Questions That Every Business Leader Must Answer
SINGAPORE – OCTOBER 25: James Manyika, Senior Partner McKinsey & Company speaks to the audience … during the International New York Times Global Forum Singapore – Thomas L. Friedman’s The Next New World Global Forum Asia at the Four Seasons Hotel on October 25, 2013 in Singapore.
At the Fortune Global Forum in November, James Manyika, chairman of the McKinsey Global Institute, presented 10 questions that every business leader should be able to answer. Covering a range of topics, with a broad focus on corporate responsibility, the questions are a valuable thought exercise for any modern leader.
While companies must continue to focus on what they do best offering innovative, profitable products, and services they can no longer be bystanders on social issues, Manyika explained in Fortune last month. To capture the 21st centurys unprecedented opportunities, while addressing its challenges, large, leading, and market-shaping global companies and those that aspire to be will need to chart a course that delivers sustainable and inclusive growth.
As we enter a new decade in a changing world, every leader should take time to ponder their role in the future of work. While all of Manyikas questions are thought-provoking, the following three proved particularly compelling. It would behoove our businesses, and our society at large, if every leader asked themselves these questions today.
What are our aspirations for inclusion and diversity?
What Is Your Understanding Of Diversity And Inclusion
Dont provide a textbook definition of D& I but rather what you understand it to be in the context of society and the workplace. Provide an anecdote of what it means to you. Again, remember to explain that D& I goes beyond the numbers and has expanded to include equity and belonging . To conclude, describe an ideal workplace and what it looks like when they prioritize DEIB.
What Are The Challenges For A Multi
Implementation of D& I is a complex process with organizations initially implementing successful initiatives at head offices and large metros. Often, the same model which is successful at one place is replicated in another. That can probably fail as every region has its challenges, and individuals are in various stages of the journey of acceptance and understanding. What has to be understood is that the population in every location is different. What works in one place or region may not work for the other. The experience has to be fair to all. The implementers of D& I have to study the population and gather tacit knowledge on the existing attitudes to implement the process successfully. Having patience with perseverance and being prepared for the challenges with information on the location is the way forward.
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Where Do You See The Least Diversity In Your Organization
Tough questions about diversity are worth asking. Dont be afraid to identify the areas in which your current/prospective employer needs to make progress. After all, this is where the growth begins.
Unsure about how to start promoting diversity in the workplace? See AboveBoards recommendations on strategies you can implement today.
If youre asking this question of an employer, be sure to follow up with a question about what steps the organization is taking to address this lack of diversity.
How Diverse Is Your Executive Team
Without a doubt, one of the first diversity and inclusion questions you should ask your employees is this one.
Only when your executive team values and treats every employee equally can they bring the desired change to the workplace. Such unbiased and impartial support from managers will motivate team members to support equality and treat people with respect and dignity.
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Probe On Programming And Goal Setting
6 | How do you prioritize social events that all employees feel they can take part in?
Not all employees will feel at home at every event, and its important that teams consider this when planning company-wide or team-wide social activities. As we wrote about before, people with families might not have as flexible a schedule to attend evening events people that dont drink might be uncomfortable if every gathering centers around alcohol consumption. The fact of the matter is, if people are not participating in these key relationship-building events, they are not forging ahead in their careers simply from being left out.
7 |How do you foster an open, communicative environment for your employees?
This question probes at a companys willingness to provide a safe and open space for all employees to voice their concerns. Your interviewer might not know the ins and outs of the companys formal policy, but they should be able and willing to speak to their personal experience, and that is likely better than a formal our policy says xyz.
Another way to ask this question is: What are you doing to promote a culture in which individuals at all levels and of all backgrounds feel supported enough to speak up?
Who Is Involved In The Membership Of Your Diversity Task Forces What Types Of Responsibilities Does This Group Take On
The Sheryl Sandberg & Dave Goldberg Family Foundation started with a volunteer-based group that represented a variety of functions, levels, and backgrounds from within the team. They first identified the different types of problems they wanted solve as a group. These bodies of work fell into two categories: internal workstreams and external work . They split the ownership across these tasks to progress across all fronts, and brought updates back to the working group.
