What are “the right questions” for entrepreneurs to be asking?
Several years ago, one of my mentors was telling me a story from when he was working at Starbucks. He was a Senior VP, reporting to Howard Schultz.
Years earlier, Howard had called my mentor on his cell phone and asked ‘Why is the letter B not working on the signage at the 50th & Wallingford location?’ in Seattle.
My mentor laughed out loud and responded ‘Really? Howard, is that the question you should be asking me when you’re CEO?’
Howard, frustrated, replied ‘Yes, why isn’t the sign working?’
And my mentor replied ‘I don’t know. I’ll check. And I’ll get it fixed. However, if we’re going to grow this brand, our leadership team needs to ask leadership questions.’
‘Howard, instead of asking why isn’t the letter B working we need to be asking questions like this instead…’
‘I noticed the letter B on a sign at 50th & Wallingford isn’t working. What systems do we have in place to ensure that all letters, on all signs, at all locations, in all countries, are always working?’
My mentor was right. 100% dead on!
Entrepreneurs all too often ‘Major in the Minors’ and get stuck asking questions about the details. And yes, the details matter. And the details will always get fixed. However, instead of just asking the question about something specific, try using the details as particular examples to ask larger more systemic questions. People don’t fail, systems do. Look more in-depth at the systems that need to be fixed or created in order to ensure that your company is running efficiently and effectively.
As a business coach and mentor, I suggest that you start asking the right questions and you’ll grow your company too.
Making sure that you are asking the right questions is an important part of any role – entrepreneurs, COOs, CEOs or anyone serving as a second in command. The COO Alliance is here to help with these, and many other, challenges facing COOs today. For more information, and to apply, click here.