By Anda Goseco

“One of the tests of leadership is the ability to recognize a problem before it becomes an emergency.”
— Arnold Glasow, Businessman, and Humorist

The pandemic has been difficult for all of us. As a leader, it’s important to be prepared, flexible, and agile. This means you have to go with complexities or change. We live in a world of VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity) where things are always ever changing and complex, so the more we have to be agile.

What is a tough question?

Tough questions are questions that help you face reality and the hard truth. You find it tough on the person you are talking to because sometimes you don’t want to face it, or you don’t want to face the truth. Maybe we are trying to cover up for certain things, or we are trying to make things sound okay. Tough questions, help you understand the issue.

What do leaders need to know before answering tough questions?

“If you try to listen more to your team, respect and communicate with them, you could achieve more.”

Anda Goseco, Global Executive and Leadership Coach

Before answering these tough questions, you have to be honest. Let your ego out of the door. Be honest with yourself and be able to identify the value of being honest.  

Be open to learning. To be open to learning puts you in the spotlight. It also means you have to face what’s uncomfortable. This situation would make you choose whether you would like to move forward with it or avoid it.

Uncomfortable situations are opportunities to learn. To face a tough question, you have to be open to learning, open to change, and you have to ask yourself how this will help you become a better leader and what benefit it would give you.

Be open to feedback. Ask this question: What does my team and my organization need to help me be more logical rather than emotional?

Here are 5 questions to help you evaluate how you are responding and what kind of response you should have:

1: What’s important to me as a leader?

As a leader, you face many decisions and things happening in your environment. Because of this, you lose sight of what is important to you. The things that are happening around you trigger you to act in a certain way. 

Finding what is important to you as a leader helps you make better decisions and lead with purpose. Leading with purpose involves knowing your values and who you stand for. 

2: What are my fears?

The importance of asking yourself and your team this question is that it guides you to plan better. Being able to identify what scares you or triggers fear in you prevents it from overpowering you. Doing so will help you become more reflective rather than reactive to the situation.

Acknowledging how you feel goes hand in hand with identifying your fears.  You can’t control everything — It’s okay to have fear but recognize that you have to manage it. It makes you one step ahead of the problem. It makes you manage the environment where this fear came from. 

3: What is it that has worked before but is no longer working for me now?

You need humility to admit what’s not working because sometimes pride gets in the way. 

There are things we need to change but we stick to it because of: pride, we’re comfortable with it so we stick to it – that is why we don’t do something to change it.

This also reflects fear of change.

The hardest part is to admit what’s not working anymore, because, for a lot of leaders, they sometimes rationalize and tell themselves that it’s okay. But when you take a step back and look at the bigger picture, you get to see that it’s affecting people.

Ask yourself if this is going to help you in the future, or if it is going to cause you more problems. 

Who is the leader that you want to be today? What are the things you have to stop doing as a leader that are not making you effective right now? 

4: Have I really tried everything to make things work?

Leaders often blame their team for things that aren’t working well. They rationalize that they have done everything they could but they’re not getting the expected outcome. It is important to ask yourself these questions:

  • Have you really done everything? 
  • Is there something that you are avoiding? 
  • Is there something you need to work on or do differently? 
  • What are you contributing to this?

5: Where am I going?

Stop and check. 

  • Am I going in the direction I want to go? 
  • Am I becoming the person I want to be? 
  • Is this aligned with my purpose and my goals for myself? 
  • Are the choices I am making good for myself and my team? 

It all boils down to the steps you have taken and the choices you have made. Are you being deliberate? Are you seeing the impact of every single decision you make? 

Developing self-mastery is critical to your success as a leader, and in your ability to ask yourself these tough questions. Face the hard truths about yourself. If this seems like a challenge for you, working with an executive coach can help you go through the process.