What would happen if employees pressed managers for results as often as managers required them from employees? What would happen if you defined success as creating solutions, rather than completing tasks? What would happen if everyone in your organization stopped making excuses and started demanding results?
This is the Power of If.
It isn’t a pipe dream or a desperate plea for some long lost capitalist utopia. It’s what separates the best organizations from the crowd, and the best parts of every organization from the surrounding status quo. The great thing is, building on the Power of If in your company is easier than you think.
If you’re tired of rhetorical questions, you’re in luck. If demands that leaders, from the CEO to the lowest manager, ask one question and one question only. And it requires an answer:
What do you absolutely need to get the job done successfully?
Leaders who ask this question to their subordinates find themselves in the privileged position of playing a game with a much higher rate of success–the business equivalent to choosing connect-the-dots over tournament chess with a grand master. Asking this question, and asking it frequently throughout the course of a project, allows managers to see clearly the challenges their teams face. It also forces team members to regularly assess themselves, their performance, and the manager asking the question. In short, it forces subordinates to provide qualified “if” answers, which usually fall into one of three categories, or a combination thereof:
- Time: e.g. “I could get this done if I had a few extra hours…would overtime be an option?”
- Support: “I would feel more confident about this if you’d look over my code with me to make sure the logic is sound.”
- Resources: “I could deliver a great presentation if I could only find data on last quarter’s national performance in the aerospace industry.”
- Combinations thereof: “If I could spend a few hours with someone who knows about healthcare data standards, that would really help. Do you know anyone in our organization who I could speak with?”
While leaders won’t always be able to provide the solutions their subordinates request, asking what a team member needs allows managers to understand what obstacles a subordinate faces and suggest various courses of action. It also distributes power in a positive, balanced way. Subordinates have the power to suggest solutions, and managers have the power to either ‘make it so’ or to coach subordinates when the suggestion simply isn’t viable.
Likewise, asking what team members need requires leaders to take an active role in the success of their teams by forcing them to prioritize rather than simply plan and delegate. Leaders who ask this question will have to actively choose what’s important when the need arises rather than letting situations become critical. While planning ahead is certainly valuable, The Power of If ensures that managers can adapt to requirements that even the best plans can’t anticipate.
The Power of If, by the way, applies equally to subordinates, too. Empowered team members at all levels must learn to leverage If by asking themselves what they need to succeed, even if their managers don’t ask them directly. The willingness of even the most junior employees to ask themselves what they need to succeed and to act to obtain those critical requirements is directly proportional to the potential of the organization. The ability of managers to guide subordinates in this process is the deciding factor for success.
Take some time to think about your organization. Are you leveraging The Power of If?