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7 strategic questions your etam should be able to answer

7 Strategic Questions Your Team Should Be Able to Answer

by | Oct 28, 2015 | By Karin Hurt, Communication, Results & Execution |

How to Help Your Team Think More Strategically

I’ve never met an executive who said, “My team’s just too strategic. I just wish they would focus on the day-to-day work.” Nope. In fact, it’s quite the opposite concern.

“How do I get my team to think more strategically?”

“Karin, I just don’t think anyone on this team is ready to take on my role…. and I can’t get promoted until I find a successor.”

And the phone call of the week is, “These millennials just don’t seem to get it. There’s no long-term commitment. I don’t think they care.”

If your team is not thinking strategically don’t write them off, until you take a good look at what you’ve been sharing.

It’s impossible to connect the dots if you only see a third of them. If you wait until everything’s fully baked to share it with the team, they’ll never learn to be bakers.

7 Strategic Questions Your Team Should Be Able to Answer

Not sure where to start without going out-of-bounds? Start here with these 7 strategic questions.

1. Why do we do what we do?

Note: “to make money” is not the only answer. Dig deeper.

Back in my Verizon days, I would ask this question every time I did a skip-level meeting. You would be surprised how few can articulate a compelling answer. Start here. Talk amongst yourselves. Challenge one another. I promise this is worth every minute of time spent not “doing work.”

strategic questions

2. How does our team’s work contribute to the company’s mission?

This strategic question is more tricky. At the levels closest to the customer, it’s easy to feel like a bot, and that’s precisely where it’s most dangerous.

3. What do our customers really want?

Your team knows. Write it down, and then be sure your policies and procedures align around the answer to this strategic question.

4. Who are our major competitors and what differentiates us in the market?

My guess is that some of your team will be all over this strategic question and others won’t have a clue. Having the dialogue will offer great opportunities to explore perceptions and promote learning.

5. How does the way we do our work impact other departments?

Some time spent here,  looking candidly from both directions, will save days (maybe weeks) of unproductive time.

6. How can we better articulate what we need to the departments we rely on?

Make a shortlist and use it.

7. What’s the most important thing we’re working on and why?

This one seems tricky, but it will open up a hornet’s nest… so why do we?  Resist the urge to blame others for stupidity. If something really feels stupid, have the managerial courage to lift up the concern. The best way to help your team to become more strategic is to teach them to talk strategy. Imagine the possibilities if you were “that guy.”

Your turn. What would you add as strategic question number 8?

Want more human-centered leaders in the workplace? Share this today!

Want more human-centered leaders in the workplace? Share this today?


  1. Tish Romanchuk

    Hi Karin, How would you suggest addressing this question – 2. How does our team’s work contribute to the company’s mission? when your team is a HQ support team? I work for a big box retailer and my team supports the HR systems for the enterprise. We are removed from the day to day retail business and I have found it difficult to engage my team back to the company purpose/mission which is customer and retail focused. I have been following your blogs for a while now – love love love your advice, style and topics! Thank you for your consideration.

    • Karin Hurt

      Tish, Thanks so much! Sorry for the delayed response. I’ve been really busy with the launch of my new course. I have led teams in HQ support. First I think it’s VERY important that you have this discussion and they can map the specific programs and initiatives back to the the impact on the customers. If you they don’t map well, then that may be an important indicator as well.

      I’d love to talk to you more about this. If you want to schedule some time to chat I’d be happy to. Please send me an email at [email protected]

  2. Terri Klass

    Excellent questions Karin!

    I think the key in strategic thinking is seeing how each person impacts the overall organization strategy. I often ask teams whether they are even familiar with a company’s vision, mission and core values. Once those are shared and understood, it is more manageable to see how each team folds into some of those.


    • Karin Hurt

      Thanks so much Terri, I agree that’s an excellent starting point.


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Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders find clarity in uncertainty, drive innovation, and achieve breakthrough results.  She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. She’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Powerful Phrases for Dealing with Workplace Conflict, and hosts the popular Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. Karin and her husband and business partner, David Dye, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.

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