Disasters are more preventable when the right questions are asked by the right people at the right time. Most of us have heard stories about boards dismissed due to mismanagement and CEOs being asked to leave because of mistakes that were made that should have been better managed.
Yet, overplayed diplomacy, social loafing, silent disagreement, and groupthink impedes curiosity, rigorous dialogue, and futuristic and strategic thinking in any room, including the boardroom and executive suite.
CEOs might cringe when I suggest that board members ask more questions, articulate powerful statements, and be inquisitive. A high-performing board member knows when and how to ask the right questions at the right time. Most often, the right questions are strategic in nature, clarifying, or sense making. For example, “If we continue with double-digit loan growth year after year, what does this mean to our risk position in three years?” That question produces a different quality of conversation in the boardroom than this question: “Should we contribute $500 or $750 to the Urban League?” Or, “What services will our members need in the next three years that we currently do not offer, and how will we be positioned to make those offers?” versus “Why is this budget item over by $3,000?”
Here are recommended questions to ask regularly in the boardroom and executive suite. The more frequently we ask these questions, rather than once a year for a one-day strategic planning session, the greater the success will be for the membership.
- How certain are we of our conviction about the organizational values and vision?
- What gives us resilience and courage in the face of uncertainty and adversity?
- What talent do we need to ensure our membership thrives in the future?
- What are we doing well that aligns with our competitive advantage?
- What do we need to improve our abilities to move the organization forward?
- How do we keep ourselves motivated and encouraged?
- What questions should we ask to uncover our blind spots?
- How prepared are we to handle unanticipated complex problems that confront our organization?
- What are our beliefs about how the board should govern?
- What are our beliefs about how the CEO should lead?
- Where do we think the organization should be headed over the next ten years?
A great conversation happens with the right questions, exchange of ideas, and productive moods. Check your intention and mood before diving deep into a tough question. Moods that are expansive, vulnerable, and curious make it easier to ask the right questions at the right time and will produce rich conversations and outstanding results.
Deedee Myers, Ph.D.