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3 Questions

by David Brock on June 12th, 2017

I’ve had the good fortune to spend a lot of time with some inspirational leaders.  Over time, I’ve noticed some common patterns in every conversation they have with people in their organization, customers, suppliers, even within their business communities.

While there are variations, I call it the “3 questions.”  The three questions have almost magical power:

  • They have the ability to communicate and reinforce the top priority of the leader.
  • They have the ability to help the leader learn about things that impact their top priority.
  • They have the ability to help the person the leader is speaking with think about how they contribute to that priority.
  • They create an intensity of purposefulness and focus–within the organization, with customers, with the extended business community.
  • They create great clarity for everyone involved–both for the company, and for each individual.
  • They become an anchoring point for driving change.

The three questions have variants in wording–depending on the audience.  How one words them to a group of the company’s sales people is different than the way they might be posed to customers.

They are questions, not statements.  This is the power of the approach, questions engage people in the conversation, the journey, thinking about what it means to them, and buy in.  Statements only share the leader’s ideas.

Defining the three questions are tough.  Coming up with them requires rigorous thinking on the part of the executive/executive team.  What is really important?  What is our focus?  How do I learn about things that impact our ability to achieve/execute?  How do I consistently reinforce this and get everyone to discover their role in contributing to these?

They are tough for top leaders to execute.  They require commitment and consistency over a period of time.  Clearly, if in each conversation, the three questions change, there is no consistency, no commitment.  They lose their power and confuse everyone the leader speaks with.  When leaders come up with their three questions, they have to commit to them over a period of time–months, sometimes years.  Of course, they will change over time, but only when the previous goals have become internalized and are “muscle memory” for others.

This is the second piece of magic (actually the first) that happens with these 3 questions.  The process the executive/executive team must go through to determine the 3 questions requires deep focus, rigorous prioritization, introspection, and commitment.  But once developed they drive such clarity.

It takes courage to develop these, evangelize them.

Do you know your three questions?



From → Leadership

One Comment
  1. John Sterrett permalink

    Thanks for the reminder, Dave. Always good to ponder this while driving from one customer call to the other. Because the questions sometimes need to be tweaked by audience and application.

    It is amazing how many people just spew rote questions, seemingly to check off boxes and move on to the next task, when good questions do most of your work for you.

    I had a recruiter ask me three such (inane) questions yesterday, just checking off boxes in order to screen me for a 2nd interview with the VP Sales. I helped her out, volunteering valuable information that was absolutely not solicited by the humdrum questions.

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