Transform a Leadership Journey with 3 Powerful questions

Effective communication is crucial if you want your high-potential employees to become stronger leaders. Communication is a top concern in many organizations, so here are three powerful questions to help you guide, influence, and transform an employee’s leadership journey!

Addressing the Unknown – Don’t Leave Great Employees Behind!

Many employees never reach their full potential because the fear of the unknown outweighs their desire for increased responsibility. Instead of rising up, far too many valuable team members choose to quit and leave – or worse – quit, and stay. How unfortunate it is that far too many organizations miss out on what could be their greatest leaders! I don’t want that to be your story.

Engaging people authentically and meeting them where they are can change everything, yielding huge returns on your time and transparency investments. But how do leaders do this effectively?

Sharing Your Story – Gain Mutual Clarity Through Intentional Communication

Phil and I often lead training sessions for executives and their potential successors. These programs typically are part of a succession planning process where both parties prepare for the transition, embracing both the opportunities and challenges it brings. (Check out Session 9: Succession Planning for a Stronger Future here.)

During a recent session, with both the executives and the successors in the same room, we asked the executives to answer a few key questions. As we laid out the questions, the excitement on the faces of the successors was palpable when they realized they were going to get the insights we were asking for. It was almost as if they were saying to us, “I’d never ask those questions, but I am dying to know the truth!”

Questions to Transform a Leadership Journey

In any case, when executives answer the following simple questions with their teams, everyone gains clarity about what to expect when taking on additional leadership roles in the organization, as well as reinforcing the importance of their work.

Here are the three questions each of the executives answered:

  1. What excites you about executive leadership?
  2. What was the most surprising challenge you’ve faced as an executive leader?
  3. What has made all the work worth it?

In this particular group we were with recently, the answers varied widely, yet so many successors found value in each individual response. 

I can’t help but wonder, what’s YOUR story? Truly, how would you answer those three questions if you took five minutes to stop and consider the realities of it all?

And, if you shared those answers with your high-potential employees, would they see you as more “human,” would some of their fears subside, and would they suddenly be fundamentally motivated to step up? It’s possible!

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Action Isn’t Optional

The reality is that employees crave real, authentic insights. They want to know what to expect and whether all the effort they put in will leave them feeling accomplished and fulfilled. Be open with them. Tell the truth. It might just be the unforgettable conversation that inspires someone to step up, step out, and lead the team to even greater success going forward.

Make no mistake about it, you don’t have to be an executive to use these three questions. These are three simple questions that any manager or leader can use with their team to elevate their communication, and authenticity, and strengthen team relationships.

Because this exercise consistently yields meaningful insights among teams, I want to encourage you to use them. Whether it’s in a monthly one-on-one meeting, in an upcoming training session you’re leading, or in a simple, intentional one-off conversation. I hope these serve as a practical guide for building a stronger relationship with people on your team, and helping transform the leadership journey for each of them.

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Alyson Van Hooser

Alyson Van Hooser, Pres & CEO, Van Hooser Leadership. With the grit that only comes from tough experiences, Alyson has learned a thing or two about personal and professional success. From her management experience with Walmart, as an elected city council member, bank manager — all before the age of 30 — Alyson has wisdom well beyond her years! Her podcast, Stake: The Leadership Podcast, offers a fresh perspective on leadership and helps multiple generations successfully work together! Connect with Alyson on LinkedIn.


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