You cannot learn the art of listening without the art of asking informed questions. The better the questions, the smarter the answers. Do not just listen.
Once in a while, fate places you in front of the top CEO or politician or a big person. How do you make use of such an opportunity which we have always been reminded knocks once?
The secret is in being prepared.
Do not get ready. Stay ready. Before you attend that upcoming webinar or meeting, take the time to look up the topic, the presenters, and the emerging issues about the topic. Craft intelligence questions in advance and stay armed.
Be like a fighter.
Keep your ammunitions ready. Do not wait to first be fired at, to start cleaning your gun. Those who plan get an advantage. And it has nothing to do with smartness. Good preparation gives a great advantage in any endeavor.
Have a list of questions you would ask your company CEO or any CEO if you met on the lift or at the cafeteria or after an internal meeting.
Below are some questions to include in your arsenal:
- What would you say our company culture is like? How do you create an environment for nurturing it among old and new hires?
- If I were to focus on just two things to make your work lighter: what would they be?
- Who are your top two best executives – present or former? What makes them special to you?
- What is most important to the organization that informs decision making: shareholder value growth or sustainable social impact? Why? How is this being achieved?
- How do you measure the success of your direct reports? For staff like me, how do you measure my impact? What guarantees me a job tomorrow and the next day?
- Etc… add
There are generic questions like “What keeps you up at night?” and the like. A typical CEO has probably been asked such a question so many times that if you did, they would know you are not original instantly. And no one loves the company of people who are not unique.
Think relevant, current, thought-provoking questions that call for one to pause and reflect. Do not ask questions that someone could have probably rehearsed. Try to ask questions that challenge their heart and or their brain rather than their brain only. You become instantly noticed as the CEO may be annoyed or challenged.
For example, if your company is involved in utility distribution and you are aware one side of the town, which is assessed as inhabited by the low-end market segment, you could ask a question: “what informs the decisions where to connect water and sewage services first?” Every CEO needs to grow shareholder value. But they must do so with a soul and heart. The poor too deserve clean water and good sanitation. A great company must provide services to all areas evenly but could have differentiated charges to offset the costs of the area considered as low class.
For example, people in Kololo could be charged slightly higher (based on higher costs to connect and pump water to such places), while those in a slum, charged lower and the two off-set.
If you met the CEO of a city that does not respect its garbage collectors with better safety equipment, you could ask the same question. Few leaders would have thought about such a thing. The same question could be asked to Politicians that look camera time but are not prepared to answer tough direct questions that speak to the heart.
To be continued.
Copyright Mustapha B Mugisa, 2020. All rights reserved.