The Empowered Blog

The ONE Question Every Leader Needs To Ask


Today’s companies have it all backwards.  Leaders have a thirst and drive for answers to their biggest challenges.

strategic question

Thousands of leadership books are published yearly to feed that thirst.  Buying those books to find the right answers for your company is where leaders make their biggest mistake.


Leadership is NOT about having the right answers.  It’s about asking the right questions.

If you’ve read my article 12 Strategic Thinking Questions That Yield Big Results, you know why questions are so powerful and how they can change organizational results … overnight.  If you have not,  click here.


The Make-or-Break Question Critical to Your Business Future

There is one question though, above all others, that smart leaders ask … not just once, but everyday.  This one question has the power to:

  • Create sustainable company growth and profitability
  • Rise above your competition
  • Make you an innovative leader in your marketplace
  • Accelerate organizational and culture change
  • Increase employee engagement and performance

This one question has equal relevance to both your external and internal environments.   What is that one question?

Where can we win?


Why This One Question?

How many times …

  • have you spent great effort and resources on goals and strategies that were never worth your time to begin with?
  • has your company pursued markets and customers that actually took you further from your goals, not closer?
  • has your company spread itself thin with too many organizational changes, initiatives or diverse priorities?

The truth is …

“There are many battles in business not worth winning.   Worst still is to LOSE such a battle you should have never fought to begin with.”     Denise Corcoran

 Know which strategies and plans will lead you to your goals and which will not.  Distinguish those that create gain and those that create loss.  As the saying goes,

“Measure twice, cut once.”


The Secret to Winning in Your Marketplace

To succeed in today’s rapidly changing marketplace, it is critical for leaders to ask daily …

Where can we win?

And equally important …

Where can we not win?

Where you are winning today is not where you can win tomorrow.  To best answer these questions more deeply requires three steps.

Step 1:  Pause and take a REALITY check.  Challenge every assumption about your current goals and plans.

Take a look at your revenue and profit goals and ask yourself:

  • Will your current customers (or desired customers) really get you to your goals?
  • What makes you think your plan and expected outcomes are reasonable?
  • Did you make up those outcomes and hope that you would reach them?

Remember …

“Hope is not a strategy.”

Step 2:  Dig deeper.  The real truth about where you can win is below the surface.

Even if you think your goals and plans are reasonable, dig deeper.  You will find real answers to your revenue or profit challenges below the surface. 

For example, do you tend to target customers based on their ability to pay your price?  While that is a good start, there are deeper questions you need to ask.  Such as …

  • Are they willing to pay you your price?
  • Are there competitors driving price resistance?  Are those competitors lowering customer demand for your products/services?
  • How do you adapt your plans to this new reality?

If you have hit a ceiling in revenues and/or profits, you need to dig deeper to get the truth about your company’s reality.

Step 3:  Utilize the power of peripheral vision to detect early (often subtle) warning signs that your business needs to shift. 

In today’s rapidly changing world, smart leaders have systems to detect early warning signs that the positioning of their business may need to change. Even if realistic today, your strategies and plans may not be valid tomorrow.

What are examples of early warning signs that your company may need to re-position itself?

  • Pressure on profit margins
  • Decline in customer satisfaction
  • Appearance of new competitors
  • Loss of market share in key segments
  • Surprises by outside high impact events in the last few years

The key to detecting early warning signs that your environment is shifting is to develop your leadership peripheral vision.

Mastering Your Outer Game ProgramIn a literal sense, peripheral vision is an expansion of your normal attention to what’s happening at the edges – the periphery – of your field of vision. You are often in peripheral vision, for example, when driving on a highway, assuming you are not engaging in any distractions.  Your vision expands to see cars in all directions in order to respond in a moment’s notice, if needed.

In the business world, leaders are mostly engaged in their foveal vision — critical for focus on goals and critical tasks of the organization.  However, foveal vision also creates serious tunnel vision to big picture strategic issues and the ever-changing environment in which it operates.

Leaders must train their minds to continually monitor the periphery or edges of their environment for subtle and early shifts. Here’s why.

Peripheral vision …

  • Helps you detect emerging opportunities in your marketplace before your competitors
  • Gives you early signals regarding outside threats to your growth – such as, new alternative substitutes that can satisfy your customers’ needs
  • Helps you anticipate and respond to future unmet customer needs not even their radar screen today
  • Slows down your negative internal dialogue that drives ineffective leadership decisions and actions 

NOTE:  To learn about how to develop your peripheral vision as a leader, fill out my contact form and I am happy to pass on resources.

Bottomline:  If your company has hit a growth ceiling … has been on a vicious profit rollercoaster ride … or in perpetual crisis mode, then STOP.

Pause and ask yourself the ONE question that determines the extent your company survives vs. thrive in the future.

Where can we win?

And, if you are feeling bold and confident,

Where will we win?


Ready to get off the profitability and/or revenue roller coaster ride?   Click here to sign up for our 90 minute, complimentary Leadership Edge Strategy Session to develop a leadership strategy to achieve your goals and desired breakthroughs.


Other Related Links

12 StrategicThinking Questions That Yield Big Results.  

How Great Strategic Thinkers Think. 


Denise Corcoran – CEO, The Empowered BusinessTM – helps growth-seeking companies develop game-changing leadership teams and organizations that drive and sustain profitable growth by design.   Denise can be reached at or



Denise Corcoran works with CEOs and executive teams seeking rapid growth yet are challenged by the “invisible barriers” that keep them stuck, overwhelmed or in crisis mode. Her company —The Empowered Business — is one of the few companies providing whole brain, strategic solutions for unleashing leadership and organizational potential. Her secret sauce is assisting CEOs and executive teams develop the “X factor” – i.e., the mindset, attitudes and game-changing thinking -- that drives double and triple digit growth … by design.


Posted by Denise Corcoran on July 8, 2014 in Fast Growth, Leadership Development, Leadership Performance, Mindset, Profitability, Strategic Thinking and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , .

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