Oct 9, 2014

The Most Powerful Leadership Question

On his podcast, Michael Hyatt shared one of the most powerful leadership questions I have encountered.

While CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, Michael came off a particularly challenging month. The company missed its revenue targets and was behind on plan.

Michael’s business coach asked him what happened. Michael gave the tactical reasons why the company had missed its targets: the economy was still in a recession, their industry segment was down, and they failed to meet a product launch. All very reasonable reasons for lower sales results.

His coach then asked, “What was it about your leadership that led to that result?”

Wow! What a stunning question.

The buck stops with you

It doesn’t matter your role or the size of your business, you are accountable for the results.

Michael’s first response to “What happened?” is a natural one. We look to the forces and events that shaped our outcomes. There’s often very discernible behaviors or situations that prevent us from achieving our goals.

But if you are very self-aware, you can see you have influence over those forces. When you do a debrief ask yourself, “What was it about my leadership that led to this result?”

Embrace the question

The question cuts to the core.

In the podcast Michael recounted his response the question, “I felt defensive. I said, ‘What are you implying?'” He then deferred responsibility, “It was Ron’s fault. He was leading the sales division, he committed to that number, and he didn’t deliver.”

The coach pressed on, “Ok, I get that. But what was it about your leadership that didn’t enable Ron to accomplish his goal?”

If you are honest with yourself and open to the question you can get to the root of your leadership skills.

How are you going to change?

“What was it about my leadership that led to this result?” opens the door. It kickstarts the conversation, and gets you to dive into your approach and behaviors. But you’re not done yet.

Follow up the question with one more, “What would I have done differently?”

Hindsight is 20/20. We can’t change the past, but we can learn from it. Ask the tough questions:

  1. What was it about my leadership that led to this result?
  2. What would I have done differently?

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