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They determine whether you can fulfill your three responsibilities as a manager:

  1. to create a culture of guidance (praise and criticism)
  2. to understand what motivates each person on your team well enough to avoid burnout or boredom and keep the team cohesive; and
  3. to drive results collaboratively.

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He sought to “create an environment that values and emphasizes output” and to avoid what Drucker termed the “Activity trap”: “[S]tressing output is the key to increasing productivity, while looking to increase activity can result in just the opposite.” On an assembly line, it’s easy enough to distinguish output from activity. It gets trickier when employees are paid to think. Grove wrested with two riddles: How can we define and measure output by knowledge workers And what can be done to increase it?

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Over the course of our careers, most of us go through waves. Sometimes we are in learning mode or transition mode. Sometimes our priorities change: a spouse takes a new job and we need to be home more, or we want to devote time to a passion outside work. It is important for the team member and the boss to be clear about what is driving the degree of trajectory at each juncture, so that both the team member and the company can benefit.

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Aristotle was so troubled that so much rhetoric and persuasion came down to manipulating people’s emotions. He thought that there had to be a better way to get an idea across to a large number of people who don’t have the time or knowledge to understand it completely. He resolved this by explaining that to be legitimately persuasive a speaker must address the audience’s emotions but also establish the credibility and share the logic of the argument. These are the elements of persuasion that have stood the test of time.

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To help, I adopted a go-to question that Fred Cofman, author of Conscious Business and my coach at Google, suggested. “Is there anything I could do or stop doing that would make it easier to work with me?”

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  • Conversation 1: life story
  • Conversation 2: dreams
  • Conversation 3: 18-month plan

Thoreau said it best in Walden:

If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary … If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”

Five boxes:

  • Poor performance, strong signs of improvement
  • Poor performance, no signs of improvement
  • Good performance
  • Growth
  • Stability

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Dov has found a way to quantify seemingly abstract values like trust. His “trust index” measures a specific behaviors - the direct “hows” of transparency, for example. “I avoid asking people about their perceptions,” Dov told me. “I don’t ask, ‘Do you feel your company is honest with you?’ I look at information flows. Does the company hoard information, does it mete it out on a need-to-know basis, or is it flowing freely? If you go around your boss and talk to somebody more senior, are you punished or celebrated?”

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To prepare for this conversation, the manager should consider the following questions:

  • What behaviors or values to I want my report to continue to exhibit?
  • What behaviors or values do I want the report to start or stop exhibiting?
  • What coaching can I provide to help the report fully realize his or her potential?
  • During the conversation, the leader might ask:

    • What part of your job excites you most?
    • What (if any) aspect of your role would you like to change?

To elicit candid input from a contributor, a manager might ask:

  • What are you getting from me that you find helpful?
  • What are you getting from me that impedes your ability to be effective?
  • What could I do for you that would help you be more successful?