10 Questions to Promote Better Leadership Habits
You’re likely sick of the “new you” lists and suggestions that pour forth from every corner of the universe during this time of year. And rightfully so, as true personal growth doesn’t come from following direct instruction or any template, checklist, or formula. Instead, questions that spur self-reflection create the most meaningful long-term change.
10 Questions to Push You Forward into the New Year
In the spirit of self-reflection, and with a nod toward the Socratic method, consider these ten questions as you embark on your journey in 2020.
1. Do you read widely? If no, why not?
If your most recent read was a technical manual (or worse yet, another business book), consider expanding your reading material. Those materials have their place, but they are no substitute for casting a wider net. As Harry Truman once observed, “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” So, read as many books as you’re able, but don’t feel guilty about the books you haven’t (and will never) read—lean deeper into what really interests you.
2. How deliberately do you curate your news feeds?
We all have “feeds” pumping a barrage of information at us daily. These feeds might arrive in the form of news through “traditional” media such as television, newspaper, or magazines as well as through push notifications on your digital device. Either way, consider how many different sources you expose yourself to and whether they’ve become a self-reinforcing echo chamber or a true environmental scan that enables you to be deliberate about the information you consume.
3. Do you need to receive constant notifications?
Every time your device pings to alert you to the latest Kardashian shenanigans, what your friends are up to, or a new email that has entered your inbox, you get a hit of dopamine and lose focus on whatever you’re doing. Ask yourself—and be honest—if you genuinely need to receive all those notifications. Realize you have the option to turn off notifications, and thereby effectively banish your fear of missing out into a dark corner for a perpetual time out.
4. How much quiet time do you schedule daily, weekly, and monthly?
Do you schedule quiet time to think? The most effective leaders understand that making effective decisions means disconnecting from the crush of the day to reflect. Some meditate. Others take walks. And some engage in a solitary activity. Whatever your choice, how much quiet time do you allot to yourself?
5. How much physical activity do you need and why?
Almost everyone says they need to “exercise more.” But how much physical activity do you personally need and why? The “how much” part is where most folks stall out, and, unless you’re clear on “why” you’re staying active, you’ll never be able to sustain a desirable level of fitness. Yet once you grapple with and answer “Why?”, you’ll find that “How much?” is no longer the hurdle it once was.
6. Is your focus on people or profits?
We’ve all met P&L bosses who focus exclusively on the business financials, believing that singular focus enables their continued success. However, unless you’re running a completely robotized operation, you’re stuck working with (gasp) people. And those people are the ones who are driving your P&L. So, if your focus is on profits, the next question is, “Who is focused on the people?” Because without a “people” focus, profits will inevitably fall.
7. Do you water your personal garden as often as your professional one?
It’s easy for most of us to slip into a routine where we spend more time on our businesses and careers than on our families and personal lives. This is where the fallacy of work-life “balance” is exposed. If the professional and personal aren’t integrated in a way that works for you, the wheels will come off one of those two buses. By asking yourself which garden you are tending to more, you can begin to purposefully design how and where you spend your time.
8. What are you avoiding?
Right now, you’re avoiding something or trying very hard not to think about it. I don’t know what that “something” is, but in computer jargon, you’re running a background subroutine that’s chewing up your processing power. (If you prefer a more analog analogy, your tires are slipping, and you’re ignoring the skid). Whatever you’re avoiding, it’s time to ask yourself not “What?” but “Why?” Why are you avoiding it? Only by answering the question “Why?” can you free up that processing power and lean into the skid.
9. How do you react when a problem lands in your lap?
It’s terribly challenging to remain calm, composed, and self-controlled in every difficult situation. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strive to achieve that state. We’ve all seen “bosses” that rant, rave, and scream when things occur outside of their control—that reveals a great deal about who they are as a human. So, how do you react in difficult situations? Are you pleased with whom you are in those moments?
10. Do you understand how you’ve arrived at your current point in life?
Very few of us have successfully plotted out (and executed) the roadmap of our life. Instead, our journeys are mostly curved and twisted paths, filled with all manner of excitement, setbacks, hope, and despair. Realize that understanding how you’ve arrived at your current destination will better equip you for your next steps—wherever they may take you.
Stay Inquisitive to Enhance Your Leadership Skills
Asking the right questions is critical to developing your leadership skills. Not all questions are equal for everyone. In fact, the best ones are those asked by you through self-reflection or by people who know you well and that you trust. If you’re not being asked the right questions and struggle with what to ask yourself, give me a call. Because, in case you haven’t noticed, I’ve always got questions.