Andy Stanley on Six Questions Every Leader Should Ask

Andy Stanley on Six Questions

Over the weekend, I was listening to Andy Stanley’s Leadership Podcast and came across a brilliant session on six questions every leader must ask. I thought I’d share my summary notes here. Andy Stanley says that when it comes to being a great leader, the questions you ask are as important as the answers you give. In fact, the questions reveal what you value and reinforce what you want valued. So, when it comes to asking the right leaders, here are six questions that every must should ask.

 Q1: Which Gauges Should We Be Watching?

  • Finding the right set of gauges can tell you a lot about the health of your organizations. Choose the right three or four and watch it attentively.
  • Your mission and vision should help narrow your focus to the numbers that matter. For us, attendance is an obvious one. But if we focus only on attendance, we won’t get a complete picture. If your church’s strategy requires small group involvement, then the ratio of small group participation to Sunday attendance is a gauge. If personal ministry is critical in your model, then your “leader to attendee” ratio is critical. A regular glance at the right gauges can keep your organization on track for the long haul.
  • Listen to what we ask – do I really want to direct the behavior of people with that question.
  • If you want to know what someone values, listens to their questions.
  • What are the behaviors that would be best for this organization, then, what question(s) can I begin to ask that will start to direct their behavior in a certain (desired) direction.

Q2: Who Needs To Be Sitting At The Table?

  • Good decisions require good input. Ask yourself, “Whose input do I need to make the best decision possible?” Then cut through the red tape and ignore the org chart to make sure those people have seats at the table.
  • We all have different skills and talents. There are people you’ll want to brainstorm with, but who would be horrible in the “get it done” meeting, while others will shine while implementing. Understand who on your team fits where and make sure they are at the right table at the right time.
  • Do I have the right people sitting at the table? Who needs to be here as part of the decision-making process?
  • Where Are We Manufacturing Energy?
  • Where are we pretending (create a sense of excitement) to be more excited about something than we’re really excited about?
  • It forces us to face realities that many times we don’t want to mess with. We don’t want to changes things because it’s too hard, etc.

Q3: Where Do I Make The Greatest Contribution To The Organization?

  • As leaders, we are often tempted to try to do everything. Generally this leads to widespread failure. We must ask ourselves where we add the most value. In other words, “What do you do that only you can do?” There may be more than one thing that you do well.
  • Don’t ask the question just once. It needs to be asked at least annually, maybe even more frequently.
  • I don’t help the other people around find their best and highest usefulness when I don’t ask that about myself and about them. There maybe things I’m doing that someone else could thrive in if I would simply get out-of-the-way. Ask myself the question, “Is there a higher and best use of my talent in the organization?”
  • The flip side, “What should I stop doing?”

Q4: Who’s Not Keeping Up?

  • Always a hard question to ask. There is always a way to transition someone with dignity.
  • No one likes to ask this question. It’s painful. But it’s inevitable that as your organization hits 60 mph, there will be some still moving at 45 mph.
  • As painful as this question is, the truth is that other people already know the answer. They are wondering if you know. Accommodating people who are falling behind hurts the organization, dishonors those people, and will ultimately keep them from finding their areas of success.

Q5: What Have We Fallen In Love With That Is No Longer The Best Way To…

  • Everyone loves the way they do things or they wouldn’t do them that way.
  • Over time, the way we do things becomes emotional for us, part of our culture.
  • What have we become emotionally engaged with or attached with that is really not the best way to do it any longer?
  • Andy Groves, “Only the Paranoid Survive” asks the question:

“I looked out the window at the Ferris wheel of the Great American amusement park revolving in the distance when I turned back to Gordon [Moore, CEO of Intel], and asked ‘If we got kicked out and the board brought in a new CEO, what do you think he would do?’ Gordon answered without hesitation, “He would get us out of memories.’ [memory chips] I stared at him, numb, and then said ‘Why shouldn’t you and I walk out the door, come back, and do it ourselves?”

Q6: What Would A Great Leader Do?

  • It takes me beyond average. It drags me out of my comfort zone.
  • What would Winston Churchill do? Martin Luther King Jr.? Gandhi? Jesus?
  • Even in the small issues, pause to give yourself permission to know the answer to the question, “If I were a great leader… truly selfless, truly committed to the organization more than I am committed to myself, more than my own ego or my own reputation, my income, my bonus, (my…my…my…my…) what would a great leader do?”
  • What would they do that would be the unusual thing, bold thing, the courageous thing, the vision thing? The thing that took them beyond personal gain and personal reputation.
  • Even if I wouldn’t do what a great leader would do, you owe it to yourself to at least give yourself the margin to discover what a great leader would do, maybe just the though of what a great leader, if I were a great leader (if I were selfless), sometimes just knowing that is enough to pull us beyond the boundaries of our own ego and self-centeredness to actually do the great thing.

Question: What other questions do you think every should leader should ask?