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3 Questions That Will Make You a Better Boss

Looking to increase focus, minimize blind spots and encourage a culture of responsibility? Here are three ways to build your prioritization muscle.
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"An expert is someone who has succeeded in making decisions and judgments simpler through knowing what to pay attention to and what to ignore."--Edward DeBono

More and more information. Increasingly limited time and resources. Less and less control. Welcome to Business, the 2014 Edition.

So, how do we do more with less, in a frenetic, frantic environment? By increasing focus, minimizing blind spots, and encouraging a culture of accountability. Whether viewed at an individual or organizational level, these are three critical skills to cultivate; as such, here are three questions to help you build these prioritization muscles.

What are we really trying to accomplish?

What do a great meeting, a great leader and a great company all have in common? In a word: Focus.

Great leaders work hard to keep first things first--and at the risk of stating the obvious, you can't do that until you have clear definition of exactly what is the top priority.

So. Call the question. Why are we here today? What is the purpose for this meeting? This initiative? This undertaking? How does this connect to our defined corporate priorities? What is our role in this endeavor? Where are we in the process? As a result, what are we really trying to accomplish?

I've been surprised at the impact that asking a question so ostensibly simple can have in ruffling feathers and making waves--but after twenty years in conference rooms across the country, I truly believe that great organizations have a discipline about them--a clarity of purpose and intention that is built into the smallest nooks and crannies of their daily existence, which permeates into every part of their business and brand.

Bottom line, defining clear intentions leads to a more efficient and effective business engine, meaning less unnecessary friction and waste.

What should we be asking that we're not?

It's a commonly accepted bromide that great leaders listen--to their employees, their stakeholders, and their customers. But every leader (and organization) has their blind spots, no matter how much, how hard or to whom they're listening. Where are yours?

How do you proactively work to suss out the areas where you're sitting in the obstructed seats? What are you missing? What should you be doing differently? How might others approach look at this in a different way? And so on.

"What should we be asking that we're not?" is a powerful tool not just within organizations, but also within and between other critical audiences (where blind spots are often much less blind).

Would you bet your paycheck on it?

See also: Put your money where your mouth is.

I've actually written an entire column on this one--and in my personal experience, nothing cuts through the BS like asking someone this very simple, but very real question.

Do you really believe in this, or are you just posturing? How good is your data? How strong is your opinion? How positive is your gut? And finally: Would you bet your paycheck on it?

In a world of increasing complexity, I truly believe that it's often about getting back to basics--clarity of purpose, acknowledged blind spots and personal accountability--that can make a tremendous impact on a business.

So, those are three of my favorite questions...what am I missing?

Last updated: Jun 10, 2014

CURT HANKE | Columnist | Founder and CEO of Shine United

Curt Hanke is the founder and CEO of Shine United, a 41-person advertising and digital agency headquartered in Madison, Wisconsin, serving such clients as Harley-Davidson, Wisconsin Cheese, Mizuno Running Shoes, Entwine Wine, and Winston Fly Rods.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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