5 QUESTIONS EVERY LEADER MUST ASK…AND BE ASKED…

Deepak Chopra, the internationally known wellness and human potential guru, uses a framework of five questions that he believes every human being should answer.  He’s evolved and used these questions over many years of  his high-impact human potential work worldwide.

It occurred to me that Chopra’s questions…with a bit of tailoring for Business Leaders…are an amazingly simple-AND-powerful context for both personal insight and doing effective coaching work with your direct reports.  

(Oh, you aren’t doing regular one-to-one sessions with your direct reports…well this is a great starting point.  You are the Leader…the boss…the 800-pound gorilla…whatever…and taking the initiative to have meaningful conversations with your people about where you are going is really, really important! 2018 is just around the corner…Make a New Years’ Resolution to start doing those one-to-one’s!)

These five questions, when asked in the order presented, form an effective diagnostic tool that can provide better guidance to virtually anyone with whom you are playing the role of a coach. Interestingly, asking them of yourself (and answering – in your journal or other place where you write stuff down) is a powerful self-diagnosis of YOUR capabilities and opportunities.

Here are the questions…with full credit to Deepak Chopra…

  1. What is it that you really want to be and do?

  2. What are you doing really well that is helping you get there?

  3. What are you not doing well that is preventing you from getting there?

  4. What will you do differently tomorrow to meet those challenges?

  5. How can I help / where do you need the most help?

Let’s take a deeper, Strategic Thinking, dive into each question:

What is it that you really want to be and do? This question is about aspiration and purpose. The reason why someone is doing what they are doing should come out here. The question is also meant to get at the business goals and broader aspirations of an individual – someone wishing to be successful in business so that they can do more to help others, for example. The answer to question one should surface the driving passion of individuals – what is it they do or wish they could be great at doing?

What are you doing really well that is helping you get there? This question helps spotlight a core strength and the person’s ability to execute towards his/her goal. What is someone naturally good at doing? Detailed and standardized operations? Leading and motivating staff? Numbers? What is it that someone does better than the average person that can help her achieve her aspiration?

What are you not doing well that is preventing you from getting there? This is about facilitating an honest and critical assessment of the roadblocks, challenges or weaknesses in a person or company that is slowing their ability to win the game; to meet the goal from question one.

What will you do different tomorrow to meet those challenges? Questions two and three help determine whether people are spending the right time on the right things. Progress cannot be measured just by hard work. Someone may have a great work ethic, but if he is not focused on the right priorities, then “you’re making good time, but you’re lost,” as another one of my partners likes to say. People also have a tendency to practice and repeat what they are already good at doing. It is human nature to show off your best side and hide weaknesses. As a kid playing racquet sports, I remember being asked once why I kept practicing my forehand when my backhand sucked. Use this question to probe whether the person has the aptitude to change behavior. Will the person practice start practicing his backhand?

How can I help / where do you need the most help? The answers to the first four questions matched against areas where you as a mentor have particular strengths, relationships, or learning resources – should help determine how you can best help someone achieve the goal.

It’s that simple…and rarely easy…These questions can be the starting point for some great Strategic Thinking conversations…and you have to make it a priority…so, right now, figure out how you’ll use them in your next one-to-one with your direct reports…now that you have those scheduled…. First remember that this is ‘all new’ to your direct report…so give him or her some time to ‘process’ thoughts in advance, particularly if having these conversations is something new to both of you!

You can parse these out to a direct report over several conversations…You can provide all 5 questions and ask that your direct report spend some time thinking and writing about them, then pick just one to focus on in the next 5 one-to-one conversations…

It’s NOT a forced-march to check the box of ‘did that’…effective leadership IS about the conversations. Let us hear from you…how has this tool been useful?