Execute with Excellence by Following in a Giant’s Footsteps

When tech bell weather IBM needed to change course, CEO Samuel J. Palmisano asked managers just four questions to prod the company beyond its comfort zone and move ahead of its rivals. Since Palmisano is a savvy executive, he knew that asking strategic questions and empowering others to act was the best way to execute his bold plan.

Since IBM’s stock price has surged under his leadership, adopting a similar technique can help you earn a promotion or score a raise. For example, asking users or department managers about their goals or competitive pressures will help them identify business processes that need improvement or establish their true priorities. And since questioning is an effective change management technique, asking users strategic questions may help them embrace new technology or keep your team focused during a difficult project.

In fact, you can rise above the competition when searching for a job by anticipating prospective employers’ questions and addressing them through your branding statement, resume, cover letter and the examples you provide during interviews. Your questioning ability and answers demonstrate your insight and execution skills, because as Palmisano says: “The hardest thing is answering those four questions. You’ve got to answer all four and work at answering all four to really execute with excellence.”

Here are Palmisano’s four questions:

  • “Why would someone spend their money with you — so what is unique about you?”
  • “Why would somebody work for you?”
  •  “Why would society allow you to operate in their defined geography — their country?”
  • “Why would somebody invest their money with you?”