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Five Questions Every CEO Should Ask

by Guest Writter
John Manning, President, Management Action Programs, Inc & Author, The Disciplined Leader: Keeping the Focus on What Really Matters

As your company’s leader, there are a gazillion ways you can go about determining if your business is on track. But when it comes to understanding productivity, as in how productive your people are relative to the results they’re creating, the last thing you want is to go on a wild goose chase, trying to find out what’s working and what’s not.

Fortunately, there are Five Vital Questions you can ask to get razor-sharp clarity around your organization’s productivity. Answer these questions to get the facts and you can improve goal-setting, make more empowered decisions about your company’s strategic direction, and discover how to more effectively lead and inspire performance.

Asking these questions is a proven practice that Disciplined Leaders do regularly. What’s a Disciplined Leader? It’s one who succeeds by consistently applying certain mindsets and actions, like regularly gleaning the right answers that help them achieve their vital goals. They do this purposefully, creating a winning culture, where everyone feels inspired, productive, and rewarded relative to what matters most.

Here are those Five Vital Questions:

Question #1: Do I have the right talent? The very best leaders are purposefully and strategically surrounding themselves with talented teams of people. These carefully chosen individuals possess skills and innate gifts that surpass those of their leaders. These employees are working alongside their leaders and behind the scenes, driving productivity, profitability, and overall success.

Part of your responsibility to lead your team requires finding the very best talent and helping them achieve their full potential. You must also choose those who have the capacity to deliver according to job requirements and exude openness to learning and growth when asked or required. In terms of having the right talent, it’s also extremely important to hire who is right. Studies have shown that 80 percent of turnover is directly tied to bad hiring decisions—and turnover is expensive! In fact, for some companies, hiring mistakes commonly cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Question #2: Do we have goal clarity? Starting with you and then moving out to the frontlines of your business, determine whether everyone’s got a good grasp of their major goals. Look for opportunities to pull employees aside and ask “What are your goals?” or “How are you performing against your goals?” If individuals struggle with articulating their goals, perhaps describing activities they are doing instead, you’ve got your answer: They are not clear on their goals. View this moment of truth as an opportunity to take corrective actions to get your team focused on clear objectives.

Goal clarity is vital to your organization’s success. In our experience cultures that embrace a “What’s the goal?” mindset are more productive. In fact, we’ve seen companies once slacking in productivity make leaps in progress by simply asking this question consistently. It’s powerful!

Question #3: Do we have goal alignment? Assuming everyone at your business has clear goals, explore whether the goals for different departments are aligned or opposed to each other. For example, say a core goal is to reduce overtime so in response, you cut customer service hours. But then the customer service department gets flooded with more calls during its fewer open hours, hurting the customers’ experience and company productivity. This is a classic case of goal misalignment. High performing companies are strategically aligned through goal alignment.

Question #4: Are we holding people accountable? Real accountability requires sheer discipline if it is going to work. It’s not easy, but the effort and short-lived pain is worth the gain. In fact, this discipline is essential to achieve the goals of the company. You must drive accountability down through the organization to fully impact it. Regularly scheduled accountability meetings where performance gets reported and measured is an excellent to get every team member on the same page and focused on the right goals. These meetings also provide insight around what’s working and what isn’t, who needs coaching, and, ultimately, who is engaged and not engaged.

Question #5: How are we performing against the competition? The very best organizations know their competition inside and out. They use this information to spot opportunities and make critical decisions about what direction to take their business and how to increase productivity by developing and supporting their people differently. Knowing your competition gives you an opportunity to create a competitive advantage. Dig deep, searching for ways to meet the demands that exist or that customers don’t yet realize they need. Ask your team to explore how they’d feel if they could do something new or different relative to the competition. Then inspire their productivity, giving your employees the freedom and support necessary for developing cutting-edge solutions that align to your company goals.

About the Author

John Manning is the president of Management Action Programs, Inc. (MAP) and author of the new release, “The Disciplined Leader: Keeping the Focus on What Really Matters.” MAP is a general management consulting firm headquartered in Los Angeles. Since 1960, MAP has tapped its talent and expertise to help 170,000 leaders and 15,000 organizations nationwide create breakthrough results.

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