the ceo magazine, mission statement,
Holly Duckworth, CEO - CAE, CMP, Leadership Solutions International

At the pace of life today, time is money.  We do not have time to waste with long meetings or long decision-making timelines.  While we would like to have long conversations and time to think before we act, often we do not have that luxury.  Our words, and questions, have more power now than ever before. 

CEO’s often only have time to ask one question before making a powerful decision.  With one question a CEO must demonstrate both knowledge and curiosity on a project.  He or she must also gather data on both the financial investment, human capitol investment and need for project implementation.  Many organizations start with “How?” questions:  “How will this impact the bottom line, or how will this impact our customer?”  While “How?” is a great question to identify logistics, these questions do not get to the strategic reason for undertaking a project.  Other leaders ask, “What will this mean for company expansion, or what will this do to my customer buying habits?” These questions limit responses to data and numerical information. 

Decisions cannot be made with mere data alone.  CEO’s must ask one powerful question to gather both data (for the head) and heart information (soul energy) of every project they take on before they sign off on change.  What is that question, you ask?

That question is “Why?”  Why does this project get us closer to our vision or mission?

Asking “Why?” is the most powerful first question in a CEO’s briefcase because it does the following: 

  • Demonstrates curiosity, an opening to learn more about the goals, objectives and desired results of the proposed project
  • Recognizes the company’s commitment to understand the project vision and how it ties to the company's overall vision and mission.
  • Unifies a passionate team to create focus and commitment on the project intentions, goals, and outcomes
  • Realizes a clarity around the need for the project or requested change
  • Prioritizes resources in terms of money and people to make the change possible
  • Determines challenges you will face in the project and releases any pessimism up front

If you ask “Why?” and hear silence this response immediately provides you an opening to say, “Go back to the drawing board.”  If we cannot be clear about “Why?” we are taking on a project we cannot reach how, and what.

Ask, “Why?” with genuine interest and a listening ear to hear the data and then feel clarity, passion and purpose in the responses from your colleagues.

As a CEO you have no time to waste with long drawn out meetings and circular answers that never get to the point.  Preparing your leadership team to know that every time they want to initiate change they must come first with a “Why?” then the how, and last what will naturally emerge.  Asking “Why?” creates a convergence of your need for data and your need for heart connection.  Why tells the story in terms of facts, figures and feelings.

Many tell me asking “Why?” is confrontational. Asking this question is only confrontational if sent in the energy of confrontation.  When you ask, “Why?” with an honest desire and freedom to let your team feel empowered to answer there is no confrontation.

Asking “Why?” aligns every project you undertake back to your business vision and mission.  Asking “Why?” saves you time of trying new things and failing.  Asking why saves you money.  You are not wasting people’s precious time and money chasing down problems or solutions that are no longer necessary or relevant to the business vision and mission.

CEO’s today live and work in one of the most transformational times in the history of our world. The global awareness that companies from Florida to Australia are connected in a single world economy is sparking rapid change.  Our human consciousness and evolution requires leaders today to make more decisions, faster than we have ever made them before.  At the pace of change today, countless questions fly past a CEO’s desk on any given day.  Some of those questions eventually match up to answers, while many questions pass by waving the white flag never answered at all.  One unanswered question can mean financial ruin; one wrongly answered question can mean disaster. 

Next time you approach another long meeting save time and money.  Request that your team to come prepared to answer “Why?” you are undergoing the project from a data standpoint and a heart or vision statement standpoint.  This will save you time and money in the design, implementation and results phase of any business endeavor.

About the Author

Holly Duckworth, CAE, CMP is CEO of Leadership Solutions International as consultant, speaker and facilitator on leadership and spirituality. Author of Ctrl+Alt+Believe: Reboot Your Association For Success, Holly is a columnist for MeetingsNet/IdeaExchange on the meetings industry and writes a regular on the future of spirituality in business. She lives in Denver Colorado Learn more at, on LinkedIn & follow her on twitter @hduckworth


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