Business Journal

Leadership Discussion Questions

by Curt W. Coffman and Gabriel Gonzalez-Molina

Companies build strong workplaces -- ones that nurture their employees' strengths and use them to drive great outcomes -- one workgroup at a time. The more great managers your company has, the stronger it will be and the more it will grow and succeed.

But who determines the working conditions for your managers? Who recruits and develops them, and who focuses their efforts? Your company's leaders. They determine the broad conditions under which each team operates and define and focus each team's efforts.

Corporate leaders should consider critical human-capital matters in their leadership actions and discussions every day. The 100-plus questions below will help you jump-start these discussions in your company. They address four broad areas of Gallup Path Management: Leadership, Finance, Strategy, and Workplace. They are designed to be used during leadership retreats, workshops, and planning sessions. Questions noted as "Roundtable discussion" should be answered by all participants. Other questions can be drawn and answered by individual participants.






What will you do in the next two years to lead your team to revenue and profit growth? How will it be significantly different from what you've done in the last two years? (Roundtable discussion)

What is your communication strategy as a leader? What are your communication beliefs?

What are the strengths of our company's leadership team?

What are the strengths of the team that you manage?

What is your mission? (Roundtable discussion)

How have you evolved as a leader in the last five years? What insights have you gained about your talents and strengths? What are the greatest lessons you've learned as a leader -- lessons that spur the profitable growth of your company?

Who are the emerging leaders who could succeed you in your role some day? (Roundtable discussion)

Who are the disciples of your vision?

As a leader, talk about your views on community involvement. What opportunities have you chosen to participate in, and what opportunities have you turned down? What opportunities led to your company's sustainable growth? (Roundtable discussion)

If you could teach one thing about "leadership that drives growth" to a group of new employees, what would it be?

What are your values or beliefs about balancing work and home life? How do we integrate these into our corporate culture around the world?

What talents or strengths do you rely on most in your daily life as a leader?

How do you align individuals' expectations with your organizational or team strategy?

When selecting someone to join your team, what talents or qualities will you not live without?

When hiring, what are some absolutes in your decision?

Think about the individuals on your team. What is your philosophy and strategy for horizontal development (growth within a role) versus vertical development (growth out of a role and into another or to higher levels of responsibility) for these employees?

Do you help people get what they want, or do you help them get what is right for them?

Do you enjoy taking risks? Talk about a risk you've taken in your leadership position. How does this risk relate to the growth potential of your company? (Roundtable discussion)

What is your greatest personal satisfaction?

What makes you passionate about your company? About your role or work? How can you use your passion to drive corporate growth? How can your colleagues use their passion to drive growth?


What should our company do with $100 million in cash?

When, if ever, do we lower a price to win a bid or a customer?

What are the real incentives for your most productive employees? How can you increase the emotional value of these incentives?

What are the real incentives for your most profitable customers? How can you increase the emotional value of the incentives?

What are your thoughts about implementing pay-for-production or pay-for-performance plans in countries where pay customs or regulations are different?

What would you think about paying a half a dozen "rock stars" -- our highest-producing or highest-profile employees -- $1 million each?

What are your feelings about stock options? Do you understand them?

What is our company's responsibility for funding benefit plans? How much funding should we provide?

What is the right percentage of pre-tax profit for our company? Why?

What is our company's responsibility for funding retirement plans? How much funding should we provide?

What is your definition of "wealthy"? Write it down, and share it with the group. (Roundtable discussion)


What vision do you believe our executive leadership communicates for our company? Is it a vision based on real, sustainable growth?

Fill in the blank: "I can't imagine a world without [person's name]."

Name three employees (not at the table) whom we all need to assure we have "emotional insurance policies." (Roundtable discussion)

Who are your most profitable customers? What makes them return and buy more from your company? What is present in their emotional memory that makes them feel passionate about your company?

Who are your most productive employees? What makes them stay and be more productive? What is present in their emotional memory that propels them to even higher performance levels?

What kind of clients or customers do we want more of, and why?

How can we -- as individuals, teams, and as a company -- attract more profitable customers? How can we retain our most profitable customers?

How can we -- as individuals, teams, and as a company -- build stronger emotional bonds with our most profitable customers?

How can we attract high-performing employees?

How can we retain our most productive employees? How can we build stronger emotional bonds with them?

Now think about the future. How will our company's customers change? What will they want from us in the future that will be different from what they want today?

How much "face time" have you had with clients or customers in the last year? Do you want more, or less? In what capacity?

How much time should corporate leaders spend with our clients or customers?

How much should we involve our clients or customers in new product development? More than we currently do? Less?

What are the greatest challenges you face? What are the challenges facing your team?

How will positions within your area of expertise change within the next three years? The next five years? The next 10 years? Reflect on your answer for a few moments, and then ask two other people to share their responses with you.

How do you actively attract and recruit the best potential employees to our company? (Roundtable discussion)

How do we create an ongoing recruitment process to attract and retain the most talented employees for our company's future?

