Consider This

Robert Stevenson’s Thoughts on the Pursuit of Excellence

Correct Answer - But Wrong

December 2, 2023

by Robert Stevenson

Sometimes we ask questions the wrong way or we ask the wrong questions … but either way … we can end up with CORRECT but WRONG answers. Great leaders and managers understand that information is key in making decisions and that questions, when asked properly, can be a powerful aid in soliciting this information.

But sometimes we think we are asking the right questions, only to get answers that are actually right, but of no help to us … and definitely not what we were looking for. Let me give you a few examples of questions teachers asked their students that elicited correct answers, but not the responses the teachers were looking for.

Q: Give a brief explanation of the meaning of “hard water.”
A: Ice

Q: Where was the American Declaration of Independence signed?
A: At the bottom

Q: How do you change centimeters into meters?
A: Take out centi

NO … these were not the answers the teachers were looking for. Question & Answer sessions with employees are an excellent way to solve problems in organizations … “IF” the right questions are being asked. Below is a sampling of a few questions I think all managers/leaders should be asking and have answered each year if they plan on being/remaining successful.

  • What does it take to be successful in our business? (less than 100 words)
  • In your opinion, where are we below average, failing, or need to improve?
  • What is the most important thing we should concentrate on to be successful?
  • What is it that we do best/worst?
  • What is the dumbest thing we do around here?
  • What things/procedures/policies do we have that you think are unnecessary?
  • What suggestions do you have that could make us more profitable/efficient/better?
  • If you could change one thing about our company to make us better, what would you change?
  • If you were our competitor, how would you beat us? Where do you feel we are vulnerable?

To make this exercise in questioning more beneficial and constructive I would like to offer the following three suggestions.

  1. Questions be answered anonymously so there is no possibility of retribution against any responses someone makes.
  2. Tell everyone that their responses need to be specific and explained; saying we need to improve quality or customer service is too vague.
  3. They can attack anything about the company but not a person.

because you can’t fix
what you don’t know is wrong.
Asking the right questions
will help you find those problems.

"Your only true security in life
is your ability to perform."

About the Author

Robert Stevenson is an expert at building a high-performance business culture, improving efficiency, and accelerating growth. He is one of the most widely sought-after speakers in the world today, as well as a best-selling author. He has owned five companies, sold internationally in over 20 countries. Robert has spoken to over 2,500 companies throughout the world and his research in the area of corporate and entrepreneurial success is extensive. Over 2 million people have benefitted from his powerful, practical, and thought-provoking programs. He is a true master at blending facts, inspiration, conviction, and humor into all his programs.

Companies like FedEx, Prudential, Lockheed Martin, Chevron, American Express, and Berkshire Hathaway continue to rely on him for a fresh, unique perspective on businesses’ most crucial issues. To learn more about Robert and what he can do for your team visit his website at

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