During my career in management and consulting I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to work with numerous entrepreneurs and managers.
Whilst there were many things that were different, there were some commonalities – especially amongst the successful ones.
From my 20 years experience, here are the six most powerful questions great leaders asked of their people:
1. What’s our aspirational Plan A and our bullet-proof Plan B?
One of the most successful entrepreneurs I know had a habit of asking two questions: All things being equal, what would be our most courageous and aspirational goal? It was always accompanied with: what is our back-up plan if we didn’t quite make it.
Once the risk was sufficiently contained with an alternative, he would encourage the organisation to aim for the seemingly impossible.🎯
2. What would you do differently around here? How can we improve?
A question, particularly pertinent to new staff about week or fortnight after they’ve joined the organisation is to ask them what they would do differently. They still have a fresh and objective perspective, but know enough about the organisation to provide valuable insight. Over the years, some of the greatest insights I’ve gained have been from new staff and their views.🎯
3. How are you? Are you learning and being challenged in your role?
Good managers care about their people – always! Their primary concern is the human person, their welfare, their loved ones and their journey. Once the person is cared for, it must follow that their work environment allows them to learn and develop and be challenged.
Frequency is critical here. Yes, it takes time and effort to care but there is no greater role for a manager.👫
4. What three things concern you the most right now?
Another successful entrepreneur I worked closely with used to consistently ask what were the greatest concerns his people were facing. What three things occupy your mind and trouble you right now? Then he would say – let’s talk though them.
Asking someone what keeps them up at night is a great way to understand them and their contribution to the organisation.👫
5. What resources do you need to get things done?
Good managers don’t micromanage – instead they empower. They let people work to their strengths and capitalise on their expertise. Rather than looking over their shoulder, they emancipate and get out of the way.
They focus on assisting and enabling performance. We call this execution empowerment in our management model.📈
6. Do you have any questions or need more information to do your job?📈
People perform to the best of their ability when they have all the necessary and available information to do so. The days of managers withholding information and knowledge as a way of exerting power are long gone. Great ones, I’ve known, shared appropriate information as they took on the role of coach. They stood on the sidelines to encourage and support with knowledge and direction – when required or called upon.📈
The following two are not questions, but worth an honorary mention.
When a good manager makes a mistake, s/he must have the humility to admit it, take full responsibility and rectify matters.
Admitting you were wrong is not a weakness. It requires a sense of self-awareness and honesty – something I’ve seen only in true leaders.
Authentic leaders also took the effort to understand what their people did well and provided feedback and sincere gratitude on a regular basis.
Being grateful and acknowledging contribution is a rare trait of a good manager.