What's the worst mistake you ever made? Let me ask it a different way: What's the most expensive mistake you ever made?
Imagine losing $219 million. That's what happened to Rachel Kennedy and her husband in 2021.
Rachel, a business student at Brighton University in England, set up an automatic payment to play the same numbers each week in the EuroMillions lottery. When she checked the numbers on the sixth week, she was shocked to find they had won! Unfortunately, she hadn't been monitoring her account and her payment for the lottery ticket didn't go through. Why? Ironically enough because there wasn't enough money in her account. They would have won the equivalent of $219 million.
Most people think leadership involves making decisions and telling people what to do. Sometimes that's true. But great leaders have more tools in their belt. One of the most important tools is perfectly suited to help us avoid the worst mistakes. Especially big ones. It's simply this: ask questions. To misquote Socrates, "You don't know what you don't know." And the only way to know it is to ask good questions, especially of those you lead.
The higher you rise as a leader, the harder it is to get the complete picture from those who report to you. David Fubini, author of Hidden Truths asserts that top leaders rarely receive the full story. He quotes a former admiral as saying he knew when he took charge of a new ship that, "I was never going to be handed a cold cup of coffee, and I was never going to be told the whole truth."
The only way to get at the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth -- the truth you must have to avoid major mistakes -- is to ask.
How about you? What questions do you ask that ensure you know what you don't know so you know what to do? I'd love to hear from you.