If you’re getting mediocre results or answers in any area of your business or your life, it may be because you’re asking mediocre questions. If you want the right answers to improve your organization, you must ask the right questions.
A recent email prompted this article. The topic had been incubating for quite some time, but this particular message from a highly regarded client triggered these ideas. The email explained that this gentleman’s company was not renewing its online training subscription with our company because he asked the following question a meeting:
Are we using this online training resource? The answer from his assembled managers was “no.” The leader then decided to cancel the resource right along with the over-400 sales and management training programs it offered, and presumably, move down the list of other expenses to ask the same, “Are we using this?” question.
His wrong question and the subsequent answer disguised significant weaknesses within this organization, whereas the right question(s) would have exposed them and offered an opportunity to elevate his dealership. What would the right question(s) have looked like?
Very simple: Why aren’t we using the training resource I’ve invested in for the past year? This could have led to other, pointed, uncomfortable, results-inducing questions like:
- Why don’t the managers of my organization see the value of investing in their people?
- Why are my leaders such poor time managers that they can’t find time to train their people?
- Why are my managers so chased by the urgent each day that they have lost their commitment to what is truly important?
- Why aren’t my managers holding their people accountable for improving their skills using the resources I’m paying for?
- Why do my people find it easier to sit and wait for something to happen than they do to convert their down time into prime time?
- Why don’t my managers see the value of improving themselves by using the management training modules in the online training vault I bought for them?
- How have I allowed my managers to become “know-it-alls” and not believe that improving their own skills is essential to their continued employment with my organization?
- How have I permitted my high-performance culture to become watered down by overrated managers who may be good at closing deals but are not focused on improving their team?
- Why haven’t I created a clearer expectation for my people concerning how I expect them to use the resources I’m investing in?
- Why haven’t I inspected what I expect from my managers, so that I don’t find myself caught by surprise when I ask, “Are we’re using this?”
- Why haven’t I held my managers accountable for the development of the human capital I’ve entrusted to them?
- Why have I allowed training to become optional and inconsistent within my organization?
- What’s happened to my own commitment to excellence, discipline and hard work that would permit this sort of complacency and mediocrity creep into my organization?
- What can I do to set a better leadership example as relates to building our capacity to produce through more robust and consistent training programs?
- How have I allowed my own mindset and expectations to become so low so that I would actually accept a “weaker-than-worm-whiz” answer like this from the people I’m paying well to run my dealership?
I could continue with this line of questioning, but you get the point. Please don’t mistake these questions for a rant against a customer that should know better. These questions apply broadly to any area in your own organization where you know better but don’t do better. Stop letting yourself and your team off the hook with impotent questions like, “Are we using this resource?”
Instead, face reality about your own leadership role—or lack of it—in these scenarios and start asking the right questions; the tough questions; the uncomfortable questions that will provide the clearer lens you need to fix, build or stretch your organization. The unwillingness or inability to train your people is a colossal leadership failure on the part of your managers. But it is an even greater personal failure on your part for presiding over and allowing a disaster like it to occur. For those of you who may have asked the same question concerning your own training resources, and accepted the same ridiculous answer from your managers, here are five additional questions for you to close out this article:
1. “What are you thinking?”
2. “Why aren’t you paying attention to the fundamentals of your business?”
3. “Since cutting your capacity to produce (training) eventually impairs your production, what or who will you blame when sales stagnate or decline?
4. “When will you stop acting like a management amateur and begin leading your organization?
5. “Wouldn’t now be a great time to start?”