We often ascribe fault to others or to situations, and all too often we forget to hold ourselves accountable. Psychologists reference this as the fundamental attribution error. I describe it as lousy management.
Here are 9 sets of truly stark-naked, challenging questions that every manager must hold himself or herself accountable to asking and answering.
9 Sets of Tough Questions that Great Managers Constantly Ask Themselves:
1. What’s happening outside the walls of our organization? Has anything occurred in the business environment or with our competitors to merit a change in strategy? What is the impact of these changes on our strategies and the work of my team? Do we need to alter our objectives or approaches?
2. How is my team (and how am I) doing serving our internal customers? Do I regularly receive feedback from customer groups on the quality, timeliness and fitness for use of our products and services? Have I established the processes to review this feedback and adjust activities accordingly?
3. Are we measuring the right stuff? Have I established performance measures for my team that measure our contribution to the firm’s key strategy objectives? Have I refreshed the performance measures in concert with strategy refresh activities?
4. What am I accountable to my team for? What is that I have to do better to help them succeed? What is it that I have to quit doing? And finally, how do I really know how well I’m doing? Am I receiving honest feedback on my own performance?
5. Am I keeping my team plugged in to the firm’s performance? Do I regularly update my team on operating results? Have I conducted an operations meeting and review in the last ninety days? If not, when is the earliest that I can schedule one?
6. What’s the feedback on my feedback? Am I providing regular and timely behavioral feedback and is the feedback promoting improved individual and team performance? Have I taken the time to acknowledge and reward great performance?
7. Do I have the right people in the right positions? Am I moving fast enough to get the right people in the right chairs? Am I moving fast to get the wrong people out of the chairs and out of the firm? Have I held off on making key changes for the wrong reasons?
8. Am I truly paying attention to my people as humans, co-workers and and professionals striving to grow in their careers? Am I actively working to help people define and achieve their career goals? And am I remembering that they are humans with families and lives and that their professional and work lives must be in balance for them to do their best work?
9. How would my associates describe the working environment that we have at the moment? What’s working and what’s not? What do they want me to do to improve it?
The Bottom-Line for Now:
Accountability for results starts and ends with you as the manager. Hold yourself accountable to asking and answering the tough questions. Anything less and you’re just fodder for another Dilbert cartoon.
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An ideal book for anyone starting out in leadership: Practical Lessons in Leadership by Art Petty and Rich Petro.