Asking Great Questions (Part 1)

2019-05-21T10:38:05-07:00 December 9th, 2016|Tags: , , |

Weekly Impact is written for leaders by our Executive Director, Garth Jestley, who has decades of experience in senior leadership roles in the financial services sector. Each week he will share insights on life, leadership and faith.

There is great value in asking good questions. I was reminded of this truth recently while reading one of several passages in the Bible where Jesus responded to questions with questions rather than answers.

Two specific benefits from asking great questions come immediately to mind. First, the right questions can unearth critical information that enables us to make wise decisions. Second, in addition to providing valuable information, listening to others honours them and builds trust. I will address the first benefit today, the second next week.

In business, it is always good to slow down and think through which questions will yield critical information. For example, I recall my project finance team responding to a borrowing request from a major mining company which was a longstanding client of the bank. The purpose of the loan was to fund construction of a new tin mine without recourse to the mine owner. Non-recourse means that if cash flow from the project is insufficient to service the loan, the company writes off its equity investment but the loan is the bank’s problem!

As we reviewed their request, we quickly concluded that we could provide an attractive proposal that satisfied virtually all their financing objectives. However, one of their objectives gave us pause. They wanted us to share the risk of declining tin prices. While we frequently absorbed price risk associated with certain commodities (for example, oil), we had never considered tin price risk. The question we asked ourselves was, “Do we know enough about tin and the factors influencing its price to take this risk?”

Asking the right questions help us make wise decisions.

The more we investigated the tin business, the more uncomfortable we became about our ability to assess this risk. As a result, we decided not to take it. A competitor stepped up with a proposal that fully met the company’s financing objectives. Shortly after mine completion, the price of tin dropped precipitously and our competitor wrote off the entire loan of about $150 million! We were saved by asking the right question.

Just as there is enormous merit in coming up with great questions to help us make wise business decisions, the same goes for our personal lives. Here are a few for consideration by busy marketplace leaders.

  • Why am I working so hard?
  • Am I spending enough time with my family?
  • A corollary question: Since I can’t create more time, how am I investing the time with which I have been entrusted?
  • Am I enjoying life to the full?

These are the sorts of questions we discuss in our many peer groups across Canada. Would you like to join the conversation? Find out more.

Garth Jestley is a husband, father, grandfather, leader and business executive. Most importantly, he is a follower of Jesus Christ.