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5 Questions That Can Transform Leaders And Their Organizations

04/07/2016 4:59 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:27 AM IST
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"My greatest strength as a consultant is to be ignorant and ask a few questions." -- Peter Drucker

There are five questions that I always ask my clients and the people we coach.

Now, I'm talking about leaders who are successful, smart and intelligent and have positive intentions. Yet, while they are deeply involved and focused on quality, customers, employee engagement, cost/process efficiency, talent development, market share and so on, they forget to ask themselves the five most important questions. To me, these questions are core to all organization-transformation initiatives and leadership development.

1. What do I really care about and why?

What are you really passionate about and what choices do you want to make? Are you passionate about building an organizational culture where everyone takes initiative, collaborates and innovates? Are you passionate about making your shareholders delighted? Do you really care about building an organization that satisfies all stakeholders and not just shareholders? Are you really focused on building future leaders? Or are you really passionate about making a difference in your customers' lives?

Now, most leaders do want to focus on all of the above for obvious reasons, as they are interconnected. But the truth is that you will have to prioritize and make choices. So among all the things you are responsible for as a leader of your organization, what do you really care about right now?

Any new set of norms, conduct and culture is formed depending on what behaviours you reward and which ones you are tolerating.

2. In which areas I am willing to take action?

Often, a leader knows what is most important but due to various reasons may not be willing to commit action (or put all his/her energy and focus behind those actions). You really care about your health and know that eating lots of chocolates is not good for you but you still may end up indulging more than is ideal. If you are not willing to commit one hundred percent and drive action in that area, you might not get the results you want. So it is important to articulate what you are willing to do in a specific area, whether it is a challenge or an opportunity.

3. What behaviours am I demonstrating?

The people around you and your organization are watching your behaviours. If you have articulated what is important for you and what you are willing to do, then your behaviours should be aligned with that. If you feel you really care about collaboration and have expressed a willingness to promote it, then you should demonstrate that behaviour. Walking the talk and aligning thoughts and actions are the most important leadership traits and, sadly, an area where many leaders fail.

Any new set of norms, conduct and culture is formed depending on what behaviours you reward and which ones you are tolerating.

4. What behaviours am I rewarding?

Reflect on what behaviours get rewarded in your organization. If you reward certain behaviours, what kind of culture and results will you be getting? Not creating reinforcement mechanisms aligned to your intent and vision is the main reason organization transformation initiatives fail. If you reward competitiveness and functional silos, that's what you will see growing in your organization

5. What behaviours am I tolerating?

This question is important both at a personal level and at an organizational level. What are you willing to tolerate? What kind of behaviours have you been tolerating and why? If you tolerate certain behaviours, what kind of results might the organization get? What would happen if you stop tolerating certain behaviours that are not aligned to who you are? We sometimes accept, take on and are dragged down by certain behaviours and situations -- others' or our own. Unless you decide it's enough and you do not want to tolerate certain behaviours in yourself and others, you compromise, adjust and allow situations to drive your life.

So, while you are immersed in hundreds of initiatives, activities and tasks, do not forget to reflect on these questions!

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