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Questions leadership teams might use in validating key decisions they make

This document is simply meant to act as a sense check for leaders as they make key decisions for their organisation.  Whilst there are a large number of questions, the point is not to examine every question in detail, but rather to get into an habitual practice as a team of validating decisions against a wider set of criteria than just the immediate task in front of you.

One way in which you might use this is to split the categories below amongst your team members (perhaps by creating a card for each category) and asking them, perhaps in pairs, simply to examine the questions in their category for 10-15 minutes and then to feed back any key insights or anomalies to the group. Each time you make a decision you can spread the categories differently so that every member of the team eventually builds an holistic set in their minds.

Hopefully you might find that these questions are taken down into the organisation to be used at all decision-making levels. Their regular use might increase trust in the decision-making robustness of the leaders.  Of course, one hopes that the quality of decision-making improves over time.

When you have gone through the exercise, I suggest that you have a very quick review of how the decision has either been improved, or how you feel more confident in its quality and robustness.  Over time, you might want to review how decision-making generally is improving.  Subliminally you should find that you are effectively incorporating these questions into the decision in the first place, as you make it.

Real understanding of the impact of the decision

1. What is the impact of this decision on the customer or ultimate user of your product or service? What impact will it have on the way your product or service is perceived and trusted in the market?

2. If you have a wide reach as an organisation, what is the impact you expect on the widest possible user (e.g. if you are in healthcare, on the patient; if you are automotive manufacturer, on the motorist)

3. What is the impact of implementing this decision on you personally, on your department and on each of the other members here? How have these impacts been expressed or not expressed in the room as the decision has been made?

4. What impact will this decision have on the financial health of the organisation?

5. What impact will it have on the reputation of the organisation both internally and externally?

Understanding of the sustainability and implementability of the decision

6. How does this decision protect or continue the status quo or how much does it enable shift, challenge and shake up? How does this compare with what the organisation really needs or even with what you consciously intended when you set out to make it?

7. What makes this decision sustainable? What will help it have the impact you want it to have on an ongoing basis?

8. What is going to get in the way of this decision being implemented fully and how has that been covered in your conversations leading up to the decision being made?

9. What is the true short-term and long-term cost of implementing this decision and how much of that have you covered fully in your conversations about it?

Understanding how you really feel about this decision and its impacts

10. Who really benefits from this decision and how do they benefit? Who is negatively impacted by this decision and what will it cost them?

11. What are the reasonable reasons you are giving yourself for making this decision in the way you are? What are you truly comfortable with and what are you uncomfortable about?  What are you expressing and what are you not expressing, and why?

12. What is not being said as you make this decision? Where are people being open about their views and where are they hiding their views?  What are the “elephants in the room” not being talked about, or where are power and authority being exercised, both consciously and unconsciously, which is somehow stifling important debate, information or views?

Consistency of the decision with stated direction of the organisation (consistency being a key element of trust)

13. How consistent is this decision with the stated objectives, values and principles of the organisation?

14. How consistent is this decision, and the factors considered, with other decisions you have made as a leadership team recently and with the other initiatives and projects going on?

15. What messages will people in your organisation “hear” when this decision is announced and implemented and how consistent are those messages with what you want them to hear and believe?

The impact of the decision on what the organisation is like to work in

16. How will this decision, once implemented, help people in your organisation to thrive and be at their best?

17. How will this decision, once implemented, make your organisation a more attractive place to work and attract the talent you need for the future?

18. In what way will this decision help people to feel fairly treated and to feel they belong in this organisation? Who might feel excluded or disenfranchised and how might they feel that way?

19. How will this decision attract and encourage diverse talent and views in your organisation or how might it reject and discourage diversity of thinking and understanding?

The example set by this decision and the way it has been made

20. If every team in the organisation made this decision in the same way that you are doing, in what way would the organisation be better off or worse off?

21. Imagine everybody in the organisation was observing you while you made the decision…what do you imagine they will have seen and how proud are you or ashamed are you of what they have seen?

22. How much/where does this decision align with what you believe is the right thing to do? Where does it not align?  What is the possible impact of any misalignment?

Long term sustainability, decency and validity of this decision

23. How does this decision prepare your organisation for the challenges it is likely to face in the future?

24. How does this decision impact on the way that your organisation impacts on the environment, on preventing or increasing global warming and on the protection or extinction of key species?

25. How does this decision make you feel? How does it increase or reduce your sense of personal pride as a leader?  How will you justify this decision to your family/children, your friends, your work colleagues?


Jeremy Keeley is an Aziz executive coach, team coach and experienced business leader who supports senior leaders individually and as part of a team.


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About Aziz Corporate

Aziz was founded over 40 years ago by Khalid Aziz, a media pioneer of his day who at 21 became the youngest ever appointed BBC producer.

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