One of the biggest questions that is continually in the forefront of a business owner/managers mind is – how do I become a better ____________ (you fill in the blank).
So how do we become better? Not long ago, I had a learning break-through. I was in a training session and the leader (Aaron Prickle at Lushin) made this comment: “it’s not the statements you make, it’s the questions you ask.” Aaron was specifically talking about selling, but this applies across the board to just about everything.
Questions ignite imaginations, avert catastrophes and reveal unexpected paths to brighter destinations. Inc. magazine, in the April 2014 issue, has compiled a list of 35 questions from great business leaders that will stimulate your thinking about your own business.
1. How can we become the company that would put us out of business?
2. Are we relevant? Will we be relevant five years from now? Ten?
3. If energy were free, what would we do differently? Or if not energy, then choose another key word that drives your business (labor, storage, fuel).
4. What is it like to work for me?
5. If we weren’t already in this business, would we enter it today? And if not, what are we going to do about it?
6. What trophy do we want on our mantle? Is growth most important? Profitability, stability?
7. Do we have bad profits? Some products/services look attractive, but are they taking the company capital and focus away from its main line of business?
8. What counts that we are not counting? What tangible and intangible assets truly differentiate your business that you currently have no means of measuring?
9. In the past few months, what is the smallest change you have made that has had the biggest positive result? What was it about that small change that produced the largest return?
10.Are you paying enough attention to the partners your company depends on to succeed?
11. What prevents me from making the changes I know will make me a more effective leader?
12. What are the implications of this decision 10 minutes, 10 months, and 10 year from now?
13. Do I make eye contact 100 percent of the time?
14. What is the smallest subset of the problem we can usefully solve?
15. Are we changing as fast as the world around us?
16. If no one would ever find out about my accomplishments, how would I lead differently?
17. Which customers can’t participate in our market because they lack skills, wealth, or convenient access to existing solutions?
18. Who uses our product in ways we never expected?
19. How likely is it that a customer would recommend our company to a friend or colleague?
20. Is this an issue for analysis or intuition? If it’s a decision that’s important, recurring, and amendable to improvement, you should invest in gathering data, doing analysis and examining failure factors. If it’s a decision you will only make once, or if you cannot get the data or improve the decision making process, you might as well go with your experience and intuition.
21. Who on the executive team or the board has spoken to a customer recently?
22. Did my employees make any progress today? Forward momentum in employees’ work has the greatest positive impact on their motivation.
23. What one word do we want to own in the minds of our customers, employees and partners?
24. What should we stop doing? Peter Drucker is famous for this question; he was also a great teacher and he always re-enforced the importance of asking questions.
25. What are the gaps in my knowledge and expertise?
26. What am I trying to prove to myself, and how might it be hijacking my life and business success?
27. If the board brought in a new CEO, what would he/she do?
28. If I had to leave my organization for a year and the only communications I could have with employees was a single paragraph, what would I write? Pat Lencioni states that “determining the substance of this paragraph forces you to identify the company’s core values and strategies, and the roles and responsibilities of those hypothetically left behind.”
29. Who have we, as a company, historically been when we’ve been at our best?
30. What do we stand for – and what are we against?
31. Is there any reason to believe the opposite of my current belief?
32. Do we underestimate the customer’s journey? Matt Dixon explains “often, companies don’t understand the entirety of the customer’s experience; how many times have they searched for a solution on our web page, only to go to the Contact tab out of frustration, which is where the company thinks is step one for the customer?”
33. Among our stronger employees, how many see themselves at the company in three years? How many would leave for a 10 percent raise from another company?
34. What did we miss in the interview for the worst hire we ever made? (Here’s one I learned – if you are looking to hire an organized highly detailed person, walk with them to their car after the interview and look inside.)
35. Do we have the right people on the bus? This is very important – your key people could be in the wrong seat.
Growth & Profit Coach, Financial Strategist, Cash Flow Doctor, CEO Mentor