What are the greatest challenges facing our company?

Please describe your vision for our company. What does this vision look like for our customers?

What structure or organization needs to be in place to make this vision a reality, domestically or internationally? What are your strategic priorities for realigning resources for this company?

Now think about our company's competitors. Who is our competition? What are their strengths? What have been their successes? What can we learn from them? What should we do differently from them? Do we have global competitors?

Do you feel that our objective performance measurement data is tied to key business outcomes?

List the roles that are key to our company's success in the future. What are the characteristics of the top-performing people in these roles?

What does it take to be successful at our company? (Roundtable discussion)

What is the one thing about our company that you would like to change in the next year? What is the one thing about our company that you hope will never change?

Where do untapped opportunities lie within the organization?

What are our company's shortcomings? Are they something that can be ignored, or do they need to be fixed?

What do you do to stretch communication across the company and around the world?

What are our best-run departments, divisions, or product/service lines? Can their strengths be transferred to other departments, divisions, or product/ service lines? Please explain. (Roundtable discussion)

How does our company's culture affect how people perform? Are there positive effects? Negative effects?

Do we have enough of the "right people" to achieve our business goals? Where do we fall short? Do we have talented individuals whose strengths are under-used?

Do you believe that people are valued and developed within our company's culture? What managers or departments are best at this? What managers or departments could do better?

How is our company culture evolving? Please describe the changes you see. What factors are driving this change?

How do you see finance, operations, human resources, and marketing working as a team to build stronger emotional bonds with customers and employees?

How can we align the performance of products, services, systems, processes, and engaged employees? How can we streamline our delivery system to enhance the emotional experience for our most profitable customers?

What are the first words that come to your mind that describe our company's culture? Does this vary between departments or divisions? Around the world? (Roundtable discussion)

Which of our products or services are your favorite, and why? Which products or services, in your opinion, have the brightest future? Which products have more potential in our country? Which have the most potential outside our country?

What are the strengths of your division or area of responsibility?

What are our company's strengths domestically? What are our strengths internationally?

Do you believe we have a strategy for all of our accounts or customers?

What are the linkages between our clients' or customers' business strategies and our business strategy, products, and services?

Which sales strategies succeeded in winning our best new clients or customers in the past year? What specifically did we do that moved them to commit or purchase? What plans do we have in place to replicate that success in the coming year? What plans need to be developed and implemented?

What marketing strategies are netting us the most new customers?

What moves people to buy? How do we move them to commit?

What is our strategy for research and development? How do we prioritize the work that nets us the most gain in brand recognition or visibility and corporate profit?


Item 1: Expectations

  • What are your expectations of yourself? What do others expect of you? (Roundtable discussion)
  • How do you use expectations to drive the performance of the people you manage? How do you know when to raise or lower the bar?
  • Talk about your three best employees and what you expect of them. Does their pay plan complement or reinforce those expectations?
  • How do you use your strengths to meet your own expectations? (Roundtable discussion)

Item 2: Materials and equipment

  • Discuss your beliefs on "status items" at work. For example, how important are perks to you? How important are perks to other employees in our company? Are we too frugal in giving out perks? Are we too generous? How do we communicate our philosophy on perks and spending to our employees? (Roundtable discussion)
  • How often do you review equipment needs with your employees? Do you tie their requests to measurable performance outcomes?
  • Do you encourage your employees to think about equipment improvements that could enhance their productivity, the productivity of their department, or the company?

Item 3: What I do best

  • Choose three group members and tell them what they do best.
  • What do you do best? How do you use your talents and strengths to do what you do best? What prevents you from doing what you do best? How can we help you focus on your strengths?
  • What are your priorities? How do you prioritize what you do best while ensuring that someone is accountable for what you can't do? What are some things you've put on the back burner?
  • How does our company's growth -- or lack of growth -- affect your opportunities to do what you do best?
  • Which individuals in our company seem to have the opportunity to do what they do best every day?

Item 4: Recognition or praise

  • What is the best recognition you've ever received?
  • What commitment can you make to increase recognition? What plan should we put in place to increase how we recognize employees formally or informally?
  • Think about the people who are gathered here today. Which two people have helped you achieve a goal or have helped you grow? Recognize their contributions by sharing them with the group.
  • How often do you recognize individuals outside your department or team? What plan can you put in place to recognize individuals like these regularly??
  • What are your beliefs about recognition? How do you act on them? (Roundtable discussion)
  • What are the most creative recognition ideas that you have read, seen, or heard about? What is the best recognition you've given or the best recognition event you've coordinated?
  • Which groups within our company are the best at giving recognition? Which groups need help?
  • How much bigger should recognition be? Would spending more on recognition help us increase employee retention and per-person productivity? What events or activities for clients or customers, vendors or suppliers, or employees could we dream up that would recognize what they contribute to our company?
  • Are there times that you're better at giving recognition than others?

