12 Revealing Questions Successful Executives Must Ask Themselves


by Kevin Krogue

1. Are You Still Relevant? Is your company’s primary product riding a growth trend or is it declining? Are you Hostess still trying to sell Twinkies or has the market long ago moved on? Do you still matter? Where is the next big wave to catch if you aren’t on one?

2. What is Your Why? Is your primary purpose for doing what you are doing still clear and compelling? Have you defined your Why? (Mission or purpose.) Is your What clear? (Vision) Do you have your When written out? (Goals) Are your Hows set and prioritized? (Values, strategies and tactics) Is it still the right Who? Target audience and your executive team.

3. Are You Leading or Managing? You lead people, you manage things. You need both. Leadership is the greatest variable with the most leverage. Leadership decides the path to follow, how fast is the speed of the march, and how to deal with each bend in the trail. Management executes to the variables of the journey. A leader is a shepherd who walks in front with a clear voice, a manager is a sheep herder with a well-trained horse, while a poor manager needs a sheep dog.

4. Are You Great, or just Good? Excellence is first a decision before it is action. Do you have passion for what you do? Are the best in your world at it? Can you make enough money to keep the water over the rocks? Jim Collins in his awesome book Good to Great says you need passion, potential to be the best in the world, and a clear ability to make money to be great in our world of business. Be honest… are you great? Or just good.

5. Are You Taking Care of Your People? They are first and foremost. When is the last time you listened to them? Have you added to their opportunities and their benefits with your success? They are your success. Have you also made the hard decisions? Your people are even more important than your customer.

6. Are You Growing Your People? As you grow your people is how they grow your company. Are you investing in training, mentoring, and coaching to help you and them avoid the Peter Principle, which is the inevitable rise to the level of your own incompetence.

7. Is Your Team Aligned? Does the pay plan invent them in the right direction. Is the Mission, Vision, Values, and Goals clearly and specifically defined, printed and communicated? Are they buying in to the plans you are making in 2013? Have you asked them? Is everyone pulling with the sales teams? Are your managers aligned with the direction of the company? If not, fix it.

8. Have You Listened to your Customers Today? Roku just released their version 3.0 and it is selling like crazy. Why? They decided to put a headphone jack on the remote control. So somebody watching streaming video on their TV could do it without interrupting everyone around them. My wife Crystal, says it’s perfect for older people who can’t hear. They turn the volume up so high it disrupts everyone around them. Roku listened, thought, and innovated an idea that is reaping incredible rewards.

9. How Likely Are Your Customers to Refer Others? Have you asked Fred Reichheld’s “Ultimate Question” lately? “ On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely are you to refer our company to your friends and industry colleagues?” This is the 1st key question to measure the loyalty of your customers. Research shows that someone who gives you a 9 or 10 will refer, and is loyal. A 7 or 8 is neutral, they will nothing either good or bad. A 6 or less will bad-mouth you and your business. They will detract. Why loyalty? Because satisfied customers will leave you as fast unsatisfied customers will. Loyal customers will buy from you again and again and they will recommend you to others. Loyal customers are clients. You want clients, not just customers. The second question after you ask The Ultimate Question is “Why did you give us that score?” You better listen to the answers you receive and fix the problems that arise…. quickly.

10. Do you Have Enough Quality Leads? This is the life blood of business. It isn’t sales, it’s leads. If you have leads, your salespeople will figure out how to close them. What is a quality lead? You will know. They have ANUM. A = Authority, N = Need, U = Urgency, and M = Money…. in that order.

11. Do you Have Enough Sales People? This is the question you ask once you have quality leads. It is a teeter-totter that you need balanced. You increase capacity for quality leads, then you add more people to close them. If you don’t have enough leads, the sales people struggle and leave. If you don’t have enough salespeople, the leads languish and decay. Sales people are like having enough guns on the ship, leads are the ammunition.

