Leader-question-caThere are tons of books and hundreds of classes out there to help leaders build powerful, engaged, productive teams. Heck, I even wrote some of the books and facilitate some of those classes! But I recently read something that jumped out at me, and led me to this awareness: There is only one question to ask every team member that will spur them on to be greater than imagined.

Let me credit my source first! As I scanned he most recent issue of Fast Company (which I have been reading since its inception in 1995, and still find relevant, current, and edgy), I read an article about one of my favorite leaders of all time, Steve Jobs, entitled  The Real Legacy of Steve Jobs, by Rick Tetzell. In the article, Tetzell describes how much Steve Jobs changed after his stint at Pixar, returning to Apple a changed leader. He had learned how to create and inspire a team that worked. Now here is the quote that made me sit up and take notice. It came, from all people, Bill Gates:

“That is a really crack team that bonded with each other in toughness. I mean, you can point to every member of that team and say, ‘Okay, he earned his pay, he earned his pay, he earned his pay.’ There’s no weakness in that team.”

So there’s the secret weapon question that every leader can ask every team member every day:
“Did you earn your pay today?”

Simple? Yes! Direct? Absolutely! Insulting? Not unless a team member needs to answer “no,” in which case the next question needs to be “What is keeping you from earning your pay?” And that can open up all kinds of discussions that can lead to either an improved and more productive team member with better resources or skills, or to the restructuring of the team.

Leadership is one of the toughest responsibilities anyone can be asked to perform — and yet, it can also be the most rewarding. So take that deep breath, suck it up, and inspire your teams to be extraordinary!

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