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Bo Parfet Says That Leaders Should Not Be Afraid to Ask Questions


Bo Parfet has been revered as a humble leader in business for almost half his life. He started his career in finance at a young age, blossoming into a hard-working analyst at J.P. Morgan in New York City. He has since built a career in real estate, launching Iconic Development, named an Inc. 500 Fastest-Growing Company.

Building on his business acumen and deep passion for bettering society and the environment, he now owns and operates Denali Venture Philanthropy, an impact investment organization focused on supporting entrepreneurs driving positive social change (also known as “Impact Investing”).

Parfet’s passion and determination have made him a successful leader not only professionally, but in his personal endeavors as well. While working on Wall Street, Parfet became interested in mountain climbing. His interest quickly escalated, and he found himself training to take on the world’s tallest mountains. What a way to spend your coveted vacation days!

Building a team of trustworthy, dependable, and experienced climbers and athletes, he soon became part of a team that would reach the peaks of all Seven Summits, the highest mountains on each continent. Parfet notes that these journeys have helped him develop into the leader that he is today. When faced with life-or-death situations, Parfet shares that it is imperative that you rely on your team and that they rely on you.

In recent articles, Parfet has shared what makes a leader great, but there is one important thing he believes that leaders should never forget: the power of asking questions.

Often, leaders will refrain from asking questions because they believe that it will make them look weak and change how they are perceived in their positions of leadership by teammates. In reality, Parfet says, asking the right questions can elevate your status as a leader in your organization and with those in your professional circle.

Learning to ask questions well can help connect you with others. Here are a few ways that Parfet suggests phrasing questions to elevate yourself as a leader: 

Ask Deeper Questions

Parfet encourages leaders to dive deep into the situation or problem and ask leading questions that will explore and identify new opportunities. Ask your team members to think big and make bold decisions.

In collaborative meetings, stay away from asking questions like, “How can you increase profits by 10 percent?” Chances are, the answers to these questions have already been identified. Instead, ask broader questions that will inspire your team to consider innovative ways to improve. For example, try asking, “What third-party resources do we have, and how can we leverage our partnerships to improve our customer experience?” Essentially, these two questions focus on the same outcome. However, asking the broader question encourages collaboration and ownership among team members. 

Be Genuinely Interested

Often, when leaders make their way out to the team floor, tensions rise, employees are on edge, and all creative thinking ceases because they don’t want to say the wrong thing in front of their supervisor. As a leader, you must be available and show interest in others and their work if you want to get real, raw feedback.

When making your way to these collaborative meetings or when you approach a team member one on one, ensure that you are showing authenticity and genuine curiosity. Share a time when you struggled with a similar challenge and give positive advice to help your team members move forward. 

Involve Others

Lastly, Parfet asserts that you should build your team to achieve success. From climbing mountains to building businesses, Parfet has shared that his success is a direct result of the people with whom he surrounds himself.

When identifying potential solutions to a challenging issue, bring in additional team members from other departments, include third-party resources, and build up your collaborative group to enhance your total outcome. Leaders who encourage creative thinking and can ask powerful questions tend to be more successful in addressing current and unexpected challenges and building a better business for the future. 

About Bo Parfet

Bo Parfet is the co-founder and CEO of Denali Venture Philanthropy (Denali), an impact investment organization focused on fostering positive social change. He also joined DLP Real Estate Capital as its managing director in 2020.

He began his career in finance as a research fellow at the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) and then went on to Wall Street, joining J.P. Morgan as a financial analyst. In 2007, he founded Iconic Development.

Parfet is an adventurer and mountaineer, claiming recognition as one of only 127 people to conquer all Seven Summits, the tallest peaks on each continent. He is an author, philanthropist, and community activist. He received the Presidential Volunteer Service Award for completing more than 4,000 hours of volunteer service worldwide. He is a member of both the Explorer’s Club and Young Professionals Organization, showing his commitment to building a better future through leadership. He is an advisory board member for the nonprofit Adventure Scientists.

A native of Kalamazoo, Michigan, Parfet holds an MBA from Northwestern University, a Master of Arts in Applied Economics from the University of Michigan, and a Bachelor of Science in Economics from Colorado State University. Parfet lives in Boulder, Colorado, with his wife and two children.

David Smith