Jan. 2 2020 05:40 AM

What is the single biggest factor in the long-term success of an organization or team? Although there are many factors that are important to a team’s success, there is one that rises to the top. The Gallup organization has spent over 30 years researching what drives success and, in the process, interviewed over 10 million people to find the answer. Turns out, the number one factor in success is the manager.

For all of us that are in management roles (or aspire to be), Gallup’s findings are sobering and challenging. The good news is there are a number of tools available to help us be better managers and, in turn, help our teams achieve greater long-term success. I will highlight one such tool, the highly regarded Gallup Q12 survey instrument. The Q12 survey covers 12 crucial elements that are needed to build an engaging and productive workplace culture. Q12 is based on extensive research and been proven to be reliable and valid. Over 30 million people in 198 different countries have taken the survey. I have used the survey with virtually every team I have ever been involved with, and encourage you to do likewise.

How to Use the Q12 Survey

Sometimes an organization will hire Gallup to administer the survey for all the teams within the organization, which is great if your parent organization sponsors the survey. Apart from that, many individual teams will administer the survey themselves. If you self-administer, following are some considerations I have found:

1. You can use a “Yes” or “No” choice for responses, which is the simplest approach. Alternatively, you may want to use a five-point scale (e.g. 1 = Strongly Disagree, 2 = Disagree, 3 = Neutral, 4 = Agree, 5 = Strongly Agree).

2. You can choose to have responses be anonymous or require respondents to include their names. I have done both ways and feel it’s a case-by-case judgment call.

3. I suggest you invite respondents to write a short description explaining their answers if they wish.

4. I typically would add two to three open-ended questions to the end of the survey to gather additional feedback. Questions to consider include: “What do you feel are the strengths of the team?”, “What ideas do you have to make the team even more successful?”, and “What is one area you feel the team needs to improve?”

5. Follow-up is important. I suggest you summarize the results of the survey and share with your team. You can highlight and capitalize on the perceived strengths of the team, as well as single out the one or two weakest areas to participatively work with the team to make improvements. Follow-up builds trust, earns respect, and will help your team take future surveys seriously because they know they will be acted on.

Gallup’s Q12 Employee Survey

#1: I know what is expected of me at work. Clarifying expectations is considered the most basic and fundamental employee need. The most effective managers define and discuss the explicit and implicit expectations for each employee and the for the team. Best practices include involving employees in setting expectations, providing frequent formal and informal feedback on performance versus the expectations, and continually assessing and fine-tuning expectations as circumstances change.

#2: I have the material and equipment I need to do my work right. This element is the strongest indicator of job stress. The best managers ask employees what they need, and after vetting advocate for the funding to meet the needs. The best managers are transparent about what they can and cannot provide, but also resourceful and creative to get employees what they need to be successful.

#3: At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day. Giving employees the opportunity to work in their areas of strength boosts employee attraction, engagement, and retention. The best managers know their employees’ strengths and position them so they are engaged and provide value to the organization.

#4: In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work. Employee recognition motivates, drives performance, and makes employees feel valued and less likely to leave. The most effective managers promote a recognition-rich environment with praise coming from multiple sources (peers, customers, management) at multiple times.

#5: My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person. Employees need to know that someone is concerned about them as people first and as employees second. Employees are more than a number or glorified widget makers. The best managers know their employees, acknowledge achievements, have performance and development conversations, and show they value and respect their employees.

#6: There is someone at work who encourages my development. Gallup data shows that the number-one reason that employees leave a job is a lack of development and career growth (especially among millennials!). The best managers take personal responsibility for developing their employees through ongoing development conversations, creating opportunities to learn and grow, supporting learning of new or enhanced skills, and, in some cases, providing mentors.

#7: At work, my opinions seem to count. All employees appreciate having a voice on matters that affect them, especially millennials. The best managers solicit input and ideas from their employees and are active listeners. They also provide open and honest feedback on ideas and suggestions, advocating and pursuing the good ones and tactfully dealing with unfeasible ones.

#8: The mission or purpose of my organization makes me feel my job is important. Employees want to feel that what they do adds value to stakeholders and the world in some way. The best managers help their employees understand the value they create and how they fit in the bigger picture.

#9: My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work. Trusting your co-workers to share your commitment to quality is essential to excellent team performance. The best managers deal with poor performers and work at ensuring that all team members are committed to individual and team quality.

#10: I have a best (good) friend at work. This is the most controversial of the 12 questions. But research has demonstrated that it’s important for employees to feel connected to others and have at least one close friend at work for mutual encouragement and support. The best managers recognize that people want to build meaningful friendships at work, and they should create situations for employees to get to know each other. I found that having some team meetings focused on relationship building, in addition to having at least one off-site team day annually, are helpful.

#11: In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about progress. Employees want to know where they stand and if they are doing good work and meeting expectations. The best managers provide regular feedback, including positive expressions of appreciation. The best managers view themselves as “coaches” that are there to help support and encourage, and not “policemen” that are there to punish.

#12: This last year, I have had opportunities to learn and grow. Research has shown that when employees feel they are learning and growing, they work harder and more efficiently, have higher morale, and are more likely to stay with the organization. I resonate with Richard Branson's philosophy to, "Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don't want to." The best managers create individual learning and growth opportunities. I have found that having individual Learning Plans that are updated and reviewed regularly are great tools to support learning and growth.

Wes Friesen (MBA, EMCM, CMDSM, MCOM, MDC, OSPC, CCE, CBF, CBA ICP, CMA, CFM, CM, APP, PHR, CTP) is a proven leader and developer of high-performing teams and has extensive experience in both the corporate and non-profit worlds. He is also an award-winning university instructor and speaker, and is the President of Solomon Training and Development, which provides leadership, management, and team-building training. His book, Your Team Can Soar!, has 42 valuable lessons that will inspire you, and give you practical pointers to help you — and your team — soar to new heights of performance. Your Team Can Soar! can be ordered from Xulonpress.com/bookstore or wesfriesen.com (under Book) or an online retailer like Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Wes can be contacted at wesmfriesen@gmail.com or at 971.806.0812.

This article originally appeared in the November/December, 2019 issue of Mailing Systems Technology.