Six Simple Questions Highly Successful Managers Keep Asking
The tragedy of poor management is lost potential and lack of fulfillment.
Successful managers create environments where people make a difference for themselves and their organizations.
Six simple questions all successful managers ask:
#1. What does success look like?
- Paint pictures of success with the people doing the work. Include both personal and organizational objectives.
- Create goals and develop high standards together. Don’t impose them externally.
- Describe how we treat each other while doing the work. The most important thing about us is how we treat each other while we fulfill our mission.
#2. Where do you fit in?
- What’s happening down stream?
- What’s happening upstream?
- Who do you directly and indirectly serve?
#3. What do you need – that we can provide – to succeed?
#4. How will you objectively measure performance?
Show people how they’re doing. They will perform if they believe in the picture of success and they’re convinced improvement is possible.
I recently asked a team of managers what they were learning about bringing out the best in others. One said, “It’s amazing how performance goes up when people receive objective feedback.
She is able to measure performance by tracking tasks completed. All she does is show her team members a bar graph that displays everyone’s numbers. All names are blocked out, except the person she’s talking with.
Warning: Be careful what you measure. Quality is as important as quantity.
#5. How will we honor improvement, progress, and achievement?
Celebrating progress happens while work is being done. Celebrating achievement happens after work has been done.
Managers who only celebrate achievement neglect the power of celebrating improvement and progress.
Establish rhythms where you discuss what’s working.
#6. What will we do when things go wrong?
- What will we do when someone falls short?
- How will we discuss tough issues?
- How and when will we share information? With who?
What simple questions do successful managers ask?
‘Where do you fit in’ is such an important question and one that I think is overlooked by lots of managers. I think people understanding where they are in a hierarchy or a process or any situation gives them the freedom to challenge it and move if they want. If you don’t know where you are, you can’t work out where you can go and how to get there.
Thanks for the warning on #4, Dan. We always ask, “Are you focusing on the tasks that will advance your, and our, ‘stretch’ goals?”
Continuous Improvement is Continuous. That is a concept taken from the Department of Redundancy Department, but one that is TOTALLY true in any situation involving learning and performance. Framed slightly differently, the Round Wheels of Today will become the Square Wheels of Tomorrow, so continually scanning for new or better ways to get things done is a requirement.
I went through a Moodle learning course (twice) and we were starting to do some things with that platform. But a new associate in Melbourne pushed me to look at LearnWorlds and their LMS and today he pushed me toward a web-casting program that makes an automated webcast operate as a live seminar through some intelligence. So, it appears that the Moodle stuff was a good jumping off place but that these other approaches sure will work better.
As managers, we need to recognize that people make progress as their own pace, and our job is to support that continuous improvement, continuously and positively.
For the FUN of It!
(And this was more good thinking stuff from our Continuously Continuous Leader, Dan. Keep up the good work!)
This sentence caught my eye because I’m with you; it’s so important: “Warning: Be careful what you measure. Quality is as important as quantity.” As is often the case, I was reminded of a quote I’ve seen attributed to Albert Einstein: “Some things that are counted shouldn’t be counted; and some things that shouldn’t be counted are counted.” Not exactly sure of the quote, I went to my online sources but couldn’t find it… Going further, I ‘googled’ it and find that it should be attributed to William Bruce Cameron most likely!!!
I’m now Considering three things: (1) Was the quote ever in my lists of Einstein quotes – but removed upon a number of individuals’ Considerations of the best attribution? (2) Is it more likely that this revision us happening these days because of the Internet and social media? And (3) Do the Internet and social media improve the likelihood of being more correct?
Still learning … And Considering … As we all should be doing …
John – I think the guy most all over this stuff was Deming. He actually slammed people in public workshops when they talked about all this measurement of quality stuff. He felt that standards were important but that people were more important than numbers and that any attempt at measuring was simply squeezing the balloon, that other unmeasurable things / unintended consequences would result.
We see this in a LOT of performance appraisals and I have seen some horrendous impacts when contests are used.
I remember First Chicago doing a contest to generate new accounts — they got ZILLIONS of new accounts because the tellers got financial rewards for each one. Tellers themselves were opening up numerous accounts. All this paperwork streamed into the workgroup that key-entered the information into the computers, resulting in a MASSIVE backload of documents. Plus, there was no activity in the accounts – I think they needed a dollar minimum or something, and then there was the paperwork to CLOSE all those inactive accounts. Horrible!
What a great post. I loved every point you made, but I especially loved the first four. Most of all, the first point I think is the most important – as I’m sure you intended it to be.
I’ve been involved in so many organizations and teams that seem to have no purpose or vision to what success looks like, so it turns out to be just a bunch of people coming together to float through life and hope to hit some ethereal goal that has yet to have been set. And even if goals are set, they are passed down the ranks and not formed internally with the front line people, which gets even more frustrating.
These are definitely all questions that I’ll be looking into as a leader myself.
This post was exceptionally great, thank you. We are incorporating a lot of these principles in our company this up and coming fiscal year. This just confirms we are heading in the right direction. I had a trivial question to ask. Why in this particular post did you refer to “management” instead of “leadership”. The two can be synonymous in a lot of cases, but I’m sure you know there is a huge debate around the two being distinctly different. The whole “management is doing things right and leadership is doing the right thing” is just one example of the debate. In my opinion, leadership is all about influencing others to do something without imposing your will on them. Management is more about the mechanics of getting people to do things. For example, setting clear expectations, managing behaviors, managing follow through and managing accountability etc… These things are fundamental to getting a job done through others. I also believe you cannot be a great leader if you don’t have great management skills. It’s like trying to be a great Sales person with horrible customer service skills. It’s very difficult to do so. I think the debate can be a bit trivial at times personally, but I was curious more than anything as to how you decide when its appropriate to use management or leadership. I’ve been a fan of your posts for years now so thank you for all the effort that goes into providing leaders little nuggets every day.
Does anyone have any suggestions for “Establish rhythms where you discuss what’s working.”?