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3 Questions Every Leader Should Answer

April 25, 20235 min read

As a coach, I typically start a relationship by digging into how a leader started his organization.

I try to understand the leader’s history and role in the organization. I seek to grasp some of the organization’s strengths and challenges.

Once I connect with him sufficiently and discover some key insights into what he does, I normally ask 3 key questions. The leader’s answers to these questions help to chart a path forward.

What are those 3 questions? Read them below.

3 Questions Every Leader Should Answer

Question #1 – How much do you want to make?

Although money is only one part of an organization, it is an important part. Knowing how much money you want to make is critical for moving your organization forward. Occasionally, I find a leader that does not have an immediate answer to that question.

Not long ago, I asked a medical doctor how much she needed to make in order to practice medicine the way she desired, to pay her overhead for the business, and to take care of her family. She responded by staring at me and saying “I don’t know. I’ve never thought about it like that.”  

Most people have an idea of what they want to make. They usually will give me an immediate number. I like to know what their goal is. As a coach, if I can help them reach their goal, they will be happy and feel successful.

I also find that naming a specific amount provides them with a clear target. It’s very difficult to hit a target, if you don’t really know what it is. By naming a specific amount of income, it helps both the client and the coach to work together towards an income goal.  

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Question #2 – How much do you want to work?

Leaders work a lot! Sometimes they don’t even think about how much they work. They just do what they have to do to keep their company functioning. I always smile when people tell me that one of the reasons they started their company was so they could control their schedule.

While controlling your schedule sounds good, working for yourself often means you have little control over your schedule. It’s not that you do not have authority to make decisions about what you do, but there is so much to do that it takes a great deal of time to get it all done.

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Many people have a specific amount of time they want to work. A common answer will be 40-50 hours per week. Often staying within desired work hours requires changes in the organization. Leaders need to rethink their role and responsibilities.

Many times, leaders are not really aware of how much they truly work. They just work.  I find that leaders simply try to do too much. They are the bookkeeper, the scheduler, the manager, etc. They run from job to job and often feel overwhelmed.

Asking leaders how much they want to work forces them to pause and give thought to what they are currently doing. From there, we begin to work to reduce their workload so that they can reduce their work hours. If I can help them find better work/life balance, they are happier and the joy of working in their organization returns.

Question #3 – Where are you most profitable?

Question 3 is one many people have never thought of before.  Whether they distribute a product or provide a service, there will be at least one product or service in which they are most profitable.  Yet, many leaders do not think about this concept. They are just moving products or providing services.

I remember asking a leader this question to which he responded, “I honestly don’t know. I have never thought of this question.” Not knowing where you are most profitable means you might be working hard, but you are not likely working smart.

A number of months ago I asked a tradesman about his services. He is a handyman and does a variety of work. When I asked him this question, he paused for a moment and said, “I suppose if I think about it, I make the most money doing ceramic work. If I do ceramic work, I can make a thousand dollars a day.” I continued by asking him if he liked doing ceramic work and if he was good at it. He said, “Absolutely.” I then asked the obvious question: “And why are you not doing more ceramic work?” He could work the same number of hours and make $300 per day or $1,000 per day. Which one would you choose?

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Most leaders are simply working. They don’t take the time to stop and think that certain products or services are more profitable than others. By pushing a certain product or providing a certain service they can make more money in less time.  Simple mindset adjustments can make huge differences. 

These 3 questions help align a leader towards his or her target. Leaders get lost in the details of owning and/or running their companies.  They run from task to task and fail to stop and think about how much they’re really making, how much they’re really working and where they are most profitable.  A coach can help them take a “time-out” to give deep thought to what they are doing, why they are doing it, and how they can do it better.

As leaders get better alignment, they are happier, more productive, and more effective. When a leader reaches these goals, his fire will return and his success will increase, without having to work harder.  

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Dave Pennington PhD

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