7 Forward-Facing Questions to Evaluate the Past
Past tense leaders don’t clarify results or methods, before you take action. But, when it’s over, they critique and tweak what you did.
Lousy leaders are wise after the fact.
Correcting the past:
Short-sighted leaders insult, belittle, and demoralize teammates when they explain what should have been done. But, what they really mean is, you should have done it the way I would have done it. They weren’t smart enough to tell you before you stepped out.
Small leaders think you’re an idiot if you didn’t do it their way and brilliant if you did.
Lousy leaders say:
- You should have.
- They could have.
- Why didn’t you?
- It would have been better if….
But, if you can’t critique the past, how can you improve?
7 questions for evaluating past performance:
- What were you trying to accomplish? Always explore this question before any evaluation. Leaders who give advice or criticism before clarifying your goals are pressuring you to be like them.
- How do you know you succeeded or failed? (Observable behaviors and results)
- What did you do to achieve your desired end?
- What worked?
- What didn’t work?
- What will you do differently next time. (Not, what do you wish you would have done.)
- How can I help?
6 questions when performance falls short:
- How important, on a scale of 1 to 10, is improving your performance in this area, to you? Once a performance issue is identified, always ask a form of this question, first.
- What does improvement look like in behavioral terms?
- Who do you want to be, while performing this activity?
- How do you want to be perceived by others, with this situation in mind? (Yes, perceptions matter.)
- What will you do, in behavior terms, to achieve your goals? Or, you could say, “Let’s try …”
- How can I help?
How can leaders improve past performance in forward-facing ways?
This looks a lot like a good basic outline for a retrospective on projects in general (aka, post mortem). I would add that leaders should train their team to build these questions into each project checkpoint and at the beginning of each project there should be a checklist item to review past “retrospective” reports for what can be done better or not done at all.
Also, you could just tell them to do better next time or the beatings will begin.
Thanks James. Its so much easier to just tell them to do better next time or the beatings will begin!
Love the idea of training team leaders to make check points a normal and repeated aspect of team projects.
People in past tense are not Leading.
I can’t correct the past it is over and done with.
The only time it right now. The only place is right here.
These distinctions are very important when one understands how the mind works.
Things work best for me when I am happy right here, right now looking forward to my Epic Future.
It is all about quantum physics and three parts of the brain. The two that deal with the past and running involuntary functions are the reptilian brain and neocortex. The frontal lobe is the one for NOW and thinking out forward from there is where the magic happens.
People thinking in the reptilian brain and neocortex are not leading, they are regurgitating the past and it is over and done with.
I choose to THINK forward out of the frontal lobe.
All explained in free easy to comprehend videos on Youtube.
Honestly all sounded kinds sorta whacky to me before and as I watched the videos myself, then made perfect sense. Might for you too.
Thanks Scott. I’m a forward-facing guy too. But, leaders have to evaluate the success of projects or initiatives. That means looking back. However, as you indicate, the past can’t be changed. It can become a platform, however, if we learn from it.
I 100% agree Dan.
Just know Leaders at least in my understanding are moving forward.
When anyone stops at that moment they cease Leading.
The past cannot be changed but can be a very useful learning tool.
I just know understanding how the brain works by learning from people who study how the mind works is cool.
It beats being stuck in stupid.
Not being stuck in stupid means to me understanding how important language is and understanding the distinctions created by my choice of words.
One thing Dan. In AA new folks sometimes pray for patience. Bad bad bad move.
What they get is a plethora of real live chances to practice this patience they want.
We learn to pray for Gods Will and the power to Cary that out.
Lots easier ride right there.
You are hitting a lot on the head here. I’ve worked for and with many different leaders with different personality types and leadership or management styles (I say it this way because leading and managing are different, but many times one can only be successful at one or the other, unless they knowingly strive to improve both). I’ve had some managers tell me what they want to do, and let me give them the info they need to get them there or realize it won’t work. They didn’t care about what I did, only that I was able to concretely prove a point for or against. Others are almost micro-managers, or past-tense managers as you described. For these managers, I have trained myself to specifically ask what they want, otherwise I end up wasting a lot of time, and feel defeated, even if my work is good.
Thanks John. Your question, “what do you want,” to a micro manager is genius!
Ah, the old adage, “Experience is a harsh teacher, you take the test first and learn the lesson afterward.” Wouldn’t it be horrible if we didn’t get something out of our trip-ups – no lessons learned? Would we bother trying – again?. But to be able to examine and learn from our mistakes gives us the opportunity to not only survive our failures, but to become better because of them.
Thanks J. My trouble is, I’m a dang SLOW learner. I keep doing the same thing, over and over, only trying harder! But, when it finally breaks through, the lesson sticks! 🙂
What a gift to have a leader/manager who makes room for failure and helps us learn as we go.
“What do you want!” Ha! I just used this phrase yesterday not that I am a leader. Should/could/would I hate these words.
Great post. If I’m effectively coaching my employees, they are focused on what we can do better next time and not on what we did wrong last time. Of course, being a great coach is easier said than done. Things tend to work out when I clear the path, coach when needed, provide top cover and otherwise, stay out of the way.
Regarding micro managers and the question, “What do you want?” I can honestly say that, as a leader, I’ve never ended up with exactly what I’ve “wanted” from any employee I’ve managed. But, I know I’m on the right track, doing my job well, when what we end up with is way better than what I “wanted.” I’m continuously amazed at the talent and creativity that people exhibit if given the room to do so.
Great perspective, Dan. Leaders need to let their disappointment and emotional reactions go in order to have a truly constructive dialogue inspiring change. Self-awareness is key in
A great leader says lets go do it, not you go get it done
In looking back I always ask “What got in the way?” and ” What did you do to handle it?” that lets me learn about their problem solving abilities and their willingness to address problems.