Great leaders don’t have better answers, they ask better questions. But too often, I have seen organizations miss out on new opportunities, lose market share, fail to respond to shifts in the market, or pursue the wrong strategy. All because they didn’t ask key questions.
Asking good questions doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. After 30 years of helping leaders listen to their customers, I know that there are five questions that can provide important insights to keep businesses on track.
What do we do better than any other organization in the world?
Every organization, like every individual, has unique strengths and capabilities. The answer to this question can help to set an organization apart from its competition. It’s not boastful to think there is something your organization does better than any other. It’s part of our God-given design to excel in the areas in which God has gifted us. Businesses are comprised of individuals whose collective strengths create a unique value proposition that we must steward just like we steward our own individual gifts. The answers to this question can help define strategies that give your business a competitive edge.
What do we do that we shouldn’t, and what don’t we do that we should?
Many organizational challenges come down to understanding our bad habits – the things we are doing that hold us back. And instead of spending energy on those bad habits, we can replace them with actions that will propel us forward. This question helps leaders identify the bad habits and focus their resources more effectively.
What do our customers buy us to do?
We all know that emotion plays a large role in purchase decisions. We don’t buy the shiny new car because it has a powerful engine. We buy it because of how it makes us feel when we drive it. When we understand the emotions that our products and services evoke in customers, we can do a better job of telling our story and meeting their emotional needs.
What kinds of people are passionate about our brand?
Passion is contagious. The reason companies invest in their brand is to create loyal customers who relate to the brand in a passionate way and share that enthusiasm with their friends, family, and colleagues. When you know what kinds of people are passionate about your brand you can use marketing techniques to find and reach more of them, and you can create ways to make it easier for your most passionate customers to tell others about you.
What does the world most need us to do?
Author Frederick Buechner once wrote, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” As Christian business leaders, our greatest calling is to steward our businesses for Kingdom purposes. When faced with decisions on which direction to take the business, this question can help bring focus and clarity.
Easy ways to start asking great questions
The best way to start asking better questions is by talk to the people who know you best and asking them key questions.
- At your next team meeting, ask your senior leaders what your company does better than any organization in the world. Can they identify something?
- The next time you are meeting with your customers, ask them the same question. Is their answer different than your team’s answer?
- Pick five employees of your organization, at random, and ask them what the organization should stop doing. Ask them what one thing they would do that would make the organization more successful. Are you surprised by their answers?
- Call three customers and ask them what they would miss most if your product or service went away. Can they answer the question?
- Get to know thought leaders in your industry and from other industries. Ask them what the world most needs right now. What can you do that would address those needs?
By asking good questions about your organization, your constituents, and your marketplace, you will be better equipped to lead your organization to success.