3 Types Of Questions You Should Never Ask As A Leader Of A Major Company

At ghSMART, we make it our mission to advise CEOs and other leaders of large companies on the biggest, most important decisions that they face – the decisions that can make or break a business. How do we do that, exactly? Well, without getting into the weeds, we usually guide our clients through their decision-making process by simply helping them ask the right questions.

The “right questions” are typically the kind that get to the heart of the issue. They produce answers, and thus actions, that lead to the best possible outcome from the initial decision. However, where there are “right questions,” there are also wrong questions that can lead to crippling initiatives that could affect an entire business. If you don’t want that for your company, here are three common types of wrong questions that you should avoid:

  1. Questions Having To Do With Potential Ethical Dilemmas

In my experience, some of the wisest leaders in business are the ones who, when faced with a potential ethics question, respond the same way: “If you have to ask, then don’t.”

What I mean by that is if there’s even a shadow of a possibility that saying “yes” to a question about business leadership could propel you into morally gray territory, then it’s not a question worth asking at all. In fact, even if your decision could be misinterpreted as unethical, you should avoid the question. At ghSMART, we call this practice “having 110% integrity” – 100% for avoiding ethical dilemmas, and an extra 10% for avoiding dilemmas that could even just seem to make your company appear unethical. In summation, if you ever have to ask, “Would it be ethical if …” then it’s better to leave the question unasked.

  1. Questions About Whether Someone Is Underperforming

A good rule of thumb for underperformance is this: if you ever question whether someone is underperforming in service to your team’s vision, they are absolutely underperforming. Subordinates typically follow a fairly predictable work pattern – one that pretty clearly indicates their strengths and weaknesses. If you catch yourself asking, “I wonder if so-and-so will ever rise to the challenge and display qualities and strengths I haven’t seen yet,” then the answer should be clear. Their strengths do not match the role they are in, and you should probably find someone more suited for their role and your vision.

  1. Questions About Whether You Can Trust Your Boss

I’ve heard it said that people don’t quit companies, they quit bosses. I think that line of thinking has a lot of truth to it. If you have to ask if you can trust the person you’re working for to look out for your best interests and the best interests of your company, then you probably can’t trust them. You should find a boss who cares about your career goals and who will help you succeed and accelerate toward them. If you don’t have that kind of leadership, it might be best to look elsewhere for work.

Dr. Geoff Smart is the founder and chairman of ghSMART, which helps Fortune 500 companies, CEOs and successful entrepreneurs alike make smart decisions when it comes to curating talented teams. For three consecutive years, Forbes ranked ghSMART as the best management consulting firm in its industry, and it has produced three best-selling books outlining their principles. Additionally, Dr. Smart published Leadocracy: Hiring More Great Leaders (Like You) Into Government, which was a New York Times best seller.

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