Good Questions Make For Smart Decisions


From the article, "Strengthening Decision Making By Asking The Right Questions" by Gary B. Cohen in Leader To Leader Journal (No 56, Spring 2010, pp 39-42).

Cohen is an executive coach and author of Just Ask Leadership: Why Great Managers Always Ask the Right Questions.

  1. Whose decision is it? Cohen says to let the job description decide who makes the decision. He adds, "The art of leading is not the art of doing. Leaders ought to delegate and support more than process and decide."
  2. What's the best overall outcome? It may seem counter-intuitive, but leaders should search for the best overall outcome, not the best solution. Employee investment and execution are critical. What can and will the team get behind?
  3. How does this relate to our vision and mission? Leaders must hold in tension organizational vision and worker autonomy. While we want to provide freedom for the team to think and act, we must make sure we keep the bigger picture in view, i.e. mission and vision.
  4. How does this align with our core operating values? "Values are among the greatest ways to accelerate decision making." If we all agree on our values decision-making become easier.
  5. Are we missing the forest for the trees? Failing to see the whole, rather than just the parts of a decision can be a leader's undoing.
  6. What are we not going to do? Put some things on your "STOP DOING LIST." Make sure decisions align with strategic priorities.
  7. Under what scenario would this solution fail or pose excessive risk to the organization? And under what scenario would a dramatic opportunity arise?