What gets measured gets done.
Marshall Goldsmith, a best-selling author and executive coaching expert, attests to this truth personally. He pays a woman named Kate to call him every day and listen to the answers to questions he has prepared for himself. This may sound odd, but working with a colleague is one of the most effective ways to make change happen.
Marshall calls this process the Daily Questions. He distinguishes between passive and active questions. Passive questions might include, “Did I set clear goals for the day? Did I achieve the goals I set?”
The problem with passive questions is they focus on what the world needs to do to assist the leader. They encourage leaders to blame others for their inability to achieve their goals. Passive questions also give rise to misguided actions, such as lashing out at colleagues, and their unintended consequences.
Active questions, on the other hand, focus leaders on what they can do to make a positive difference for themselves and others. Marshall recommends six active questions for everyone:
- Did I do my best to set clear goals today?
- Did I do my best to make progress toward my goals today?
- Did I do my best to find meaning today?
- Did I do my best to be happy today?
- Did I do my best to build positive relationships today?
- Did I do my best to be fully engaged today?
Leaders may use Marshall’s six questions or write their own by following the format “Did I do my best to…” and targeting their desired behavioral challenges.
To implement the Daily Questions process, leaders create a spreadsheet:
- In the first column, they write questions about what is most important to them. Questions could involve work, family, health, or whatever they want to achieve.
- They make sure that each question can be answered yes or no.
- They create columns for yes and no responses. Every day, they assign each question 0 for no and 1 for yes.
While the process is simple, the results can be eye-opening. Marshall warns that after a week of tracking, results might not be pretty. “That’s because life is incredibly easy to talk. Life is incredibly difficult to live,” he said.
Daily, active questions shrink goals into manageable chunks. They remind leaders that success is the sum of small daily efforts, and they reinforce the truth that if leaders make the effort, they will improve.
And if they don’t improve, they’ll know precisely why.