Two Important Questions Every Leader Must Ask & Answer

Two Important Questions Every Leader Must Ask & Answer (Season 2021, Episode 01)

During the early stages of morphing yourself into a high-performing culture, you can embrace a new level of creativity (aka innovation) when you commit to taking a harder look at what you’re doing. That means you individually and you collectively. Being too close to things is problematic because it robs us of the ability to see things as accurately as we might. Assumptions sort of automatically take over. We stop questioning what we’re doing because it’s become such a repetitive auto-pilot kind of thing. Enter the power of the pause.

Hit the pause button on the work. This doesn’t have to be the complete cessation of work, but it does require you to stop long enough to ask and answer two critical questions that can determine whether you’ll succeed in elevating performance.

For you and every other individual person in the organization: “Why am I doing this?”

For the collective: “Why are we doing this?”

For you and every other individual person in the organization: “Why am I doing it this way?”

For the collective: “Why are we doing it this way?”

The courage is unearthed not by asking the question, but by taking the time to answer it. So how courageous are you willing to be?

As you look at the first two questions, which are really the same question – just one is focused on the individual YOU and the other on the collective YOU begin by emphasizing the first word of the question, “Why?”

Concentrate your attention on trying to discover the value of what’s being done. And yes, I’m talking about everything that is done by you and others inside the organization. There must be a valid reason for everything that’s done. If not, then how foolish do you feel?

Is everything being done important? Does everything being done impact success? Know why it’s being done.

Then emphasize the pronoun of the questions, “I” or “We.”

As you examine the work being done focus on who is doing that work. Should it really be you? Should it really be the person currently tasked with doing it? Is somebody else better suited to do it? Who else could do it, perhaps better? What are the current costs associated with you or somebody else doing it versus having somebody different doing it?

Then emphasize the thing being done, “This.”

Now we’re down to the brass tacks of the thing being done – this! Is it the most important thing to do right now? What else might be important – or more so – and going undone because of it?

Now moving onto the second pair of questions whose aim is to dive into the how of it all, we’re provoked to ask more clarifying questions.

Is there a better way to do it? Is there a faster way? Is there a way that will result in higher success?

I talk quite a lot here and with clients about the importance of humility and curiosity leading to greater understanding. It’s because in our humility – our ability to wonder about what we don’t see or what we don’t yet know – our curiosity stirs us to ask questions so we can better understand.

There are days where I feel like a pestering 2-year-old because I’m asking question after question after question. Usually, that’s because of one of two things. Either the other person isn’t being very forthcoming or the topic is so fascinating to me I can wait to learn more. Sometimes it’s a combination of both. And sometimes it’s because my eagerness to understand is much higher than the other person’s eagerness to help me understand. 😉

But questions stimulate us. They foster deeper curiosity. These 2 questions aren’t sophisticated. They seem rather basic because they are. But high performing cultures aren’t nearly as sophisticated as we often think. In fact, sometimes – perhaps more often than not – we overthink it. We spend money diving into things that won’t have any lasting impact on our career, team or organization. We neglect to invest in some simple, but profound things that can make all the difference in the world.

Consultants often enter an organization with the intent to dazzle the client with volumes of reading material whose aim is to justify the high price tag of their service. But at the end of the day, it’s just a lot of words on a page. You don’t have to pay anybody anything to ask these questions. Not me. Not anybody else.

Hit the pause button sometime today and start asking these questions. Get everybody in your organization to ask them, too. Then stay paused long enough to do the hard part – LISTEN. Make note of the answers. Let me leave you today with two quotes.

“Being willing is not enough. We must do.” -Leonardo da Vinci


“Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.” – John Wooden

You must act on the answers. Else, it’s just an exercise in futility – taking up time in everybody’s life. The purpose of establishing and sustaining a high performance culture is efficiency and effectiveness. It’s the pursuit of greater success.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

GROW GREAT • Your Leadership Path Forward Begins With Your Own Growth
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Grow Great a public sector leadership podcastAbout the hosts: Randy Cantrell brings over 4 decades of experience as a business leader and organization builder. Lisa Norris brings almost 3 decades of experience in HR and all things "people." Their shared passion for leadership and developing high-performing cultures provoked them to focus the Grow Great podcast on city government leadership.

The work is about achieving unprecedented success through accelerated learning in helping leaders and executives "figure it out." 

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