Mon, May 20, 2024

Asking the key questions to make your organization better

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of attending a retreat for the Medical College of Georgia (MCG) Foundation, which I am honored to serve on its Board. While there were many highlights to the retreat, one that really stood out to me was a presentation and discussion led by Dr. Mike Comer, President of The Hayes Group. The Hayes Group is a consulting firm that specializes in organizational and individual development, including working with boards and providing executive coaching.

Dr. Comer’s time with us included a discussion about what makes a good team. We also viewed a video about a team that supported a blind man (Erik Weihenmayer) in his attempt to reach the top of Mt. Everest. There are a number of videos on YouTube in which we can learn about Erik, his team, and their success and I will certainly use some of what I learned about that team as part of a future column. However, in today’s column, I want to focus on another portion of Dr. Comer’s presentation, in which he addressed how board members can be better servant leaders for their organization by asking key questions. I think these questions are just as appropriate for any organizational leaders to ask and answer to maximize the effectiveness of their organizations. In today’s column, I will address what I think are the best of these questions and why they are so important to organizational success.

The first set of questions posed by Dr. Comer are those concerning the organization’s customers, clients, and others served by the organization. Some of the questions we should ask ourselves about them include:

  • Who is our organization serving and why?
  • How well are we serving them and how do we know?
  • How often and in what ways do we listen to those we serve?
  • Are there others we should be serving and why?


For businesses and non-profits as well, we need to know who our target market is, how we aim to serve them, and how well we are meeting that aim. For businesses, it is critical to identify the customers who most value our products and services and for non-profits, it is necessity to understand the needs of target populations. In order to do this well, we need to listen (i.e., request feedback) to our customers/clients to make sure we are meeting their needs. Also, we should be aware of other potential customers/clients/markets who would value our goods and services. These questions are especially important to businesses as they are likely to attract and retain their customers and clients if they serve them well.

While it is of the utmost importance to serve customers and clients well, it is hard for a business to do that without having the employees to help deliver that service. Therefore, the second set of questions that Dr. Comer provided are ones concerning employees. If we do not have happy and fulfilled employees, it is likely that we will not have the wherewithal to serve our customers appropriately. Therefore, Dr. Comer recommends that we ask ourselves the following questions to ensure we have satisfied employees:

  • How are we serving our employees? How do we know?
  • How often and in what ways do we listen to our employees?
  • How well do we respond to what we hear from our employees?
  • How do we help our employees grow as people?


In this series of questions, we are trying to determine if we are doing what is best for our employees such that they will have a positive work environment and that they will likely remain with our organization. If we want our employees to serve our organization, we need to serve them. These questions ensure that we are paying attention to that need and again, making sure that we receive appropriate feedback from them. There is a virtuous cycle when we serve our employees as they will serve our customers, who in turn will patronize our organizations.

The final set of questions from Dr. Comer’s presentation that resonated with me were those for the business or organization to ask concerning its partners and communities. Those key questions include:

  • What impact is our organization having on our business partners, stakeholders, and the communities in which we operate? How do we know?
  • How can we have a more positive impact?


In addition to its customers/clients and its employees, organizations have the opportunity and responsibility to treat its partners such as suppliers and distributors well and to make its community a better place. Businesses and other organizations need their community to provide employees and customers, so it is incumbent on the business to also make the community better.

While Dr. Comer’s presentation was outstanding and made quite an impression on my fellow board members and me, it was these questions that resonated with me most and motivated me to share. If you use these questions, your relationships with your customers, employees, and community will improve and ultimately improve the performance of your business.

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