scary questions greg bustin

What Skeletons are in Your Closet?

October 11th, 2016  | 

Published in Leadership

Here comes Halloween. History suggests that Halloween has its origins in feasts and festivals, celebrating everything from the autumnal harvest to the festivals of the dead.

As a result, ghosts, goblins, witches and skeletons became obvious choices for Halloween costumes because they evoked the symbols of the celebrations along with a little bit of fright.

10 Scary Questions

The phrase “skeleton in the closet” or “skeleton in the cupboard” is believed to have been used as early as November 1816 in the monthly British journal The Eclectic Review. The phrase described an undisclosed fact about someone which, if revealed, would have a negative impact on perceptions of the person, such as having a corpse concealed in your home long enough for it to decompose into bones.

What skeletons are tucked away in your closet or cupboard that might be hindering your personal performance or the performance of those in your organization?

Questions are one of a leader’s most effective tools.

Do you have the courage to ask yourself the tough question? The obvious question? The scary question?

Here are 10 questions selected from more than 1,000 provocative questions I’ve collected and shared in my books That’s A Great Question, Accountability and from “100 Critical Questions” in my book Lead The Way.

  1. What do we stand for? What are our non-negotiables? If someone visited our organization, would they observe that our behavior matches our words?
  2. What words would our employees use to describe us? Our customers? What would our competitors say about us?
  3. What prize do we most covet? What’s the evidence that we are challenging ourselves to attain this prize?
  4. What should we start doing? Stop doing? What’s holding us back from making the changes I know we should be making?
  5. Does our team have the talent we need to succeed? Who’s missing? Will our top performers still be here in three years?
  6. What’s the worst thing that can happen to our company? What’s the best thing? What’s our plan to prevent the catastrophe, and what’s our plan for turning our aspirations into reality?
  7. How would those at work describe my leadership style? What are the unintended consequences—favorable and unfavorable—of my behavior on our organization’s culture?
  8. Am I the same person at work as I am away from the office? If not, what’s the story behind my behavior?
  9. What am I fooling myself about? What self-limiting beliefs am I buying into?
  10. Is my role at work moving me toward my life goals or keeping me from them? What must I change to get more of what I want?

We’ve all got some type of skeleton in our closet or cupboard.

Our willingness to confront these issues directly affects our leadership effectiveness, our ability to perform at our highest and best level, and our happiness.

The only thing scarier than asking the questions, is not asking them.

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, and he’s delivered more than 500 keynotes and workshops on five continents. His fifth leadership book—How Leaders Decide: A Timeless Guide to Making Tough Choices—examines 52 of history’s greatest triumphs and tragedies and will be published in 2019 by Simple Truths.

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