12. Are You Learning from Mistakes? Dave Elkington, our CEO here at InsideSales.com, is very good at this. Of course, he first has to believe he is making a mistake of course, but if he recognizes that he mistaken, he admits it, and never seems to make it again. I wish I could claim that.

If you can’t reply appropriately to these 12 questions, then I have a joke to tell you…

There was an executive who took over a new job from his predecessor. When he showed up on the first day he spent a great deal of time learning from the person whose job he was taking. He was trained well and then as the person whose job he was taking was ready to leave he turned to him and gave him three envelopes.

As he was leaving he said, “my last advice is this, when you come up against a problem you can’t solve, open envelope #1. Then do the same for up to two more problems. These will get you through.”

He almost forgot about the envelopes until nearly a year later he came up against an obstacle he couldn’t seem to overcome and he didn’t know what to do until he remembered envelope #1. He opened it.

It said, “Blame it on me!” Which he did, and he was amazed how well it worked and got him through.

Almost two years later he came up against another problem for which there seemed no solution, and once again, he remembered the envelopes. So he opened envelope #2.
It said, “Reorganize!” Which he did.

Once again he was absolutely amazed at how well the advice of his predecessor worked to get him through.

Several years later he had lots of problems starting to come his way, and finally one large enough that he couldn’t seem to overcome. He remembered envelope #3. He slowly tore it open.

It said, “Go prepare three envelopes!”


Why Consensus Doesn’t Work

When a group needs to make a decision, it is a common practice to seek consensus. We do this by asking people to vote. Building consensus is after all key in a democratic process. When you have a vote, in essence you “have a say” in the outcome. Even if the vote doesn’t go your way, you still had the privilege of having a voice.

Voting may be an effective way to elect someone into office. After all, you will rarely, if ever, get 100% of people voting to agree on any one candidate, or anything else for that matter. Besides, if everyone agreed there would be no need to even have a vote.

However, contrary to popular belief, voting is a terrible way to make decision by a team.

In fact, achieving consensus does not help teamwork or foster collaboration, but rather impedes it.

There are two fundamental reasons why…

1. Because the only people who own a decision made by a vote are those who voted with the majority opinion.

Everyone else gets to say I didn’t agree, which all too often results in behavior that undermines what needs to happen after the decision is made; and

2. Because the process of building consensus more often than not becomes about winning the debate at hand so you can get enough votes to prove you are right or your idea is the best one.

Unfortunately this tends to polarize people creating a camp of winners and a camp of losers, rather creating the sense that you are one team. Furthermore, when you are focused on winning, you are not inclined to learn from the opposing viewpoint. This is a big reason why an intelligent group of individuals does not necessarily function as an intelligent team.

It’s not that consensus is all bad. It has it’s place and purpose, but it isn’t enough if you want to function like a high performing team. Nor is pursuing agreement likely to help you leverage the collective intelligence of the individuals in any group.

So go ahead and use a consensus building process to get the opinions and issues on the table.

Use it to ensure everyone’s view is represented and help people understand the different points of views and options available.

Take a vote so you can “take the pulse” on where people stand.

Yet that is where the value in consensus building ends when it comes to making a decision that must be owned by every member of a team to succeed.

If you want everyone on the team to actually own a decision, you must shift the conversation from achieving consensus to building alignment. This requires that you shift your context and process from one of voting to gather agreement to one of choosing to align behind a shared commitment.

When you vote you simply declare your opinion. If the vote doesn’t go your way, you don’t have to pretend you agreed. If things don’t work out, you can reserve the right to blame “them” or say “I told you so”. Choosing, on the other hand, requires you to do the work necessary to be able to stand behind a decision as if you made that decision yourself. If things don’t work out the only place to look is in the mirror.

It is admittedly much harder to build alignment than it is to build consensus. In fact, It can be hard work for everyone involved, but it pays dividends when it comes to doing the hard work.

Want to strengthen your team with every decision?

Stop calling for a vote and start asking for a committed response by requesting of each and every team member to do the hard work of choosing the best possible decision together.