Mindful questions to build engagement and strategy

Business leaders know that certainty is essential when communicating vision, but sometimes we struggle for ideas or try new things and yet nothing seems to change.

When we slow down enough to remain open to opportunities that evolve organically, clarity often emerges and strategy develops, with the bonus of staff buy-in.

Ask your team these questions to get started. I suggest you only facilitate the discussion; don’t participate or show bias. Just be curious and watch what emerges.

What is our relatable identity?

Encourage your team to define the group, organization or culture — who you are and why you exist, not just what you sell or what you provide. Define your organization’s strengths. Outline your value proposition and communicate it in everyday language.
Then commit to your identity, instead of just chasing growth and excellence. Equip your team with the resources to make it work.

What is our distinguishable difference?

If you’re going to provide a product or service, people need a reason to buy it. What makes you unique? Is it speed to market? Measurable customer service? A free introductory offer? If you aren’t sure, ask your best customers. Then, use everyday language to communicate this difference.

How do we put our culture to work?

Every culture has good and bad aspects. Leading organizations define the good parts and harness them to advance their relatable identity and distinguishable difference. Individuals who built the identity hold each other accountable. This narrows the gap between strategy and execution.

What is the real problem?

Before you waste time creating a solution, ask the team to articulate the problem. They may see it differently. Write it on a white board and get agreement. Leaders often create solutions that aren’t at the root cause of the real issue.

What’s the pro-pro?

Instead of a pro vs. con approach, when you have two competing ideas or different perspectives, create a pro-pro list of the benefits of each. Then weigh them against your relatable identity and see which one most distinguishably sets you apart.

What did we learn? How did (will) we decide?

These questions, in a no-blame environment, reduce the likelihood of assumptions and knee-jerk decisions while also creating a culture of alignment. Did we have the right data? What can we change? If the team knows these questions will consistently be asked, they’ll address them early as part of each action plan.

Where do you see yourself in three years?

More than ever, employees want to feel that you care about them, not just as a cog in the business wheel but also as people. “How was your weekend?” doesn’t cut it. When you sit down quarterly with team members, remind them that you’re interested in positioning them for life success. This builds trust.

Allow your employees a safe environment to share career aspirations and exit paths, and watch the engagement grow. Otherwise, they will leave with little notice and voice their lack of engagement on Glassdoor, Yelp and Quora. Former employees can be your biggest advocates.


Mary Lee Gannon, ACC, CAE is the president of MaryLeeGannon.com, an executive coaching firm that helps busy leaders thrive, earn and influence from the convenience of their office, an airport, or at their leisure.