There is one question that you can ask your team that will transform the way they work and revolutionise their performance. 

You can ask the same question to yourself, with the same transformative results.  Ditto your suppliers.

Would you like to know what it is?  Well, to understand and use the question effectively, you first need to understand the big idea that sits behind it.  But I’ll give you a clue – it’s not the question you currently ask your team, it’s not: “What have you done this week?”

First let me share with you the big idea…

Maxwell's Law of Priorities

In the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, John Maxwell defines his law of priorities: Leaders understand that activity is not necessarily accomplishment.  We can be busy all day doing things, but not necessarily achieve very much – have you ever had one of those days?

You can transform your own performance and that of your team by moving the focus of your day from activity to accomplishment.  Activity is easy- activity is doing things, activity is being busy. Activity is the answer to the question “What have you done this week?”

If you are anything like me, you have spent years asking your team and perhaps yourself that question: “What have you been doing this week?” and the answer is normally the same: “I’ve being doing lots- I’ve been really busy!”

So here is the problem – if we are all so busy every week, why is it that our projects are not completed on time and our goals are not met?  We hit the weekend tired and exhausted from all the DOING and ACTIVITY but we are not seeing the success we desire and our projects are late and jobs are incomplete.  We are seeing the truth of this: activity is not the same as accomplishment, being busy is not the same as being effective.

So what do we mean by accomplishment?  Accomplishment is finishing a project or task. Accomplishment = adding value (to the customer).

The concept of ‘adding value’ is a key principle that successful people and high performing teams understand.  Adding value is what it is all about.

Jim Rohn said: We get paid for bringing value to the marketplace. It takes time, ...but we get paid for the value, not the time.

In almost every situation, we only add value only once a task or project is finished.  Until the new software goes live, it doesn’t benefit the business. Until the car roles off the production line it cannot be sold to generate revenue… you get the idea?

In order to maximise the value we add, and get each project to the finish line as quickly as possible we can ask ourselves a different question:  What have you finished this week?

It’s a simple change, but it transforms your thinking and focus from the starting line to the finishing line.  Try it at your next team meeting!  

For more detailed examples, including how to change the way you schedule and prioritise work to maximise the value you add and get things finished sooner, click the link below to download our free PDF guide to the One Question that changes everything.

One thing that can cause a task or project to take longer than necessary to reach the finish line is when we over-engineer the solution.  There is such a thing as too much quality and too much complexity.  If the client wants a Fiat 500 which can be built in a few weeks, don’t make them wait 12 months while you build them a Rolls-Royce. While we don’t ever want to produce something that fails to meet the required quality standard, we also need to remember that: good enough is good enough!   

Sometimes we can make the simple complicated …

Which reminds me of my puppy (stick with me with on this)

Jazz the mad cockerpoo

Jazz the mad cockerpoo

A few years ago my wife had a bit of a mid-life crisis and said to me that she needed something small and cute to cuddle - two legs or four it was my choice.  I decided four legs would be easier and a few weeks later Jazz the mad cockerpoo puppy entered our lives

(A cockerpoo is a cross between a Cocker Spaniel and a Poodle - hence cocker-poo)

He's a big black ball of fun and his poodle genes mean his is quite clever - most of the time.

But - there is one thing that he does - which baffles me…

We're blessed to live in the middle of the English countryside next to the ancient hilltop town of Malmesbury - for a short while it was the capital city of England when Athelstan was king, over a thousand years ago

Whenever he goes for a walk in the fields around our home,  Jazz searches out the biggest most prickly patch of stinging nettles or thistles he can find.

He then reverses into them- and does what'd dogs do in the middle of a field. Let's call it his 'business'

I have no idea why he insists on doing his 'business' in the middle of nettles

Perhaps he thinks his business is valuable - and he doesn't like that I steal it away and put it in the bin

Perhaps he likes to live dangerously

Whatever the reason - he has taken something perfectly natural, essential to every day life and good health and he has turned it into an extreme sport!

Not only has he made it harder for himself, he makes it harder for me who has to come along and clear up his 'business' - I have to dig into the nettles and thistles with my poop-a-scoop or doggie bag and try to pick it up!

Jazz has taken something simple, and made it complicate - dangerous even

He's making the job of clearing up his business harder for me than it needs to be

So the next time you find yourself doing lots, but not finishing very much, ask yourself:

  • Am I adding complexity or simplicity?
  • Am I making this harder than it needs to be?
  • Have I turned a straightforward job into an extreme sport.

In other words, ask yourself - am I just pooping in the nettles here?

Don’t poop in the nettles - it makes the ordinary things of life harder for you - and harder for the people who follow after you.