Your Most Powerful Question

Question crop_OKDo you want to improve your strategic planning, business development, time utilization, teamwork, communication and execution effectiveness? Granted, this is a rhetorical question.

I want to highlight the Most Powerful Question you can have in your leadership repertoire. Here it is:

“If (fill-in-the-blank) is a success, what needs to happen?”

This question is amazingly powerful because:

  • It focuses thinking and actions on defining specific desired outcomes (aka success metrics).
  • It sharpens planning and preparation activities that can make or break whatever follows.
  • It can be used in a variety of situations and contexts with simple word substitutions.
  • It is easy to recall.

For example, I start each day by asking myself: “If today is a success, what needs to happen?”

My answer to this question shapes that day’s agenda and focuses me on the essentials that define a productive day’s work. If at day’s end I haven’t accomplished the action items I identified in the morning, I know I need to be better focused, disciplined and efficient going forward. Or something I thought was a key item wasn’t so important after all.


Consider these Most Powerful Question variations and how they can be applied to your individual role, to your team and to the organization as a whole to support brilliant execution:

  • If today is a success, what needs to happen? (Improves personal and/or team performance and productivity.)
  • If my presentation is a success, what needs to happen? (Improves communication clarity and impact.)
  • If this meeting is a success, what needs to happen? (Improves team clarity, focus, agenda-setting, performance and follow-through accountabilities.)
  • If this business plan is a success, what needs to happen? (Improves implementation clarity and accountability.)
  • If this new hire is a success, what needs to happen? (Improves talent onboarding, role clarity, productivity and retention.)
  • If our new product line is a success, what needs to happen? (Improves marketing and sales tactics, manufacturing and operational efficiency.)

What Most Powerful Question variations would you add to this list as particularly relevant to your professional responsibilities and goals?

Remember, “If _________ is a success, what needs to happen?”

To paraphrase JRR Tolkien, this is truly the “one question to rule them all” for maximum leadership and business impact. Use it often, use it well.

Copyright © Susan  Battley.  All rights reserved.

About the Author

Susan Battley

An advisor to Fortune 100 executives and world-class institutions for more than twenty years, Dr. Susan Battley is an internationally recognized expert on CEO and leadership effectiveness. Her clients include Fortune 500 companies, professional service firms, and elite research institutions. She has worked with chief executives, university presidents, Nobel laureates, and prominent scientists, diplomats, and educators. A respected media source for analyzing leadership in the context of news-breaking events and key trends, Battley has been featured in outlets worldwide including CNN, CNBC, Fox, Bloomberg, and National Public Radio, and in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Chief Executive, Business Week, United Press International, Harvard Management Update, Entrepreneur, Science, Leader to Leader, Investments, and Worth. She is the founder and CEO of Battley Performance Consulting, a leadership strategy and organization effectiveness consultancy.