Ron Carucci’s One Best Question
Listen to the podcast
Ron Carucci is the co-founder and managing partner of Navalent, which works with CEOs and executives pursuing transformational change for their organizations, leaders, and industries. In this interview, Ron poses an intriguing question aimed at gauging self-awareness and getting a leader in touch with their desire for impact.
Also mentioned in this podcast:
- Rising to Power: The Journey of Exceptional Executives, by Ron A. Carucci and Eric C. Hansen
- The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever, by Michael Bungay Stanier
Michael: Yes, you’re listening to The Coaching Habit Podcast. I’m Michael Bungay Stanier, author of The Coaching Habit, host of The Coaching Habit. I’m with Ron Carucci. He is co-founder, managing partner at Navalent. Navalent works with CEOs and executives pursuing transformative change in their organization with their leaders and within their industries. He comes with a 30 year track record of helping some of the world’s most influential executives tackle those three big challenges, strategy, organization, and leadership.
He’s also the author of a number of books, including the most recent one, a book that I’ve read and enjoyed, Rising to Power. He’s a regular contributor on HBR and Forbes. In fact if you listen to the longer interview we’ve just had with Ron, he’ll actually reference the great articles he posted on Forbes. So you should give that a look as well. But this is not the long form interview.
We do three interviews with each guest. This one is about Ron’s favorite question, because every coach I know has a plethora of great questions that they use. But I am forcing them, and sometimes it’s painful to give me the question that they love the most. What’s the one question they like? If I could just have one on my desert island, this might be my coaching question.
So, Ron, welcome and what is the best question for you?
Ron Carucci: I was just thinking, Michael, how many of your guests try to sneak in two?
Michael: Most of them.
Ron Carucci: Yes. So I may. I do have favorites. I love the actual question because I do have a favored set of questions. One of my favorites at the beginning is ‘What do you expect me to find?’
Michael: That’s nice.
Ron Carucci: So as I set out to go interview people or get data, it’s the most wonderful version of self-awareness that you force people to put themselves in other people’s heads by telling me what am I going to hear.
Michael: That’s brilliant, in part because you’re hearing stuff that they might not otherwise tell you. But you’re also I’m guessing seeing various biases and the like that might come out in the answer to that.
Ron Carucci: And how far apart are they from what I actually do find.
Ron Carucci: Which that then prepares me for what I’m going to do when I come back with the data. So that’s one of my favorites.
Michael: I love that.
Ron Carucci: The other one I love asking is ‘What do you desire?’ So many executives numb their capacity to want, to desire, either out of their own arrogance or their own imposter syndrome. Getting a leader in touch with what they desire for impact, what they desire for more, what their ambitions are and letting them own those in a healthy way, it propels the work. Ultimately as I’m going to push them forward toward new and different kinds of choices, I have to have some gas in the tank. Obligation and fear are definitely not going to be it. So if I don’t have some fuel of desire to propel us together, at some point I’m likely to stall.
Michael: In The Coaching Habit book, the fourth of the seven questions is the question we call the foundation question. It’s what do you want? You can tell it’s the kissing cousin to what you desire.
Ron Carucci: Yeah.
Michael: Language is so important in sometimes making a good question great. I’m curious to know what you think the difference between want and desire might be.
Ron Carucci: I think they’re the same, Michael. Desire, I think it gets to the place of choice, right?
Ron Carucci: Versus what do you have to do in this? Or what’s going to happen if this doesn’t go well? Or what do you want to accomplish? So some result. Those can tend to lead more toward obligatory outcomes or more toward intellectual answer. Those are important. I don’t want to dismiss the importance of those kinds of outcomes in a consultation.
But ultimately what’s going to get that leader out of bed in the morning, what’s going to make them see me on their caller ID and not roll their eyes, what’s going to make them see me on their calendar and be excited is going to be that when I finish my work or when I get my next several assignment or when I get the hard feedback, there’s something in this for me. That I sense a very real personal achievement that I want. Not just because I want to correct something but because I want to experience something and I want to contribute something that I’m not experiencing or contributing now.
Michael: What I like about that question ‘What do you desire?’ is it feels like it’s tapping into something slightly more private and slightly more personal, like something known and hidden. Whereas what do you want can be sometimes just something unexpressed. Sometimes you’re even unaware of it. Sometimes what do you want triggers a revelation. I didn’t even know I wanted that but I think that’s what I want. ‘What do you desire?’ feels like it’s just got a slightly different weight and comes at it a slightly different way. I think they’re both great questions. Ron?
Ron Carucci: I would also echo the notion that often they don’t know. The desire is unknown, and sometimes you have to unearth it.
Michael: Then you have that great moment where you sit in silence and you can see them slightly sweating. You’re slightly sweating ’cause you’re like ‘Oh my god, this is-‘ to what we talked about in that longer form interview, which is around this is part of the journey towards intimacy. Let me not break this spell by letting my own insecurity break the silence and break the work that they’re doing.
Ron, awesome conversation. Thank you. For people who are like ‘I need to know more about this man’, where can they find you?
Ron Carucci: Come to our website at Navalent. N-A-V-A-L-E-N-T.com. Got lots of great resources there, a free ebook at navalent.com/transformation on leading transformation in organizations and some great Why papers and some blogs and a quarterly magazine you can sign up for to get all kinds of things for your quiver.
Michael: Brilliant. And of course your book Rising to Power available at Amazon bookstores near you.
Ron Carucci: Yes.
Michael: Perfect. Ron, thank you very much.
Ron Carucci: My pleasure, Michael. Thanks for having me.