Two Questions Every Leader Should Ask

In my interview with Keith Murnighan about his book Do Nothing!  How to Stop Overmanaging and Become a Great Leader, he mentioned two questions a CEO should ask people every day:

  • “How are you?”  This may seem rather obvious. However, the more responsibility we get, the easier it is to start thinking of people as resources or FTE’s or directs.  They are people. Sincerely asking someone how they are doing, we show that we understand they are a person.*
  • What can I do to make your job easier?” Too often we get this wrong. We think our direct reports work for us. Dee Hock, founder and former CEO of VISA said in a FastCompany interview years ago, “if you don’t understand that you should be working for your mislabeled ‘subordinates,’ you haven’t understood anything.”  We work for them, and there’s a way we can make their job easier, it should get our attention.

You may not be a CEO but these two questions can help any one who in a management role to be a more effective leader. Do everything you can to show you care about the people you serve. Find ways to free them up to do their best. These are the marks of a great leader.


* I’ve had the privilege to teach many project management workshops in Eastern Europe. During one session, while talking about personalities and their impact on projects, a participant brought up an observation about Americans. His approximate quote was, “You Americans always ask people, ‘How’s it going?’ But you never really want an answer!”  Granted, it is a cultural thing here in the States. That’s why I mentioned that we need to sincerely ask the question. Yet regardless, I’ve had people tell me their boss walks right by them without even saying anything! Day after day they walk right on by. Even a passing “How’s your day going?” would be a major upgrade!

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