Someone out there is waiting to take your customers, your best employees, and ultimately, your business. Your competitors are not just the usual suspects you know. They can come from anywhere – from a dorm room to a foreign country.
The best leaders constantly look both outward and inward for opportunities to set themselves apart. It starts with asking better questions. Here are three important questions to ensure you succeed in the future:
1. What results are we achieving? The marketplace is not impressed by last period’s accomplishments. The best performers (individuals and organizations) maintain a maniacal focus on the key results that indicate how they are performing at any given moment. Paying constant attention to relevant data allows these performance superstars to leverage opportunities and take immediate action to solve problems.
Data is plentiful. Meaningful information is in short supply. Identify and track the three to seven most relevant performance measures that prove performance is on track.
Here is a hint: If your customers are not selling for and referring you, you are not delivering results that matter to them. Customers expect you to manage your budget. You can’t ignore internal controls, but you will fail if you ignore the results that are important to them.
2. How are we behaving? Ask any manager to identify which performance issues cause the highest level of frustration and you will probably hear about a behavior problem. Poor attendance, lack of teamwork, bad attitudes—the list rolls off the tongue with amazing ease.
You are promoting success, mediocrity, or something worse. Identify the individual and group behaviors that demonstrate the best of what you want to become. Measure them. Talk about them in staff meetings along with your performance results. Your customers and good employees will appreciate it.
3. What are we learning today that will help us capture a competitive advantage tomorrow? Arie de Geus, retired manager of planning for Royal Dutch Shell said, “The ability to learn faster than competitors may be the only sustainable competitive advantage.” Leaders who encourage continuous learning are uniquely positioned to attract, motivate, and retain staff. Everyone wants to be associated with a winner, and your success ultimately depends on the knowledge, skills, and commitment of people.
Employees at every level should have development plans that are reviewed and updated at least twice per year. Quarterly development goals and plans are appropriate for individuals and industries where rapid change is the norm. Managers should be held accountable for their willingness and ability to develop their staff. Leaders are learners, and you cannot afford to be left behind by complacency.
Results that will rule your marketplace awaits the leaders who ask great questions; execute flawlessly based on the answers; and continually learn.
Until next time, Results Rule!