Friday, April 01, 2005

The Clear Leader and 12 Questions That Matter

I don't subscribe to any one particular flavor of management guru. I love Tom Peters. But I am not a brain-washed follower by any means. I like a helping of Jim Collins. I have a solid foundation built on Sun Tzu. To that end, I am forever reading, researching, seeking. The problem is that everything that is worth anything has already been said. It is more a question of hacking your way through the jungle of guru-speak and the "next greatest trend" to find the tried and true methods.

Along with the reading is the printing out and ripping of pages from magazines, the highlighting, the circling, the underlining, the notes in the margins. Years ago, Fast Company produced a list of the 12 Questions That Matter. I know they did, because I have used them before in team building exercises. For the life of me I can't find it, it's in a binder...somewhere. So I can't credit the author.

In the recent issue of FC (#92/March 2005) there is an article by Bill Breen profiling Marcus Buckingham and his soon to be published book" The One Thing You Need to Know.... (and the title proceeds to fill up two lines on a printed page which seems like a bit of overkill). Buckingham outlines the core concepts that mark superior leadership.

1. Leaders are Compelled by the Future - A leader's job is to rally people toward a better future/common goal. Leader's are COMPELLED to change the present because the present simply isn't good enough. They succeed only when they find a way to make people excited by and confident in what comes next.

2. Turn Anxiety into Confidence. Leaders must engage our fear of the unknown and turn it into spiritedness. To do this, a leader must turn fear into confidence. The surest way to do this is by being CLEAR - to define the future state in such vivid terms that we can see where we are headed. Clarity is the antidote to anxiety.

3. Be Clear About Why You're Going to Win. As a leader, your job is to make people more confident about the future you're dragging them into. You have to tell them why they are going to win. Why will they beat their competitors? Why will they overcome the hurdles in their path?

4. Keep Your Core Score. Here's a key performance indicator: number of engaged employees. See the 12 Questions below. The higher the score, the more engaged your people are, the more engaged the more obstacles they will overcome, motivation begets performance.

5. If You Want to Be Clear, Act. Action leads to impact. No one cares about your core values or your mission statement. We will watch what you do and form our opinions and base our faith and confidence (TRUST) in you on those actions. Action talks, bullshit walks. There are two types of action we respond to: symbolic and systemic.

Symbolic Action - is a representation of what the future can look like. It grabs our attention; it gives us something new and vivid on which to focus.

Systemic Action - changes behavior. For a leader it is important to disrupt routines. It makes people realize that the world is going to be different because they're doing different things. The future becomes clearer and our of that clarity comes confidence.

On to the Q12. Here are the 12 Questions That Matter:

  1. Do I know what is expected of me at work?
  2. Do I have the materials and equipment that I need in order to do my work right?
  3. At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?
  4. In the past seven days, have I received recognition or praise for doing good work?
  5. Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?
  6. Is there someone at work who encourages my development?
  7. At work, do my opinions seem to count?
  8. Does the mission or purpose of my company make me feel that my job is important?
  9. Are my coworkers committed to doing quality work?
  10. Do I have a best friend at work?
  11. In the past 6 months, has someone at work talked to me about my progress?
  12. This past year, have I had the opportunities at work to learn and grow?
I am a fan of employee satisfaction surveys. They take time to develop though. You have to be consistent in rolling them out. You have to be very clear in communicating your intent. You have to share the findings. You have to share the actions you plan to take to correct problem areas. You must be c-o-n-s-i-s-t-e-n-t. You must be patient. It takes a bit of time to build trust.

You could deploy this survey using the 5-scale or the 3-scale. In a 5-scale, you can look at Strongly Disagree-Disagree-Neutral-Agree-Disagree. Only the top two boxes matter. That is why I can say go with a 3-scale: Disagree-Sometimes-Agree. And then only count the "agrees". Just seems simplier and eliminates ambiguity.

I like the Q12 process. I like the idea of an engaged employee. Someone that is IN TO their job/role. Someone that comes to work to kick some butt. Someone that comes ready to play every day. I am going to use this scale the next time around. As I sit here typing, I am thinking that I orgininally saw the Q12 in relation to Mike Abrashoff (google him).

The article goes on to quote that the U.S. working population is 26% engaged, 55% not engaged and 19% actively disengaged. Once you measure, you can then set to work getting those people engaged and I would argue, in some cases, out the door. Sometimes, people, its just not a good fit. But the people you need to look at the most are your supervisors and middle managers.

Without a robust relationship with a manager who sets clear expectations, knows you, trusts you, and invests in you, you're less likely to stay and perform.
Watch those managers and supervisors. The number one reason why people leave a company is not money, not overall compensation, its because their immediate supervisor is a horrible person. Help them become leaders. Teach them have to develop people.

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