Multiplication Center

The Three Big Questions

October 10, 2008

Hearing somebody talk about managing your leadership in 5 quick minutes never fails to catch my attention. Patrick Lencioni did just that when I recently heard him speak on his experiences as a father of four and his discovery that he was living a reactive, chaotic life leading his family, while urging his many clients to be purposeful and strategic in leading their businesses. In his book The 3 Big Questions for a Frantic Family, he outlines a simple, yet brilliant strategy for leading with purpose that can apply to ANY leadership situation. He purposed it really takes no more than 5 minutes a week to maintain your plan once you’ve got it outlined. Sound intriguing? Start with his 3 clarifying questions:

lencioni 1.What makes your family unique?
The answer to this question should be two or three sentences that describe how your family is
different from any other family in the world. If you don’t know what differentiates your family from
others, you won’t have a basis for making decisions, and you’ll try to be all things to all people. Craft these thoughts into your own vision/strategy statement.
2. What is your top priority—rallying cry—right now?
Rallying Cry: The rallying cry is a single, agreed-upon top priority for your family over the next
two to six months. Without a top priority, everything becomes important and you end up reacting
to whatever issues seem urgent that day.
Defining Objectives: Defining objectives are the basic categories of things you’ll have to do to achieve your rallying cry. Without identifying those categories, you’ll be left with nothing but a general statement—and no context for getting it done.
Standard Objectives: Standard objectives are simply those regular, perennial responsibilities that a family must pay attention to in order to keep its head above water. By acknowledging these ongoing responsibilities, families will avoid being distracted from what really matters.
3. How do you talk about and use the answers to these questions?
The most important thing a family has to do to keep its context alive is discuss it in regular meetings. If you answer the first two questions but don’t use those answers in daily, weekly
and monthly decision-making, it will yield limited benefits. Decide to take 5 minutes every week and “score” your progress on your objectives using a simple color key (Red: needs attention; Yellow: still working on it; Green: making great progress)

As I listened I asked myself some questions: What makes me unique as a leader? What’s my leadership strategy and how will I apply it to make a difference? What’s my rallying cry as a leader? What is it in my areas of influence that won’t let me sleep at night if I don’t tackle them? Now I was on a roll. So I took out a scrap of paper from my purse and jotted out my leadership strategy statement, wrote out my rallying cry (underlined it twice) and wrote out five practical things I need to make progress on over the next 6 months. It took a little thinking time, but not overwhelming. As I go forward, I’m remembering Patrick’s 3 summarizing calls to action:

1) Keep it in front of you and talk about it

2) Keep it simple and messy (the scrap I wrote on out of my purse had gum on it)

3) 5 minutes a week can change your life

Tomorrow I score myself. If my report card looks good, I’m posting it on the refrigerator, gum and all.

Want to read more about Lencioni’s family leadership strategies? Click here

Sherry Surratt (

Director of The Women’s Initiative @ Leadership Network

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