Leaders Ask Two Questions Consistently 2022-08-04T01:50:46-04:00

Leaders Ask Two Questions Consistently


Do you remember Ed Koch? If you’ve never lived in New York City, you might not know his name. For many years, Ed was the mayor of New York City. He was famous for repeatedly asking one question in news conferences and in political commercials, “How’m I Doing?”

Good leaders get in the habit of asking this same question on a regular basis. I’ve been doing leader ship coaching for seven years now and I continue to be surprised at how many leaders wonder out loud how they are perceived by their direct reports, their other teammates and their own managers. Frequently, I will simply ask a liter “have you considered simply finding a quiet place and time to ask these other people‘s perceptions about your leadership? “

A common answer is “that’s a great idea. I hadn’t thought of that.” As leaders, we cannot afford to assume we know what others think of our leadership. The best way to improve our leadership skills is to:

– ask questions of key stakeholders,
-ponder their responses, and
-determine how we can use that new knowledge to improve our leadership capability.

This past week I was coaching the CEO of a large association. We were discussing the ways in which she could enhance her leadership skills. After we concluded that aspect of our coaching conversation, we moved on to how she can improve the culture within her organization.

This is where the second leadership question comes into play. In addition to asking “How Am Doing?” like Ed Koch, we can also ask the question “How Are We Doing?” this leader is considering retiring in several years and wants to make sure that the culture she leaves behind is strong, consistent and collaborative.

She explained to me that the organization believes in a eight core values that are actually posted on the wall in their office. I asked her if she knew how her teammates feel they were living up to these values. She gave me a generally positive response, but was not exactly sure.

I suggested that she survey her teammates and ask each one, anonymously, how well the organization is living up to each of the core values on a scale of 1 to 10. She could then collect the anonymous responses, calculate the averages and then report those averages to the team. This could lead to a robust discussion of the values and their applicability on a daily basis.

I suggested that after she reports these numbers to her teammates, she could ask the question: “For each of these eight values, what’s one thing we could all do starting tomorrow to move the arrow upwards towards 10?”

In this manner her teammates would be accountable not just to her as the leader, but to each other. I have found that’s what differentiates good cultures from really powerful cultures. People are accountable not just the boss, but to each other.

As you consider your own leader ship journey, I strongly urge you to always keep these two questions in mind:

How Am I Doing?
How Are We Doing?

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