The One Question You Need To Answer Everyday

The One Question You Need To Answer Every Day

By Mark Wager

I just want to start by thanking all the wonderful people I had the pleasure of working with during my last visit to Fiji, especially the team at Paradise Beverages, for their warm hospitality. 

I was in Fiji mainly to celebrate my wife's birthday but also to deliver Leadership training. During one of these training sessions one of the participants asked me an interesting question.  I coach several people who are highly successful in their respective fields so I was asked the team what they thought was the most important question that anyone who wants to be successful needs to ask themselves. To be highly successful then each and every day, one needs to ask oneself  the question “what have I done today to become better than I was yesterday” 

Earlier this year I delivered a leadership workshop in New Zealand and amongst the participants was a leader who had achieved great recognition in their own field, in fact they had previously been nominated for an Academy award for their work in the entertainment industry. This is someone who is considered world class in their chosen career so I assumed out of all the people who were present at the workshop this individual would be the one who would ask the least number of questions, yet I was wrong. This world class performer not only asked more questions than anyone else but also stayed behind after the workshop to ask me more questions and even drove me to the Airport so that we had more time together to ask even more questions. At the airport I was just about to board my flight and I asked this individual why they found it necessary to ask so many questions. The reply was, “how am I going to get better if I don't ask questions?” It was within this simple reply that I realised one of the main reasons behind this individual’s success was their attitude. Their focus wasn't on how much was achieved, instead their focus was on how much they still had to learn. Therefore it made sense to ask  as many questions as possible.

When I deliver workshops I always tell everyone attending that I will stay behind afterwards to answer any questions that anyone has on leadership and I make the commitment to stay as long as it takes to answer all questions. After many years I've noticed that the participants who end up having the most successful careers were also the same participants who stayed behind the longest. I just want to be specific about this point. There are many qualities that a person needs to become successful. It's  never just one thing but I can say with all certainty that an essential quality every successful person needs is the absolute commitment to becoming better day by day.

No matter how good a person may become there is always room for improvement. There  are many businesses who have achieved great success by adopting this philosophy into their everyday work. Toyota, the world famous motor manufacturer made popular the philosophy of “Kaizen.” This is the commitment that every employee from the ground level to the senior most executive is focussed on implementing small daily changes that results in major improvements over time. This approach has been attributed as the key factor to Japan's growth as an economic power and has subsequently been adopted by many businesses worldwide. If this approach has changed the fortunes of some of the world's leading companies, just imagine what it can do for you personally. 

There is a lot of pressure on leaders to know everything. We exist in the workplace to provide clarity on what to do, why and how to do it. The leader is the person we seek out when we need to know something and when the leader doesn't know it's easy to come to the conclusion that the leader has failed in some way. While this type of thinking is understandable it can lead to leaders developing an attitude that prevented them from fulfilling their potential. It is a mistake for a leader to fall into the trap that they know everything or that they should know everything. The best Leaders I have ever met have also been the most humble. It doesn't mean they are shy about promoting themselves but when they do they do so from a position of understanding of their own personal strengths and weaknesses. The one thing that is more important than what you currently know is understanding what you currently don't know.

Knowledge is not a journey that has an ending, each and every step illustrates how much there is still left to be learnt so if you truly want to be successful then everyday you need to answer the question “what have I done today to become better than I was yesterday?” Do this and success will not be a question of “if” but rather a question of “when”

Posted: Monday 11 September 2017