Thanks to Karl Driggs for this blog post, published with his permission. Please contact Karl with questions about succession planning and leadership.

Begin by Asking the “Right” Question

By Karl Driggs SBGSolutions

A long standing leadership philosophy was summarized by John C. Maxwell in his book Good Leaders Ask Great Questions in 2014. To quote him directly, “Good leaders ask great questions that inspire others to dream more, think more, learn more, do more, and become more.” This belief supports a critical need within middle market companies today who continue to struggle in attracting, recruiting, retaining and developing talent.

There is one key question that leaders should ask themselves as they form their strategic foundation for the business. The question is simple, succinct, understandable and relatable and should serve as the foundational inquiry for supporting who gets hired and ultimately who leads and manages key areas of the company – “What one belief do all employees share that the leadership team can attribute to the company’s growth and success?”

The great news is that more and more middle market companies are spending the time to develop a strategic plan to guide the business direction. The challenge remains that most jump right into the middle of the process by setting goals like “10% revenue growth” or “net profit of 27%”. Of course, these financial goals are important and create easily measurable results, but what they lack is the inspiration that guides the attainment of such goals.

Begin with this thought – As a leader, what core belief do you share and instill in employees that creates the success of your business? The answer to this one question will create clarity and serve as a foundation for the behaviors of all employees. Simon Sinek, in his highly regarded Ted Talk How Great Leaders Inspire Action 1 noted that “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”. The same argument can be made for why employees stay and thrive with a company….They already know what you do, what they want to know is why you do it and how they fit in.

Using a financial service firm as an example, a company may provide tax planning and savings services to middle income families. They approach the business through understanding their client’s needs and state that their superior service is the value: What this answers is the “how”, but not the “why”. What the client really wants to know is that you “believe that a person’s hard earned money should be protected through the minimization of tax impact balanced with a short term and long term income growth strategy for them to achieve their dreams”. This belief statement is much more inspiring, creates emotion and encourages action. It can also set a standard and vision for all employees of the firm.

As leaders, we should leverage our belief statements to hire, develop and retain employees. When interviewing, we should educate our candidates to our beliefs and ensure that they are clear that we expect them to share this belief. As we hold performance reviews, we should measure the existing employee’s actions in alignment with our beliefs. In addition, when we create development plans for key roles, we should make sure that those employees can explain and instill our belief’s in others.

2018 is right around the corner and strategic planning sessions will be held in the next few months. As you approach your plan, consider revisiting your beliefs as a leader of the company. Make sure that you take advantage of the time spent in creating your plans by inspiring your staff to see the value of these beliefs and how they can use them to drive their actions. Remember one “right” question can set the trajectory for your growth and success.


About Karl Driggs and SBGSolutions Karl has been working in succession planning for the past 18 years. As a partner in a small marketing consulting firm he prepared the business for the sale to a public company. He has spent his recent years working with mid market companies implementing high growth strategies and founder / key person succession plans. His hands on approach mixed with his true desire to see others succeed is a passion.

SBGSolutions was founded by Karl to bring his unique offering to the Northeast Ohio market. The goal of SBGSolutions is to “Inspire others to be the solution” through an engagement so that the solutions developed are sustainable over time. Visit SBGSolutions at and follow Karl on Twitter @sbgsolutions



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