If you’re a leader, whether it be of your team, your department, your community, or an entire organization, you have very specific duties:
- Create the vision and strategy
- Inspire others to follow you and collaborate with you (create a positive culture)
- Make good decisions
Sometimes in your role as leader, people leave, things happen, or situations change everything (think COVID).
These things that happen… you need to be able to respond appropriately, and that might mean asking some hard questions.
Even if we like challenges, few of us like unpleasant situations, but your job as a leader (a true leader, not just a job title), is to ask those questions so that you have good information in order to make good decisions.
I’m constantly surprised at leaders who refuse to ask the hard but necessary questions.
Here is one of many examples from a growing company that has been around for over 10 years. We observed the company would bring in a group of enthusiastic trainers and associates who were on fire. However, after about 12-18 months, they faded and left the organization. The next year, another group would then leave. And so on. (The pattern of this organization is still repeating to this day.)
We’re not talking about one person or even a handful. We’re talking about hundreds. If it’s one person, then that could be about the person, not the organization or culture. But if it’s happening over and over, that indicates a problem with the organization itself.
Did the leaders of the organization ever reach out and ask why people were leaving?
If they had, the resulting conversations and discussions could have been eye-opening and helpful to the future success and sustainability of the organization.
I get it. It’s hard to hear that you’re doing something wrong or that the culture is not supportive. But if you don’t have the information, you can’t then make changes that will shift the organization in a better direction.
But you have to have that conversation so you can start sorting the chaff from the wheat. You need to ask what’s really going on.
- Why are you leaving?
- What has changed from when you were enthusiastic at the beginning and now?
- Is there something you would have liked to have seen from us that you didn’t get?
- Were there resources you needed?
- What would have made this a more successful experience for you?
If you ask those questions, and you get some of the same answers over and over, you see where there are problem areas. You can see where you need to look more deeply and changes need to be made.
There are gaps in every organization. Because if you grow, you have change, and you have a gap – between where you are now and where you want to grow to.
The questions (or the answers) don’t have to be threatening or antagonistic. You still might not want to hear the answer, or you might be afraid of the answer. But if you’re willing to take that courageous step, ask those questions, and actually engage in meaningful, helpful dialogue, then it’s only going to have a positive result.
If you have the right information, you can take appropriate action. If you don’t have accurate information, then the actions you’re taking could be in the wrong direction.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If there’s a situation that is not pleasant, give yourself some time to get over the fear, anger, etc. and then resolve to ask those questions and get the information. Knowledge is power, and that power is going to help you create a sustainable, successful organization.
If you don’t ask the questions, then you’re not really leading.