In Marcus Buckingham’s First Break All The Rules book, they used 25 years of Gallup research across hundreds of thousands of people and thousands of companies with about a gazillion questions about management. The core premise of the book was about keeping top performers. 

They narrowed things down to 12 questions that predicted the likelihood of success vs. mediocre results.

And in the end, they were able to narrow down even further to two foundational questions.  Without strong agreement on these two questions, almost nothing else mattered.

They were:

1. Do I know what is expected of me at work?

2. Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?

He said these two questions were pivotal and considered to be “base camp.” Basically, if your people couldn’t answer these the next ten questions were meaningless.

It brings to mind much of the work I’ve been discussing off and on in these Tuesday Tidbits for months. Mainly, have you carefully defined what’s expected of your people?

See this week’s video here:

I worked with a client once where there were major, ongoing battles between the CEO and his people. 

The CEOs classic line was, “They should know what to do.”

The line I heard from nearly everyone else was, “He expects us to know, but we have no clue what he expects.”

See the other 10 questions HERE.

Buckingham used a great analogy which I love given the current climate conditions on Everest. 

He said, being able to answer the other questions without the first two would be like getting helicoptered to the top of Everest. 

You’d get there, and then you’d die within seconds because you haven’t acclimatized to the heights.

This is precisely the reason why I continue to harp on these topics.

Do your people know what’s expected of them?

If I asked your entire sales team if your company had a unified sales process and clearly understood the expectations required of them, would they all give me the same answers?

Here’s a hint: I’ve asked this question to sales teams in companies doing 20M in revenue and those doing over 1BN and I have yet to find a group that could give me the same responses before our work together. After? That’s a different story.

If I asked all your customer-facing people the most appropriate ways to handle common customer challenges, would they know what to do?

As the cartoons of the ’80s used to remind us, “Knowing is half the battle.” But it’s only half.

Assuming that your people know what you expect of them, do they believe that they have the materials to do their jobs properly?  

It doesn’t really matter what you think about this.

It doesn’t even matter if they’re right. 

What matters is that if they don’t think they have the materials needed to do their jobs successfully, then there’s no way you’re getting their best.  

Here are some “materials” that employees often feel like they don’t have enough of, given the expectations:

  1. Time
  2. Authority to say yes
  3. Budget
  4. Tools/Software/Training

One of the most fruitful things you can do is ask your staff (at all levels) the following question:

“What could we provide to make your job easier?”

Sometimes, you’ll think “We already provide that.” 

In some cases, you’ll be right.  But you being right doesn’t mean that they know it’s available.

In some cases, you’ll be wrong, and you’ll learn how to easily get a huge boost in productivity and satisfaction from your staff.

As an example of the latter – I worked with a company once who spent over $200k to formalize their sales process and develop proprietary software to automate a lot of effort from their sales and back-office support teams.  

Before we launched, we asked the teams a simple question:

“Looking into the future, what roadblocks do you anticipate when it comes to using these tools?”

The most common answer was “When we’re in the field, we won’t have access to our computers, and we won’t remember what we did. We’ll have to write it down, then copy it later.  That will get annoying.”

So for $400 per salesperson, they were able to get a tablet and a data plan, which solved those issues before they could arise in the first place.  

Adoption was swift and successful.

You get the idea. The point is this. Buckingham wrote this book over 20 years ago, and yet many organizations are still jumping to questions 3-12 without first answering the first two.

Your Challenge For This Week: 

Do an anonymous survey in your company, and ask everybody to answer these 2 questions on a scale of 1-10. 

If you have a good enough relationship with your employees, ask them on a department by department basis: 

“What materials/support could we give you, that would make your lives easier?”  

You’ll either learn about easy changes you can make to help them, or you’ll be able to show them what’s already in place to help them do better.