In 2005, I became a Chair for Vistage International.
My charge then as now was to assemble a group of 16 owners, partners, presidents and CEOs from non-competing businesses and then spend a day together each month guiding these leaders through a process of self-discovery, decision-making and – ultimately – accountability to produce better results.
Today, I lead three such groups, and I learn just as much from the men and women leaders in my groups as they learn from one another and me.
For any leader, part of the journey is learning to listen and to ask insightful questions. I’ve captured and catalogued more than 500 of the most provocative questions I’ve asked or heard asked in my lifetime as a consultant, CEO and coach, and published them in a new book.
Questions matter. A great question can be powerful. It provides an opportunity to ponder issues that may have been taken for granted, never considered or purposefully ignored. It allows us to think differently about those issues. And then prompts us to dig deeper to expose – within ourselves and within others – what’s most meaningful.
In the spirit of the season, here are six serious questions for year-end reflection on self-discovery, decision-making, and workplace accountability, and six Christmas questions for fun.
Reflections & Outlook
Every December, I distribute to the leaders I work with a version of a document first developed by fellow Vistage Chair John Younker more than 10 years ago. I revise the document every year to help leaders reflect on the past year and think about what they want to accomplish in the year ahead.
You can download for free until December 31, 2011, the entire four-page document.
Here are six questions from this year’s document:
- What were my most significant accomplishments of the past year? My most significant disappointments?
- What were my three most significant learning opportunities over the past year?
- What can I stop doing next year to increase my effectiveness? What can I start doing? What can I finish doing?
- What is the most strategic thing I can attend to in 2012? How do I intend to communicate, measure and execute this?
- What practices (specific, measurable, regular activities over time) will I engage in to enhance my development as a leader? How will I be accountable?
- What do I want to celebrate one year from now?
Christmas Fun and Decision-Making
For work-related Christmas fun, here are six questions that should make you smile – and think. For the answers, go to www.bustin.com/resources and click on “Fun Christmas Questions.”
- Q: In the 1988 film “Die Hard,” police officer John McClane (played by Bruce Willis) travels from New York City to Los Angeles on Christmas Eve to spend the holidays with his wife and children. During the Nakatomi Corporation’s office Christmas party, German terrorists seize the building and hold employees hostage. What is the terrorists’ objective?
- Q: In the 1942 film “Holiday Inn” in which the song “White Christmas” was first performed, the character played by Bing Crosby hatches an idea to buy and run a country inn that’s open only on holidays. What steady job does he give up to become an entrepreneur?
- Q: “A Charlie Brown Christmas” first aired on TV in 1965 with a terrific jazz soundtrack by Vince Guaraldi. Charlie Brown is despondent about the commercialization of Christmas and turns to Lucy in her outdoor make-shift office to help him come to terms with what’s happening around him. What conclusion do they reach?
- Q: In the 1947 film “Miracle on 34th Street,” Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn) is hired by Doris Walker (Maureen O’Hara) of Macy’s as the retailer’s Santa Claus. In the course of listening to the Christmas requests of children, Kris does something that causes the head of the toy department to demand his immediate firing. What does Kris do?
- Q: In the 1989 film “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) is expecting a Christmas bonus to help cover the cost of a swimming pool he’s installing. What happens with his bonus?
- Q: In the 1946 film “It’s A Wonderful Life,” George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) believes his talents have been wasted and his dream of making a mark on the world has come to naught. By the end of the movie, however, George has a new perspective on life and is toasted by his younger brother Harry as the “richest man in town.” What’s the moral of the story? (Hint: It’s summarized in the final scene when George receives a first-edition copy of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer with an inscription from his guardian angel, Clarence.)
Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and Happy Decision-Making!
About the Author: Greg Bustin advises some of the world’s most admired companies and leaders, and he’s dedicated a career to working with CEOs and the leadership teams of hundreds of companies in a range of industries. He’s facilitated more than 200 strategic planning sessions, he’s delivered more than 500 keynotes and workshops on five continents, and he coaches leaders inspired to take their career to the next level. His fourth leadership book—Accountability: The Key to Driving a High-Performance Culture (McGraw-Hill) — is a Soundview Executive Best Business Book.