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Want to score higher on the Gallup Q12?

Would you like to produce higher Q12 scores? Join THE SENSEI LEADER MOVEMENT…

Now before this sounds too self-serving, please allow me to explain…

First of all, your objective shouldn’t be higher scores on an assessment. One of the problems with any assessment is the tendency to “train to the test.”

The Q12 is the means––not the ends. The goal should be to cultivate a consistent human-centric culture that brings out the best in people––because they want to do their best.

This takes serious commitment, focus and discipline.

Now when I say that joining SLM will earn you higher scores, I mean it. This is because we address every single item in the Q12…

For those not familiar, the Q12 is poll consisting of “the 12 questions that measure the most important elements of employee engagement.” These questions are based on years of research by Gallup. You can study the Q12 in detail in the seminal book: First, Break All the Rules by Don Clifton.

To create an environment that produces the best results, Clifton writes: “…you have to reconcile responsibilities that at first sight, appear contradictory. You have to be able to set consistent expectations for all your people, yet at the same time treat each person differently. You have to be able to make each person feel as though he is in a role that uses his talents, while simultaneously challenging him to grow. You have to care about each person, praise each person, and, if necessary, terminate a person you have cared about and praised.”

In other words, you have to have to practice human-centric leadership and address the deepest human needs, concerns and interests of the people you serve. And that’s the sole purpose of THE SENSEI LEADER MOVEMENT (SLM).

Clifton points to the first six items in the Q12 as the most powerful:

  • Q01 I know what is expected of me at work.

  • Q02 I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right.

  • Q03 At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.

  • Q04 In that last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.

  • Q05 My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.

  • Q06 There is someone at work who encourages my development.

Gallup’s research shows that organizations and leaders that pay attention in these areas produce results.

They increase productivity and profit and reduce turnover among a wide variety of positive outcomes. And they produce these results across every imaginable industry sector.

Clifton makes the case that these first six items are the most actionable and essential. He warns against focusing on higher levels until these are fully addressed. So let’s start here…

Our purpose at SLM is to support and cultivate human-centric leaders––leaders who Inspire, Empower and Guide people to their very best. That is exactly what the Q12 is encouraging. When you address these needs, the people you serve will perform at their best.

Let’s see how we best serve each of these Q12 needs:

Q01 I know what is expected of me at work…

It is a leader’s responsibility to communicate effectively. We share this strategy at every level of leadership, regardless of rank, title or position of authority. It is important for all of us to continually develop our communication skills and to be aware of current trends.

Q02 I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right…

A genuine leader “empowers.” Contrast this with “the manager” who might delegate, but not provide the means to assure success. Empowerment includes providing the people you serve with the material, emotional and spiritual resources they need to do their work effectively. That goes far beyond just telling someone what to do and turning them loose. Q03 At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day…

The best leaders work hard to understand the people they serve and to match their talents and abilities with the jobs that will best help them shine. This requires strong interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence.

It also speaks to the idea of empowerment we just talked about, as well as the courage and confidence to share authority and power so people can perform at their highest levels.

Q04 In that last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work…

Part of emotional intelligence is being aware of what other people need. The Father of American psychology, William James wrote:

“What every genuine philosopher (every genuine man, in fact) craves most is praise although the philosophers generally call it recognition!”

In workshops I ask two simple questions when it comes to recognition: “How important is it to you that you’re recognized when you do a good job? Don’t you think it’s important to the people you serve too?”

Q05 My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person…

Poll after poll shows that one of the most essential characteristics people want in a leader is compassion. This doesn’t begin or end with cursory kindness or etiquette. It means a deep commitment to empathy. It means developing a discipline of sincere interest in others and genuine caring.

As Lao Tzu wrote over 2,000 years ago: “When people are not in awe of your majesty, then great majesty has been achieved.”

This means you’re not separate from the people you serve––you’re one of them. You are a leader––you are a human being too. You achieve far more when your focus is on service over self-importance.

Q06 There is someone at work who encourages my development…

Sensei is a teacher. The best teachers are those who do not measure their own success by bringing their students up their own level. They are those whose students surpass their own talents and abilities.