Raena suggests making sure that members contributions to the task force are included in their goals and performance reviews. This sends the message from the top-down that this is a valued, important workstream, and elevates the importance of this work as a core part of each persons responsibilities. This is key to keeping these contributions from turning into office housework that serves the broader team without serving the individuals doing the work.
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What Do You Know About Diversity
This question aims at finding out what kind of person you are. It would be best if you answered it with confidence and enthusiasm. If you dont know this topic, you might want to research online before answering. However, if youre confident enough in your answers, there shouldnt be any problem.
You could say something like: Well, Ive always been interested in learning more about different cultures and ethnicities. Im fascinated by other people and their backgrounds. Or maybe you could say: I am very passionate about diversity because it helps us understand each other better. We learn from each other and become stronger when we embrace our differences.
Use words like culture and ethnicity to leave a knowledgeable and enthusiastic impression.
How Do We Get The Entire Companyincluding Our Leadership Teamon Board With Dei Initiatives
Katees one-two punch is the data and the humans. The data will tell the story of why DEI is not just a nice to have. The human aspect will make it more real for people who may not understand that the employee experience is not the same for everyone at the company. We need to bring everyone along, so it is important to meet people where they are. This can seem daunting and exhausting at times, but the more we can create awareness, the more we open peoples eyes to how great the organization could be for everyone.
For data, Raena suggests taking a look at LeanIn.Orgs annual Women in the Workplace report with McKinsey & Company, which is the largest data set on the state of women in corporate America. We know from this years report that when senior leaders prioritize diversity, and when companies encourage DEI, fewer employees think about leavingand employee happiness increases. Companies need to start treating DEI like a real business priorityand the report includes concrete steps companies can take to accomplish this.
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How Does Diversity Affect Your Organization
This question aims to see whether or not you have researched the topic at hand. The interviewer wants to know if you have done your homework and if you are familiar with the concept of diversity and inclusion.
You will get nervous and stumble over your words if you havent researched the topic. Do your best to talk about the benefits of having a diverse workforce. For example, you could mention that having diverse team members means having access to new ideas and perspectives that help you improve your product.
How Do You Approach Understanding The Point Of View Of Colleagues From Diverse Backgrounds
The company is curious about how you see ongoing workplace problems and may consider allowing others to voice their opinions. This is a crucial ability in an inclusive workplace since it is the visionary leaders responsibility to guarantee that everyone has an equal chance to voice their concerns and suggestions.
How to answer it:
- A team can only be productive if everyone feels like theyre a part of it. Make it clear that everyone has unique skills and abilities to share.
- When we talk about inclusion, we are talking about diversity, but were also talking about teamwork. Employers are searching for team players that can work successfully in a group setting. You will be a desirable candidate if you combine teamwork and inclusiveness.
- Teamwork and inclusiveness are essential components of respecting diversity. I make every effort to ensure that all voices are heard.
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Good Questions To Ask Senior Leaders
All leaders no matter how senior or influential have or have had the support and guidance of a mentor. A good mentor helps you avoid pitfalls, advises you on how to communicate your thoughts and ideas better, and enables you to be a more successful leader.
Training to be a good mentor means passing on your expertise and experience and helping shape the leaders of the future.
In asking this question, you learn from other leaders and their successful mentors, thus helping you become a better leader and mentor.
2. What are three things that todays leaders should be mindful of?
The business sphere is ever evolving, and so are the challenges. Posing this question to todays leaders will help you better understand the challenges businesses and senior leaders face.
While you will get valuable insights into how issues like yours have been resolved, you may also come across a few you havent encountered. This will prepare you for the course of action you could take if and when you do face them.
3. Whats your best advice for someone just stepping into a leadership position?
Stepping into a leadership role doesnt happen overnight. You already have a lot of business experience and expertise and, of course, plenty of knowledge and skills.
Launch A Pulse Survey About Diversity And Inclusion
One way to measure and adjust your D& I initiatives is to ask employees about their experience directly. To gather more information about a topic, like diversity and inclusion, you can use a pulse survey. These surveys dive deeper into employee opinions which can help you with your D& I efforts.
Specific pulse surveys about practices and policies may help your HR leaders pinpoint interventions to improve workplace culture. Including questions about diversity, inclusion, and belonging to engagement surveys can also help shine a light on perceptions of psychological safety across demographics. Once you understand how a specific demographic is feeling, you can begin to understand how to improve.