Item 5: Someone cares about me

  • As a leader, how do you demonstrate or show that you care? How far does your "caring leadership" reach? How do those who don't work with directly you know that you care? What formal systems or plans are needed so that every employee in our company knows that we care?
  • How do we ensure that every workgroup has a caring environment and a manager who cares?
  • How do you know when someone needs more attention or caring? Give a specific example.
  • When do you/we back a person to the hilt, even in times of weakness or wear-down?
  • How do we keep a caring environment as we grow?

Item 6: Development

  • What development do you need to excel as a leader or manager? What do you need from members of this group to aid in your development? (Roundtable discussion)
  • What are your plans your own growth and development over the next year? List the people who help you think about your future and push you to greatness.
  • Who has been your best mentor or supporter?
  • How do you measure or describe your own development? How do you define development?
  • Who are you developing to be a leader in the company? (Roundtable discussion)
  • Who are the three people at our company, outside this group, that you spend the most time mentoring, guiding, and directing?
  • Whose development have you delegated to others? Who have you paired with a mentor?
  • What are the benefits of a formal mentor program?
  • Which teams or groups are best at helping people grow and develop?

Item 7: My opinions count

  • How do you manage your constituency's opinions while leading with yours?
  • As a leader, what do you do to encourage employees to express their opinions?
  • How good are we at listening to our clients or customers? Do they feel like their opinions are heard?
  • How do we ensure that we encourage people to express informed opinions?
  • Are you seen as an open person who will listen to anyone, or are you seen as a person who has strong beliefs who is unwilling to listen to others? How open are you to the opinions of others? (Roundtable discussion)
  • Do you ever suppress opinions? When and why?
  • Who is someone you admire for their ability to listen to controversial opinions and manage them?
  • What systems or activities should be put in place for hearing employee opinions?
  • How can we ensure that we are open with each other about ideas and issues?
  • Which teams seem best at listening to team members' opinions? Who in the company is best at listening to the opinions of others?

Item 8: Mission or purpose

  • What is this company's purpose in the world?
  • What is the greatest impact this company has made on the world to date?
  • What values or beliefs are important in creating sustainability?
  • How will you communicate your mission in the coming year?
  • How do we help communicate our corporate mission outside the company?
  • What is your greatest contribution?
  • How do you create opportunities to communicate and discuss mission?
  • How is mission important in our workplace culture?
  • Do we consider a strong mission to be an important trait in hiring new associates?
  • How can we communicate what we have contributed to the world? What success stories can we tell?
  • Which groups seem to be the most mission-oriented?

Item 9: Quality work

  • How do we define quality at our company? What drives quality at our company?
  • What needs to be changed or improved within your department or division to increase quality service to our clients or customers?
  • How do you encourage quality performance from others in our company?
  • How do you use our employee feedback measures?
  • How do you regularly communicate the importance of value and quality service to the people you lead or manage?
  • What ideas have you read, seen, or heard about quality service that we should consider implementing?

Item 10: Best friend

  • In your opinion, what makes a best friend?
  • Who are your best friends outside of work? How long have you know them? What are your common bonds? How do you stay in touch? (Roundtable discussion)
  • What guidelines or promises should we make to each other to maintain trust?
  • How do you help others create lasting friendships and bonds within our company?
  • Think about a situation in which two or more people were disagreed about something important to them. How did you help bring them together?
  • Which groups seem to have the most "best friends"?

Item 11: Progress

  • Are you diligent about talking with your employees about their progress? Tell us what you do and how you do it. (Roundtable discussion)
  • What measurements do you use to track your progress? The progress of your employees? (Roundtable discussion)
  • How do you feel about your own performance over the last year? Over the last three years? How often do you want your performance reviewed? Who else do you want to be aware of your progress/achievements? (Roundtable discussion)
  • How often should strengths coaching be done in conjunction with performance reviews?
  • Do you combine performance reviews with salary reviews, or do you do review them separately?
  • What do you believe is your greatest achievement at our company? How has your progress as an employee influenced the company's progress?
  • Who are your greatest partners? Who helps you drive performance?
  • How do we make performance a tried-and-true value in our organization?
  • Which managers in our company seem to do the best job at talking with their employees about their progress?

Item 12: Learn and grow

  • In your career, what have been your best opportunities for growth? (Roundtable discussion)
  • Are "learning" and "growth" different?
  • What are our "best practices" for learning?
  • What are our "best practices" for stretching an individual's growth? How can we balance encouraging high productivity for new employees while pacing individual development?
  • Which is more likely to increase learning: a winning moment with reflection and recognition, or a classroom training experience? Which is more likely to aid in development?
  • Describe your philosophy on learning.
  • Describe the systems you've implemented to enhance learning.
  • Describe how you individualize learning.
  • Which groups in our company seem to have the most opportunities at work to learn and grow?
  • What are the best ways our company can use online learning or e-learning?
  • Are there competencies that do need to be "trained in" at our company?
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