The 1 Question Great Leaders Ask

by Bill Marklein, Founder Employ Humanity

It was the winter of 2009 and I was a fresh college graduate entering the workforce during the recession. I moved from Whitewater to Fort Atkinson and was living above a retail store in downtown Fort Atkinson in a small studio apartment where I could almost cook and shower at the same time. My studio was that small. The recession, much like 9-11, is something I will never forget and builds much gratitude for the sunnier days. I remember once going to the grocery store during this time and one of my friend’s Dad (who had an MBA) bagged my groceries. It was a time of humility and a time to bounce back as a country.

During this time one of my jobs was working for the local chamber of commerce in Fort Atkinson promoting tourism. Not the best time to promote travel which forced me to become creative in my marketing.  Although I worked three jobs which I took a lot of pride in to do my best with what was going on in the economy, I had little money and student loans were staring me in the face. I honestly ate better in college than this period in my life and had to get creative with saving my gas money as my girlfriend (now wife) was living in Milwaukee.

One day, my boss at the chamber of commerce put an opportunity on my desk for an opportunity in Sheboygan, Wisconsin working for a much larger chamber of commerce with abundance of resources and a staff three times the size. My boss put a note on the job posting reading “Bill, Do you want to go for it?” and a following discussion how she thought it would be a great move for me and my career. She told me with confidence that I would be great. I visited the Kohler area near Sheboygan with a friend in college and loved the area and all that it offered. The quality of life was certainly attractive.

Looking back, I am in awe of this selfless gesture of leadership. It was a simple question asked “Do you want to go?” that completely transformed my life for the better. Leaders create more leaders and sometimes this is promoting opportunities outside of the organization.

"Do You Want To Go?"

Fast forward to eventually working for the Sheboygan County Chamber, I had a new inspiring boss that continually asked this same question in more ways than one:

“Do you want to go to lunch with us?”

“Do you want to go to this conference in Denver, Dallas, Kansas City?”

Do you want to go in my place?”

“Do you want to go?”

I almost always said Yes! I loved the opportunity to listen, learn and be inspired by the great leaders within these “Do you want to go” opportunities. Almost more importantly is taking advantage of opportunities to grow and saying yes to the question. Saying yes is having a growth-mindset.

Extraordinary leaders ask this one question… “Do you want to go.” It is a question that empowers people to become the best versions of themselves. It is a question that serves. It is a question that includes people in the workplace. It is a question that promotes professional development.

I challenge you to continuously ask the people you lead “Do you want to go?” and those that are asked “Yes, I will.”


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