Three simple questions. In my work with leaders, helping them decide which of these three questions should guide their time and attention results in a tremendous impact on their business.
Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda…
What should I do? This is a question leaders need to ask themselves without shying away from the answer. Do you need to have a difficult conversation with a co-worker? (If so, I recommend Susan Scott’s excellent book, Fierce Conversations.) Do you need to shut down a manufacturing line that’s contaminated? Doing what you should do may not be what you want to do but it’s something that needs to be done for organizational and interpersonal dynamics or to avoid/contain a crisis situation.
What could I do? This is a powerful question for generating options. It expands our world and invites us to consider new possibilities. I recommend leaders set aside a portion of each day to think about the “coulds” alongside other key leaders. Working as a group to consider possibilities generates alignment, builds ownership in the business and establishes or solidifies stronger relationships.
What do I want to do? Asking this question can provide clarity on issues or opportunities that may be emotional or complex. Getting clear on preference doesn’t mean you must act on that preference, but it can guide how you act upon a “should” or “could.” For example, I might want to invest in a new piece of equipment to expand my manufacturing capacity rather than continuing to outsource. My analysis indicates that our contractor delivers excellent product quality at low cost. Logically, I should outsource it. Emotionally, I want to bring it in-house. Addressing all factors (instead of denying or avoiding them) facilitates better decision-making.
Should, could, want. Leaders ask themselves these three questions every day, but learning which situation dictates which question should be asked brings about a much higher level of awareness in decision-making.