with my best ideas?
Some leaders come up with their best ideas while walking, fishing, or golfing. Devote time to activities that stimulate your mind. Thou shalt not become too busy to think!
Some of my FaceBook friends posted more questions leaders should ask. What would you add to this list?