Friday, February 11, 2005

A Troika of Books for Taking on a New Role

I don't write a lot directly here about my job with USA TODAY, but last year my company decided to expand my role and allowed me and my folks to have our own office much nearer to my home. (So, for the first time in three years, this year I no longer have to commute between Baltimore to McLean, VA every day). I'm deeply grateful to USA TODAY and they've been very good to me. I have learned so much here.

Today I'm meeting with one of my supervisors for our first one-on-one and I thought that emergesque readers might be interested in the questions I ask new employees; these questions can be easily adapted for any mentor/protege relationship.

This list is based on material from two books I recommend highly for anyone who is either in a new role in an organization or who would like to "reboot" their role. The two books are:

The questions are:

  • What are your primary job responsibilities?

  • What do you enjoy most about your job? What do you feel that you do well?

  • Why do you think you’re good at this?

  • What would make this job perfect for you?

  • How do you define success in your current role?

  • How is success measured in your current role?

  • What aspect of your job do you find the most frustrating? How can we work around this?

  • Do you have everything you need to do your job?

  • Tell me about the best time when you were honored or praised for something related to your job.

  • What skills or talents are untapped in your current job?

  • What could I and this organization do to help you get to the next level in your career?

  • How can I help you?

  • How often would you like to meet?

  • Are there any skills you’d like to work on or develop?

  • What’s your dream job?

  • What would you like to be doing in 1 year? In 3 years?

  • Who do you see as a potential protégé? Who could be your backup?

  • If you had complete authority over **** what would you do?

  • Is there anything else about you that you think I need to know?

More specifically, part of what these questions are based on are Buckingham's 12 Questions. These are questions that the Gallup organization has discovered are the keys to the most effective organizations. They are:

The 12 Questions

  • Base Camp: What do I get?

  • Question #1 - Do I know what is expected of me at work?

  • Question #2 - Do have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?

  • Camp 1: “What do I give?”

  • Question #3 - At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?

  • Question #4 - In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for doing good work?

  • Question #5 - Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?

  • Question #6 - Is there someone at work who encourages my development?

  • Camp #2 – “Do I belong here?”

  • Question #7 - At work, do my opinions seem to count?

  • Question #8 - Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel my job is important?

  • Question #9 - Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work?

  • Question #10 - Do I have a best friend at work?

  • Camp #3 – “How can we all grow?

  • Question #11 - In the last six months, has someone at work talked to me about my progress?

  • Question #12 - This last year, have I had opportunities at work to learn and grow?

I am finding that striving to live up these questions is making me a better manager.

A third book that perhaps I should mention in this connection is The Leadership Challenge by James Kouzes and Barry Posner (find a summary of the book here, this is actually the first article I ever wrote for the next-wave zine). Kouzes and Posner suggest that the best leaders do five critical practices:

  • The Five Practices of Leadership
  • Challenge the Process

    - Search out challenging opportunities to change, grow, innovate, and improve.

    - Experiment, take risks, and learn from the accompanying mistakes.

  • Inspire a Shared Vision

    - Envision an uplifting and ennobling future.

    - Enlist others in a common vision by appealing to their values, interests, hopes and dreams.

  • Enable Others to Act

    - Foster collaboration by promoting cooperative goals and building trust.

    - Strengthen people by giving power away, providing choice, developing competence, assigning critical tasks, and offering visible support.

  • Model the Way

    - Set the example by behaving in ways that are consistent with shared values.

    - Achieve small wins that promote consistent progress and build commitment.

  • Encourage the Heart

    - Recognize individual contributions to the success of every project.

    - Celebrate team accomplishments regularly.

I've striven to use this as a guide in my own leadership these last few years.


frank said...

Thanks for a helpful post, Stephen. I happen to be in a leadership lull in my current position. It was nice to exercise those muscles again!

Bless you,
@ Templa la Vida

Glen said...

Nice post, Steven. I found Kouzes and Posner to be helpful too. I recently heard Rob Lebow speak and bought his A Journey into the Heroic Environment. He has some really good ideas, but not pulled together as nicely as The Leadership Challenge. I am also reading Dennis Bakke's Joy at Work. I have found good stuff in all three. My former job, I had the responsibility to lead. Now, all I do is equip other leaders. They get to have all the fun.