July 21

The Two MOST Important Questions In Leadership


Yep it is true, there are two questions that can radically transform your team, and you as a leader. Just two little questions that can further develop your team, making them effective, efficient, and ready to take ownership.

Let Me Explain

Years ago I worked for a boss that had a huge and very positive impact on my career and my life. Like most people who impact you at this level, he was simultaneously the most inspiring person I have ever worked for and the most frustrating one too; which turned out to be a great combination. In fact, exactly what you ought to look for in a leader, if you want to grow as an individual and grow in your career; and grow and develop as I did.

Jeff was (and I am sure still is) amazing at a lot of things, but his real gift was in developing people. His inspiration and encouragement allowed you to take risks and try new things; his confidence and belief made it safe to fail and make mistakes. In the time I worked with him, I learned quite a bit from Jeff, but the most important lesson I learned from him was the power of a question.

The Two Most Important Questions

And the power of the question was exactly why Jeff was so frustrating.  Because no matter how much you begged, pleaded or how stuck you were he would never, and I mean never, give you the answer. He always, always answered any question you asked him with a question. No matter what problem, challenge or situation you came to Jeff with he always answered your questions by asking you the two most important questions in leadership:

  1. Why do you feel we should do that?
  2. How do you think it should work?

He was like a broken record, always repeating the same two questions.

In fact he did this so consistently, he even frustrated his kids. One time I went to his office with an issue, and his five year old daughter Caroline was visiting. As I explained my situation to Jeff, Caroline listened, and when Jeff, true to form, answered by asking me why and how, Caroline sighed and said “Oh dad, do you do that to them too!” Because apparently Jeff was not only raising leaders at work, but he was raising leaders at home too! And he was himself a leader of course.

The Power of Simple Questions

Pretty simple questions are so incredibly effective when it came to leading and developing a team. Why? Because, by asking these two simple questions consistently and routinely, Jeff was able to reduce his need to be involved in the day-to-day operations of the team (allowing him to use his talents to grow market share, enhance client experience, and stay on top of changing market conditions) as well as consistently and continually developing talent at each and every level of his organization, making us a strong, effective and very profitable team. By asking these two questions routinely and consistently he was able to transform from manager to leader, ensuring not only the growth of his company, but the development and growth of his team.

Leading Through Questions

When you lead through questions, like Jeff did, you expand your leadership abilities to become a business coach, mentor and sales leader, creating and building a team that is ready for anything and ready for today’s constantly shifting market place.  The power of leadership through questions creates a team that is:

  1. Solution Oriented: We learned early on, never to go to Jeff without thinking our situation through, analyzing the problem and coming up with possible scenarios and solutions to how best to get it fixed.

  1. Drama Free: We quit going to Jeff with minor complaints or issues with employees or customers; oh we would keep him in the loop, but we learned early on that if we didn’t have it fixed by the time it got to his door, we would fix it (ourselves) while we were in there.

  1. Takes Ownership: Since the solutions and ideas were ours, we took pride in ownership, we were bought in and had a stake in ensuring they worked. We grew from sales associates, to sales leaders embracing our goals, and working together to build our market share.

  1. Thinking & Doing: His leadership through questions created team members that not only had the ability to do, but to think. We grew not only in our skill level, but in our ability to problem solve and critically think.

  1. Interdependent not dependent: The result of a questioning approach was a team that could stand on their own as individuals and as a team. We were a strong team, but we did not miss a beat or lose a step when one of our team members moved on or was promoted. We were interdependent (working well together) but not dependent on a member or a strong leader.

  1. Leadership does not have to be complicated, but it does have to be effective. Taking a “question” approach is a great step in ensuring that you, as a leader, are many things, including a business coach. As a business coach, you are ensuring that you are giving your team the room they need to grow and develop, while taking risks, embracing failure, and building their confidence to become leaders themselves.

So give it a try, for one month, one week, even one day, what do you have to lose? Not much, but what you stand to gain is immeasurable!

Meridith Elliott Powell

Voted one of the Top 15 Business Growth Experts to watch by Currency Fair, highly engaging corporate motivational keynote speaker Meridith Elliott Powell delivers a cutting-edge message, rooted in real-life examples and real-world knowledge. Meridith’s presentations are full of powerful content, highly interactive, and fun. She helps her clients learn the leadership development, sales and business growth strategies to turn uncertainty to competitive advantage.

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