What, or who, is your most important business asset?

 By Larry Kendall, author of Ninja Selling and chairman of The Group, Inc.

What is your most important business asset? Your people? Your reputation? Leadership? Brand? All are important; however, an in-depth study by the Gallup Organization of over 400 companies in multiple industries found that your most important business asset is your manager. Managers are the key players in building a strong team, office and company.

The Gallup study based their conclusion on four performance measures: productivity, profitability, retention and customer satisfaction. After separating companies into performance quadrants based on these four measures, they began to drill down to discover why the companies in the top quadrant performed so much better than those at the bottom. The clear conclusion— the quality of the manager is the difference that makes the difference.

What are the great managers doing? There are four keys.

  1. Selection. When selecting someone, they select for talent, not for experience, intelligence or determination.
  2. Setting Expectations. When setting expectations, they define the right outcomes, not the right steps.
  3. Motivation. When motivating someone, they focus on strengths rather than weaknesses.
  4. Development. When developing someone, they help them find the right fit, not simply the next rung on the ladder.

How can you measure the quality of your manager? Success leaves clues. The Gallup study found the great managers (the ones with the highest performance on productivity, profitability, retention and customer satisfaction) rated 5s on 12 questions asked of their employees. Poor performing managers rated 3s or less. Can it be that simple? According to Gallup—yes! Here are the dozen key questions (on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 (Strongly Agree) and 1 (Strongly Disagree):

  1. Do I know what is expected of me at work?
  2. Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my job right?
  3. At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?
  4. In the last 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 and purpose of my company make me feel my job is important?
  9. Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work?
  10. Do I have a best friend at work?
  11. In the last six months, has someone at work talked to me about my progress?
  12. This last year, have I had opportunities at work to learn and grow?

We administer this 12-question survey every year to both our sales associates and staff. Just as in the Gallup study, we find a direct correlation between the manager’s rating and the performance of their office in the four key areas: productivity, profitability, retention and customer satisfaction. The 12 questions help our managers get clear on what is important and how to get results. The questionnaire is also used in the manager’s performance evaluation.

Can great management be as simple as these four keys and 12 simple questions? We believe so and highly recommend you read the book on this study, First, Break All The Rules, What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman. It will be worth your investment. After all, your managers are your most important business asset.