Last week I introduced the question, What do you think is the single most important question is for a business owner or leadership team?
This week we are going to answer that question.
If you missed last week’s article, here’s what you need to know. As leaders, the questions we naturally ask break down into four categories primarily driven by our leadership style.
The Visionary’s Why?
Why did we start this business? Why is what we do so important? Why should people pay for our product or service? Why should I work for your company? Why should I behave a certain way, work long hours, or sacrifice my desires for the enterprise?
The Operator’s What?
What do we do? What do we need to do next? What is most important? What is in our way? What should we offer? What should we charge? What discounts should we give? What segment do we want to go after in the market? What are our long-term objectives? What are our short-term goals?
The Processor’s How?
How do we need to deliver our service? How can we minimize risk? How can we maximize our returns? How can we position the company for growth? How are we going to win? How do we bring repeatability to our execution?
The Synergist’s Who?
Who needs to be on the bus? Who needs to change seats? Who are our customers? Who are the leaders that will take us where we want to go? Who can help us break the next barrier? Who do we need to meet? Who can give us that introduction?
The one question we should all be asking
Here’s the problem. None of us are asking the right question. Our natural leadership style biases our thinking to one of these four questions. It’s a classic case of, to a hammer, everything is a nail. But we all know you can’t build an entire house with only a hammer (at least not a house most of us would want to live in).
So the most important question is this.
The more experience I gain as a leader, the more I recognize the importance of this simple one-word question.
It’s essential in the practical sense of when to start a business, go to market, close a business, or show up for work each day. But what I’m talking about here is more important than any of that.
Asking the question “When?” allows us to focus on each of the other questions at just the right time and shift our focus as our needs change (the business grows, the project moves to completion, the event deadlines get closer).
We have to know when to pick up each tool and when to put it down again. That is the art of skilled leadership.
Here’s the catch, none of us can accurately and consistently answer the question “When?” alone. Our internal bias is too strong.
- Visionaries will constantly be drawn to new and exciting ideas when it may be time to execute our existing ideas.
- Operators will constantly be drawn to execute our existing ideas when it may be time to improve our systems and workflows.
- Processors will constantly be drawn to improving our systems and workflows to get more out of our existing people when it may be time to move those people or bring others in.
- Synergists will constantly be drawn to help people when it may be time to develop some new and exciting ideas.
It’s not until you get all for styles into a room together co-equally as a team and wrestle the differences of perception and opinion to the ground that you can start to answer the question “When?” reliably.
The “co-equal” part is pivotal. For example, suppose your organization celebrates one or more leadership styles (usually the Visionary or Synergist styles) more than the others (usually the Operator or Processor styles). In that case, you will have an imbalance in your questions, and your ability to answer “When?” will suffer accordingly.
There is no hierarchy of leadership styles. However, when you bring them all onto a level playing field, it is then that you will see a dramatic improvement in your hit rate for answering the question “When?” correctly consistently.
In wrapping up the articles in this series, here’s what I want you to walk away with.
- There are four leadership styles, and each is biased toward thinking one question is the most important.
- None of those four questions is most important.
- “When?” is the most important question you can ask as a leader because it helps select which question is most important now.
- Our bias is too strong to answer the question “When?” on our own. We need the other leadership styles to balance us out and answer the question “When?”.
- Answering the question “When?” is the key to unlocking sustained growth and predictable success.
At Scale Architects, we use the Predictable Success model to help teams balance their leadership styles and select the absolute best growth strategies by intentionally and intelligently answering the question “When?”.
If you’re struggling to grow or scale, or your team can’t seem to align, you probably have a problem answering the question “When?”. We’d love to help. So give us a call and let us help you master the art of making significant decisions using this one incredibly powerful question.