One of the greatest knocks against many managers is that they are always asking questions … the wrong questions, the sort of questions slowing progress and derailing projects. Lumberg questions. “Say, Peter …” You know what? Those making those claims actually have a point. It doesn’t apply to everyone, and it certainly doesn’t apply to all situations. But it happens enough for me to create a list of several questions you Just Need To Stop Asking Already!
Why should people buy what we are selling? Look, if you don’t know, that’s a terminal lack of information. Worse, it’s entirely the wrong question. You need to be asking: “Who will buy what we’re selling, why, how and for how much?” That perspective comes from a position of optimism and aggression, two traits you must have to succeed in a consumer marketplace. Asking why someone should buy is defeatist and backwards. If you have to convince yourself, no one else will listen anyway.
Do we have the right team in place? Here’s a better question: Am I, as a manager, allowing my people to do what they were hired to do? Better still, am I allowing them to do what they are capable of doing? If you are wondering whether or not you have hired the right people, but you haven’t answered those other questions first, you have work to do.
What’s our vision? Man, this one is like nails on a chalkboard for me. Sure, your company can benefit from a vision. Call it a purpose statement or mission statement or whatever you want to call it, but stop talking about it already. It doesn’t get any work done. Now, if you don’t have one, get one. You need a reason. Even if your purpose statement is “We Love Money, So Let’s Go Get Some!” that’s fine. But you don’t need to run every single decision by your vision statement before you make it. Sometimes you just have to decide.
Can we reduce expenses on this product? Sure, fine, that’s an okay question. But it’s far from the best one you could be asking. A much better question is: “What can we do to make more money on this product?” Sometimes that answer is reducing expenses. More often than that, though, it’s in changing the product or tweaking its market position. Try that before you go nickel and diming yourself insane.
So, what about you, manager? Are you still asking all the wrong questions and expecting to get the right answers?
Roman Temkin is a real estate developer from NYC.