As the elderly monk walked through the deep forest, a soldier stepped out from behind a tree, and drew his sword.
The soldier challenged the monk, “Who are you? Where are you going? Why are you going there?”
The monk paused and looked deeply at the soldier. Then he asked, “How much does the King pay you to guard this part of the forest, young man?
“Two baskets of grain a week”, replied the soldier proudly.
“I will give you four baskets of grain a week, if you promise to ask me those questions every day”, said the monk.
Questions that encourage us to look at our own identity, challenge us to be intentional about our future direction, and stimulate us to seek a meaningful journey through life are valuable.
Even for an elderly monk, who was willing to pay four baskets of grain a week.
What is the best question you were asked this week?
What is the best question you asked this week?
How are you developing an environment where questions open possibility, stimulate imagination and truly engage others?
There are few things in life more powerful, more enlightening, and more meaningful than to engage with the right question.
Enjoy your September news2use!
“Relevant & pragmatic ideas, tools and insights to play at your best.”
Leadership development colleague and mentor Dr Marshall Goldsmith is recognized by many as the World’s #1 Executive Coach. He is also a passionate learner, and like the elderly monk, Marshall pays someone to ask him questions every day. He uses a process called the daily question exercise that starts with six active questions, always starting with:
Did I do my best today to…
…set clear goals?
…make progress toward goal achievement?
…build positive relationships?
…be fully engaged?
Marshall has expanded his exercise and uses 32 questions to see how he is progressing. He pays a person to call him every day and she listens as he reads his questions and provides his answers.
You can use any number of questions, and you can change your questions from time to time. Starting every daily question with “did I do my best”, makes it impossible to blame anyone else for not getting something done that you deem important.
This has been a very valuable process for me as well. It holds me accountable for how I live, what I say I value; it keeps these things in the forefront for me.
What kind of questions would help you to stay resolute to the things that you value in life?
Give it a go – write questions that you want to ask yourself every day. The process of writing questions helps each of us better understand our own values and how we live or don’t live them on a daily basis.
To provide a bit of additional incentive, if you write your daily questions, and ask yourself these questions for 21 days (you can either answer with a yes-no, or rate yourself 1-5 if you wish), I will send you a copy of my recently released book, “Executive Ownershift, Creating Highly Effective Leadership Teams”. (This offer is limited to the first five people that complete the daily questions exercise for at least 21 days.)
Too good to be true? Don’t question that.
For You & Your Team
Let’s take a look at your meetings. Certainly, the agenda is circulated well in advance before the meeting, highlighting the topics to be addressed and sharing the outcome desired (discussion topic, decision to be made, problem to be solved). You’ve also got a chairperson, and someone responsible for taking the meeting minutes and follow up actions.
How about appointing someone (volunteers welcomed) to serve as the “Question Quantifier” for the next 30 days? The person serving as the “Question Quantifier” tracks the quality questions that come up in your meetings. The Question Quantifier might track the following:
- Within our leadership team, who asks the most questions at our meeting?
- What were (and who asked them) the three best questions at this meeting?
- Reflecting back on the meeting, what questions did we fail to ask that would have been helpful for us?
- What questions would our customers have on this topic?
- What is the ratio between closed questions (questions that you can answer with yes or no answer) and open questions (questions with why, what or how at the beginning)?
This exaggerated focus on questions raises everyone’s awareness, brings a lot of energy to your meetings and provides feedback in real time that enables continuous improvement to take place.
Be the first to volunteer as the Question Quantifier for the next 30 days at your leadership meetings.
For You, Your Team & Your Business
As a young boy, I read “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill many times. I was fascinated with “Three Feet from Gold”, the story of R.U. Darby and his uncle’s pursuit of wealth during the Colorado Gold Rush days. As the story goes, Darby’s uncle invested huge amounts of money in mining equipment and while he found some gold, the gold vein ran out before he could recap his investment. He sold the mining equipment for pennies on the dollar to a local junk dealer and returned East, disappointed and financially ruined.
The junk dealer, along with a mining engineer, investigated the mining claim and determined that huge amounts of unmined gold were only three feet way from where Darby’s uncle quit.
This story has served me well over the years, reminding me not to quit too early. Today let me give you this story with a slightly different perspective, one that relates to your business strategy.
How far away are you from finding gold with your strategy?
Many executive and strategic leadership teams are leaving gold buried in their strategy; by not asking and following up on good questions.
For example, instead of asking a leadership team if the strategic priorities are clear, (this is the question where people simply nod their heads), ask everyone in the leadership team to take out a sheet of paper and write down the four to six strategic priorities for the overall business. Most executives know their functional or divisional targets by heart, yet too many executives cannot name the strategic priorities for the overall business, (leaving gold unmined). After you have everyone’s perceived priorities, follow up with additional questions to align these priorities across all of the leadership functions, (more gold discovered). Ask people to share how emotionally connected and committed they are to each of the strategic priorities, and where there are disconnects, use questions to help others make meaningful connections to the aspired strategic priorities, (and even more gold).
Invest less time in your power point polish and more time crafting questions that bring your “gold strategy” to the surface.
Good questions lead to clarity, alignment and commitment to your strategic objectives.
Take my advice here, it’s as good as gold.
People, Places & Technology
Here are two additional resources to build your questioning competence. First, an HBR article, The Surprising Power of Questions, and second, an excellence book by Dr Marilee Adams called, Change Your Questions, Change Your Life. They are solid resources to help you develop the mindset and skills needed to create good questions.
Thought for the Day
“I would rather have questions that can’t be answered than answers that can’t be questioned.”