At the heart of our MOVEMENT is the idea that the best, most effective leader are those who commit to developing others to their fullest. We measure our achievement as leaders by the achievements of the people we serve.

In our workshops and events we share strategies and tactics that help you address these fundamental human needs, concerns and interests.

We don’t stop there. We help you design and embed specific DISCIPLINES––things you can and will do every single day to serve these needs and the people who trust in your leadership.

Let’s look at the rest of the Q12…

Q07 At work, my opinions seem to count…

It’s your responsibility as a leader to make decisions, and those decisions will rarely please everyone. What you can do is listen. You can solicit input from all levels and embrace the strategy that “the best leaders are usually good followers.”

Most of the intellectual, cultural and experiential capital of your organization resides in the ranks. Be open and willing to hear their voices, consider their ideas and respect their opinions.

Q08 The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important…

As a leader you are the steward of that purpose. First of all, you must “lead by example.” You’ve got to be a living, breathing personification of the organization purpose. After all, if you don’t live it––why would anyone else?

That purpose is exactly what we’re talking about when we talk about “spiritual” resources. We’re not talking about spirituality in a religious sense. We’re talking about that sense of connection to a purpose greater than our own individual ambitions and desires. We need to know our work matters––to other people too.

It’s your job to make that purpose clear by communicating effectively and to make it real by modeling the commitment you expect from others.

Q09 My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work…

And that starts with you.

A genuine leader inspires. It’s vital that you inspire others to their very best. That’s one of the major differences between “the manager” and a true leader. “The manager” motivates––the leader inspires.

Motivation is simple and limited in its effect. You can motivate by incentives or bribes, or by threats and consequences. Motivation is simply compelling someone to a specific action or expected outcome. Not that hard––but as I said, limited in its effect.

Inspiration is about exceeding expectations. It’s about igniting people’s passions so they go above and beyond and rise to new, often unimagined levels of performance and achievement.

Your own words and actions can be the most inspirational factor to the people you serve––if you accept the challenge.

Q10 I have a best friend at work…

I have to admit––this is the one item on the Q12 that stumps me. I cannot make people like one another. Neither can you.

What we can do, however, is to cultivate an environment of respect and trust where close relationships are more likely to develop. We can do this.

Q11 In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress…

And again, that someone should be you.

Lately I’ve been challenging the effectiveness of performance reviews. Performance reviews can be somewhat useful, but they are about the past. I suggest substituting, or at least emphasizing “opportunity reviews.” As Sensei I learned that it was much more effective to review opportunities with a student than to just give them an assessment of their performance. How much higher could you kick? How much harder could you punch? Would you like to tackle a more challenging level of techniques? If so––what do you need to do to get ready? This tactic leads to specific “hows.” Once we determine that there is an opportunity to develop more power in a technique, for example, the next logical question is: “How?” That in turn gives us the opportunity to guide the student to the next level––a level they might not have believed possible if we had just emphasized where they are now or pointed out their flaws, failures and shortcomings.

And finally…

Q12 This last year, I have had the opportunities to learn and grow…

This is the essence of THE SENSEI LEADER.

There is nothing more personally inspirational or empowering than the opportunity to better oneself. And that’s the absolute, most fundamental function of the Sensei––or the leader. To not only provide, but to design and create opportunities for others to learn, grow and develop.

If you want people to do their best, give them the opportunity to be their best.

The deepest, most effective and meaningful way to help people learn and grow is to do it yourself. Be a mentor.

Sensei is a teacher, mentor––guide and coach. Now unless you only have two or three people in your organization, you can’t possibly mentor everyone. You have to pick a chosen few to work with at any given time.

What you can do to reach everyone is to embed a mentoring culture throughout the organization. You can set up a formal process of pairing people with effective mentors.

We don’t just suggest this practice at SLM events––we insist on it!

Responses to the Q12 range from 1 to 5. Based on his years of research, Clifton advises “if you want to know what you should do to build a strong and productive workplace, securing 5s to these…items is an excellent place to start.”

Based on years of supporting and developing effective leaders all over the world, I’ll add that if you want to know how to secure 5s on the Q12, becoming a SENSEI LEADER is an excellent place to start!


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