7 questions leaders should ask other leaders

As a business owner and leader, how do you gain positive insights on the things you could do differently today so that this improves your company’s outcomes and your leadership style?

Here are the questions, and the resulting actions, that leaders should be asking other leaders (but often don’t) – thanks to Robert C McMillan’s post for these thoughts:

1. “What is your new vision for my role?”

A job description is very different than a vision for a particular role or assignment. Many times leaders will say, “I am doing my job but people do not seem to be fully satisfied. How can I change this?” They are right. They are performing all of the elements of the job description, but somehow missed the casting call in playing a new envisioned role their boss or team has defined for them.

Being the Team Leader, Catalyst, Supporter, Visionary, Decision Challenger, Influencer, Advocate, and many others are roles that leaders expect other leaders to play. Often this is not discussed early on, and sometimes changes. More often than not the issue arises usually when a meeting, decision or outcome is the opposite of the desired.

Having a transparent conversation about the vision of your role will help you to identify whether you are capable of playing that role; and if not it provides an opportunity to develop an action plan to close any gaps.

Without a ‘common’ vision leaders perish – no matter how often their roles may change.

2. “How can we enhance our current working relationship”?

Good leaders are smart. They realise that everything starts and ends with relationships. The degree of your relationship with someone determines if you will stand by them or take a seat when things get tough. This is where leaders rise and fall.

Being confident enough to ask how you can improve the relationship with your boss and peers will give you big kudos. Clearly they will see you as a person who is interested in investing in a mutually beneficial relationship.

Also if there are areas you need to work on improving, you have a head start over anyone else who hasn’t built up enough courage to ask the tough question. Having a strong relationships is more critical now than ever before.

The degree of the relationship with other leaders will determine the organisation’s job satisfaction levels. Leaders need to feel that their job is more than just a job, it is a relationship entity diagram that expands beyond teams into the customer’s base.

The happiest and most engaged leaders have great relationships. Unfortunately without those relationships, becoming an extraordinary leader is virtually impossible.

Good leaders plus good relationships equals extraordinary performance.

3. “What is your biggest frustration or feelings of disconnect in my area of responsibility?”

Every now and then, talent supply produces a great leader whose functional area of oversight is squeaky clean, but most leaders – even high performers – have areas that need to be cleaned up in their shop every now and then.

In addition, feedback on frustrations and disconnects is often not based on truth, but rather personal assessments which cannot be necessary supported with fact or data.

No matter how tight your business is run, seeking transparency around feelings of frustration and confusion puts you well ahead of the game so you can take action while there is plenty of time remaining on the performance clock to resolve the misunderstandings, challenges or issues. You will be recognised as a high performing leader as a result.

Leading with the perceived issue in hand is always better than trying to explain it away.

4. “What challenges do you and others feel when working with me?”

The chances are that your peers and team members are likely to experience some challenges when working with you. You may not be aware because they have not come right out and blatantly told you, or perhaps because most people never ask the question. Think about it this way, if our family members, spouses and friends have challenges with us, why wouldn’t those we work with have them too?

It is not a comfortable question to ask and requires self-awareness; but not asking it early on can lead to a break down in communication which can be difficult to rebuild.

Asking this question of other leaders and colleagues will give you a menu of habits, behaviours, challenges and styles that you can begin to focus on so you become a more effective and influential leader.

Changing perceptions, changes reality, which then changes outcomes.

5. “What do you think is challenging for others about changes in your leadership style?”

The notion that leaders are perfect is a figment of the imagination. Everyone knows that good leaders have areas they are working on to improve. We all have personal areas we are trying to fill leadership gaps in. The problem is leaders often don’t receive a private moment to share it with others or they try to conceal it because it may be interpreted as a sign of weakness.

If the leader is honest and open, their answer will give you better insight of their awareness on how their leadership style impacts others, how that sits with them, and their willingness to improve in that area. Leaders who feel they are flawless and they can’t become any better than they are, are no more than prima donnas.

Other leaders’ response to this question will tell you a lot about them. The insight you gleam by popping the question will give you an understanding of the personal leadership gaps they are trying to fill, and may result in them asking you for help. Some leaders may feel this is a no-no and may put your career at risk.

It is better to know the new habits and behaviours leaders are working on, and be supportive of the change.

Introspection is the key to leadership preservation.

6. “Going forward, what is the best way to have open communication with the team?

Many leaders discourage their direct reports from talking directly to their boss about anything without their knowledge. To counteract this many bosses intentionally undermine their leaders by going directly to their subordinates without their knowledge. Sound familiar?

The irony in these scenarios is often that the communication between the leaders and their bosses is broken. This leads to an ineffective and dysfunctional organisation.

Creating a mutual understanding of transparency and trust, and discouraging acts of leader terrorism which leads to communication breakdown is key to achieving extraordinary performance outcomes.

Getting a clear understanding of how communication will occur up and down the ranks is critical given the varying degrees of leadership and communication styles.

Trusted communication is essential for leaders amongst leaders to maximise potential.

7. “How will we know when it’s time to redefine success and our roles?”

As leaders we all grow accustomed to a new job and role over time. A new job eventually becomes the new normal. The effect of a promotion and raise can wear off just like a new car smell.

Asking this question will remind others that you are a ‘growth leader’. Broaching this subject will ignite conversations about your future goals and provide you an opportunity to develop an action plan to build additional competencies and skills that will propel you to the next level.

We all want to grow and improve. It’s natural. Unfortunately we get stuck because we become comfortable. To get to the next level we must get comfortable asking questions and taking actions that make us feel uncomfortable.

Never feel you can’t outgrow a job, your potential will always be bigger than the job description.