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Explain How You Plan To Address Issues Related To Diversity Within Your Organization
This question is similar to the 11 above. It asks how you will promote diversity within your companys human resources team, including how you assign management and leadership roles.
To answer this question, you need to give concrete examples of how you will help your company become more diverse starting from the hiring process, which should include diversity, equity, and inclusion. It also requires you to explain how you will create an inclusive environment. For example, you can say, We have a program called Women in Leadership. We offer classes on womens history and leadership skills. We offer training that delivers a welcoming and supportive environment.
Understand The Benefits Of Diversity In Leadership
A growing body of research shows that businesses with leadership that reflects the diversity of the marketplace are more likely to appeal to a broader range of customers. Organizations with diverse leadership teams are more efficient, more likely to come up with innovative solutions, and earn higher profits than those that dont.
A reputation for prioritizing DEI initiatives, including increased diversity in management, can be a recruiting advantage at all levels, since an increasing number of applicants are asking employers about their DEI initiatives during the hiring process. This trend is most pronounced among Gen Z job seekers, with 86 percent stating that diversity is an important factor when considering an employer.
Finally, since 30 percent of employers lack a DEI strategy, a comprehensive approach to diversity hiring and promotion at all levels can give your organization an advantage.
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What Are The Biggest Challenges D& i Professionals Are Currently Facing
This is an opportunity to showcase your experience and knowledge in the D& I field. The challenges and maturity in D& I are not the same as 20 or even five years ago. To answer this question, present challenges that D& I professionals have faced in the past. Then, explain how they have changed over time to the current day.
Feel free to use an anecdote where you can demonstrate current challenges and also how you worked to overcome them. Ensure your answer is aligned with the job description and industry. For instance, if your D& I role is in the entertainment industry, make it specific to that. To recap, dont just state the challenges but also discuss how to overcome them.
Why Ask Questions To A Leader
It doesnt matter what experiences youre having or challenges youre facing the odds are that other senior leaders have likely faced and overcome something similar. Its, therefore, good business practice and great for your personal growth to talk to one of todays leaders about their experiences.
A list of open-ended questions to ask leaders gives you plenty of insight because it allows them to talk without barriers. Their responses will help you analyze what made them better leaders. It will also give you ideas on how you can tackle the issues and challenges youre facing.
But asking questions is an art! Here are some suggestions:
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Hold A Focus Group With Employees
The best way to understand how your employees are feeling is to ask them. Running an effective employee focus group can give you qualitative information to support your survey results. This allows your employees to further discuss trends in your data and provide context to specific topics. Your employees can help you uncover ways to improve and help you develop solutions.
What Is Your Biggest Piece Of Advice For Getting Started With Dei
Katees advice is two-fold. First, dont try to boil the ocean. Second, just start somewhere. This work is huge and can become overwhelming if you try to tackle everything at once. Create a list of all the things you want to tackle and start with one or two. For instance, leverage your teams to build employee resource groups , use more inclusive language, or create a flex work program. Every step can help build an environment that is more inclusive and welcoming to underrepresented groups. Finally, ask for help from those who have done this in other organizations. Katee says she is always open to a conversation if it will help to move this work along in a company.
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How To Ask Powerful Questions
So now that weve got those basics out of the way, heres a list of:
When You Set Out To Hire Candidates Whose Beliefs Align With Your Mission How Do You Avoid Disqualifying People With Different Backgrounds
Though an article in Forbes declared the end of culture fit back in 2017, many companies still consider it in the hiring process.
Still, the notion of culture fit can stand as a reason to turn down candidates who are different. When that happens, unconscious biases surface.
Employers need to work to find the right balance between seeking employees who will positively contribute to their culture while ensuring that they arent somehow, however inadvertently, failing to build a workforce that reflects different backgrounds, different thoughts, opinions and life experiences.
One important caution for employers is to be aware of the tendency to hire people who are like you. A Harvard Business Review article says: Most managers have a tendency to hire people who remind them of themselves. This tendency harms diversity and inhibits team performance.
While its important to hire employees that will fit well within your culture, its also important to ensure that your staff is diverse and that they reflect your culture and values in different ways. As the authors of the HBR article say: The only way to think about talent inclusively is to embrace people who are different from you and others already on your team.
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