Judge a Man by His Questions

Judge a Man by His Questions

question“It is easier to judge the mind of a man by his questions rather than his answers.”

—Pierre-Marc-Gaston de Lévis

Think about your day yesterday. What questions did you face? If you’re like many busy executives, they were probably along the lines of:

-Did the Western division get its budget numbers in?

-Do I approve of HR’s new vacation policy?

-What did revenue look like last week compared with budget?

-How did people receive my message at the company meeting?

-What the hell am I going to do about my VP of Ops who keeps sending flame email to the other executives?

-Where am I going for lunch?

These aren’t uncommon questions. All tactical. Most driven by others rather than you. All necessary but none dealing with the most important levers of your business. We go home at night thinking we did good work because we have precise and thoughtful answers to the questions before us. Often the wrong questions …

It’s not as though the issues above don’t need addressing. They do. But tactical questions crowd out the truly important questions, giving us the illusion of progress when in fact we’re often dealing with minor issues. Or, even worse, we’re making decisions that add no value and, in some cases, contribute to ballooning bureaucracy!

Yes, answer HR’s question about vacation, but block out time on your calendar to ask the big questions, such as:

  • Do I have the right business model?
  • Exactly what is our strategy — why will our core customers buy from us in the future versus our competitors?
  • How do I create an aligned team that is committed, not just compliant?
  • What’s the proper capital structure for our business?
  • What should good governance look like?
  • Who do I need to be as a leader?

You’re probably giving the correct answer to most of the questions people ask you or you ask yourself, but are you asking the right questions?

Todd Ordal is President of Applied Strategy®. Todd helps CEOs achieve better financial results, become more effective leaders and sleep easier at night. He is a former CEO and has led teams as large as 7,000. Todd is the author of, Never Kick a Cow Chip On A Hot Day: Real Lessons for Real CEOs and Those Who Want To Be(Morgan James Publishing, 2016). Connect with Todd on LinkedIn, Twitter, call 303-527-0417 or email [email protected].

Please share
Follow Me

Recent Comments

Comments are closed.

  • Lisa Hamaker

    7:45 am January 17, 2017

    Good questions Todd! Though I have thought about this a lot (guided at times by your find ideas) I did not realize until now that while the questions take time to ponder, the answers are usually many quick steps, not major events or efforts. For example: How do I create alignment among the leadership team? While a 3-day strategy retreat is useful, the real power comes from daily interactions, listening a lot, coaching and small changes in policy.

    In other words, I often avoid the big questions because I think the answers are big efforts, when really the answers are taking many small steps that are changes in habit.

    • Todd Ordal

      9:23 am January 17, 2017

      Great observation, Lisa! I hadn’t thought about it that way. I agree that “bite size chunks” are much more palatable and usually better technique than trying to swallow the elephant!