Guest Post by Ken Krogue

This article was originally posted at:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/kenkrogue/

What makes a successful executive? There are a lot of ways you can answer that. For me that’s asking 12 revealing questions that any executive should ask if they are wondering about their effectiveness:

  1. Are You Still Relevant? Is your company’s primary product riding a growth trend or is it declining? Are you Hostess still trying to sell Twinkies or has the market long ago moved on? Do you still matter? Where is the next big wave to catch if you aren’t on one?
  2. What is Your Why? Is your primary purpose for doing what you are doing still clear and compelling? Have you defined your Why? (Mission or purpose.) Is your What clear? (Vision) Do you have your When written out? (Goals) Are your Hows set and prioritized? (Values, strategies and tactics) Is it still the right Who? Target audience and your executive team.
  3. Are You Leading or Managing? You lead people, you manage things. You need both. Leadership is the greatest variable with the most leverage. Leadership decides the path to follow, how fast is the speed of the march, and how to deal with each bend in the trail. Management executes to the variables of the journey. A leader is a shepherd who walks in front with a clear voice, a manager is a sheep herder with a well-trained horse, while a poor manager needs a sheep dog.
  4. Are You Great, or just Good? Excellence is first a decision before it is an action. Do you have passion for what you do? Are the best in your world at it? Can you make enough money to keep the water over the rocks? Jim Collins in his awesome book Good to Great says you need passion, potential to be the best in the world, and a clear ability to make money to be great in our world of business. Be honest… are you great? Or just good.
  5. Are You Taking Care of Your People? They are first and foremost. When is the last time you listened to them? Have you added to their opportunities and their benefits with your success? They are your success. Have you also made the hard decisions? Your people are even more important than your customer.
  6. Are You Growing Your People? As you grow your people is how they grow your company.  Are you investing in training, mentoring, and coaching to help you and them avoid the Peter Principle, which is the inevitable rise to the level of your own incompetence.
  7. Is Your Team Aligned? Does the pay plan incent them in the right direction. Is the Mission, Vision, Values, and Goals clearly and specifically defined, printed and communicated? Are they buying in to the plans you are making in 2013? Have you asked them? Is everyone pulling with the sales teams? Are your managers aligned with the direction of the company? If not, fix it.
  8. Have You Listened to your Customers Today? Roku just released their version 3.0 and it is selling like crazy. Why? They decided to put a headphone jack on the remote control. So somebody watching streaming video on their TV could do it without interrupting everyone around them. (Apple TV, you better listen up!) My wife Crystal, says it’s perfect for older people who can’t hear. They turn the volume up so high it disrupts everyone around them. It’s great for kids whose Saturday cartoons drive parents nuts. Roku listened, thought, and innovated an idea that is reaping incredible rewards.
  9. How Likely Are Your Customers to Refer Others? Have you asked Fred Reichheld’s “Ultimate Question” lately? “ On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely are you to refer our company to your friends and industry colleagues?” This is the 1st key question to measure the loyalty of your customers. Research shows that someone who gives you a 9 or 10 will refer, and is loyal. A 7 or 8 is neutral, they will nothing either good or bad. A 6 or less will bad-mouth you and your business. They will detract. Why loyalty? Because satisfied customers will leave you as fast unsatisfied customers will. Loyal customers will buy from you again and again and they will recommend you to others. Loyal customers are clients. You want clients, not just customers. The second question after you ask The Ultimate Question is “Why did you give us that score?” You better listen to the answers you receive and fix the problems that arise…. quickly[I had a great point from Chris Jorgensen who recommended a third question to follow the 2nd question after The Ultimate Question…] Regarding the Ultimate Question. Asking the Question and it’s follow-up, “Why?” are certainly important. Then Net Promotor Score and strategic direction earned by asking are valuable. Consider asking the third question, “What could I do to earn a higher score?” This closes the loop with clients in such a way as to strongly support ongoing loyalty.
  10. Do you Have Enough Quality Leads? This is the life blood of business. It isn’t sales, it’s leads. If you have leads, your salespeople will figure out how to close them. What is a quality lead? You will know. They have ANUM. A = Authority, N = Need, U = Urgency, and M = Money…. in that order.
  11. Do you Have Enough Sales People? This is the question you ask once you have quality leads. It is a teeter-totter that you need balanced. You increase capacity for quality leads, then you add more people to close them. If you don’t have enough leads, the sales people struggle and leave. If you don’t have enough salespeople, the leads languish and decay. Sales people are like having enough guns on the ship, leads are the ammunition.
  12. Are You Learning from Mistakes? Dave Elkington, our CEO here at InsideSales, is very good at this. Of course, he first has to believe he is making a mistake, but if he recognizes that he mistaken, he admits it, and never seems to make it again. I wish I could claim that. The school of hard knocks beats it into my head with much repetition.

If you can’t reply appropriately to these 12 questions, then I have a story to tell you…

There was an executive who took over a new job from his predecessor. When he showed up on the first day he spent a great deal of time learning from the person whose job he was taking. He was trained well and then as the person whose job he was taking was ready to leave he turned to him and gave him Three Envelopes.

As he was leaving he said, “My last advice is this, when you come up against a problem you can’t solve, open Envelope #1. Then do the same for up to two more problems. These will get you through.”

He almost forgot about the envelopes until nearly a year later he came up against an obstacle he couldn’t seem to overcome and he didn’t know what to do until he remembered Envelope #1. He opened it.

It said, “Blame it on me!”

Which he did, and he was amazed how well it worked and got him through.

Almost two years later he came up against another problem for which there seemed no solution, and once again, he remembered the envelopes. So he opened Envelope #2.

It said, “Reorganize!”

Which he did. Once again he was absolutely amazed at how well the advice of his predecessor worked to get him through.

Several years later he had lots of problems starting to come his way, and finally one large enough that he couldn’t seem to overcome. He remembered Envelope #3. He slowly tore it open.

It said, “Go prepare three envelopes!”


Ken Krogue – President, and Founder, insidesales.com  brings more than 24 years of experience in sales, development and marketing in both domestic and international markets. Ken is a weekly contributor on Forbes.com and an active thought leader in the inside sales industry. His BLOG is the top ranked blog in the world on the topic of inside sales.

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2 thoughts on “12 Revealing Questions Successful Executives Must Ask Themselves

  1. These are excellent questions. I think I’d add two more: do you lead through humility? If you answer yes, you are probably not. The world doesn’t revolve around the leader, it circles customers and employees and serving them. Second, Will you persevere? We all can’t ride the wave of infinite success—things happen. Do you, as a leader stay the course, or give up too easily?
    Thank you for this post.

    1. Bob Tiede says:

      Thanks Wayne!

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