How to Build the Future by Asking Four Forward-Facing Questions

Frustration with teams and organizations is the result of avoiding questions that many leaders don’t dare to ask.

Successful leaders ask forward-facing questions that define a future distinct from the past.


4 backward-facing questions:

  1. What’s broken?
  2. What needs fixed?
  3. What problems can we solve?
  4. What’s wrong?

Solving problems is a futile attempt to build the future by fixing something that already happened.

The future languishes while our talent focuses on the past. Most leaders wouldn’t know what to do if they weren’t fixing broken systems, solving people problems, or strengthening weak team members. 

4 forward-facing questions:

A satisfying future begins with courageous curiosity.

#1. What future do we imagine for ourselves?

A fuzzy view of the future protects us from taking responsibility to create it.

Leaders often go blank when asked to describe the organization or team they aspire to create. It’s interesting that we can be frantically busy, yet have no idea what we are working to build.

What does success look like in terms of relationships, fulfillment, and value?

#2. How will we bring our imagined future into reality – in imperfect ways – now? 

The future is always created now. But the future fades when talent is focused on solving problems.

The future is created by applying talents to aspiration. Move from problem to possibility.

#3. Who do we aspire to become together?

People who think of themselves as tools scramble to explain a way of being together. They wonder if it even matters.

The most important thing about us is the way we treat each other while we work.

#4. How might we take responsibility to leverage our talent in service to our shared vision?

Fear based accountability – rooted in the power to punish – serves to drain initiative and degrade relationships.

What is so captivating or comfortable about turning to the past?

What courageous forward-facing questions might leaders begin asking their teams?