The MOST Important Question You Can Ask

I recently read an article in Fast Company that shared the most important question to ask a new team member: “Describe a decision that the company has made that raises an eyebrow for you?”

I think it’s brilliant question – even if a little scary.

We spend a lot of time looking for and selecting talented people for our teams, whether they are full time employees, contract staff or virtual team members.

They come to us with a fresh perspective, aren’t hung up on the way “we” do things, and are pretty sharp (or else we wouldn’t have hired or contracted with them in the first place). So why not ask their opinion on what we are doing that just plain doesn’t work?

I know it’s a little scary. Being told what we aren’t doing well is a little disheartening, but it’s better to know than lose a team member (or a client for that matter). We get very comfy with how we do things, and perhaps need a reminder to stay sharp and focused.


Why leave this question to just new employees?

You can ask a similar question to your current team members and even your clients, coach or mentor.

If you like to hear the good along with the bad, you can use the following approach to get a well-rounded view:

  1. What are we doing that isn’t effective, that we should STOP doing?
  2. What are we doing really well that we should CONTINUE doing?
  3. What aren’t we doing, that if we START doing would make us even more effective?

When I did a similar exercise I received some great feedback that will definitely help me be more effective as a CEO and business owner. Since I won’t ask you to do something I haven’t already done, here is some of the feedback I received:

  • My perfectionism causes me to be a huge bottleneck for my team being able to complete their tasks on time
  • I believe “diamonds are made under pressure” but not everyone else does. Waiting to the last minute affects my teams productivity and sanity (and my check book)
  • Even though I help my clients create systems for their business, my own systems need to be documented in a way that others can manage them (and I can better delegate them)
  • I need better scheduling and invoicing processes for my clients

Confession time: some of these are the same things that drove my staff crazy when I worked in the corporate world (ouch!). While I’ve made some progress I still have some work to do. On the plus side, all of this is fixable (some easier to fix than others), within my control, and will lead to a better team member and client experience.

Give this a try and see what type of feedback you receive. I’d love to hear about it so please share in the comments how it went.