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Three Questions Every Leader Should Ask on Monday Morning

Written by Kevin Mann

July 19, 2023

What is the first thing you do on a Monday morning? Do you dive straight into responding to e-mails or use your first minutes of the week more strategically?

My colleagues and I at ghSMART have collected data on 3,052 leaders and their teams over a decade. We reached a surprising conclusion about what predicts team success with the statistical help of professors and research team collaborators at the University of Chicago, UCLA and Columbia University.

In that study, we isolated three things that matter most. Leaders with teams rated as “strong” at these three things (by professional evaluators using structured in-depth interviews with high inter-rater reliability) were 20 times more likely to report successful outcomes than teams that were not strong at all three things. Think of this pattern like a triathlon – you must be great at swimming, biking and running to win.

Following the research implications, consider reflecting on these three questions every Monday morning.

Do We Have The Right Priorities?

Only 24% of leaders are strong at prioritizing, and 90% of the time, when they struggle with this leadership skill, it’s because they lack the analytical skills and decisiveness to narrow their team’s priorities down from a long list to a short list. When you have too many priorities, you don’t really have any priorities, and energy gets wasted.

Do We Have The Right People?

Only 14% of leaders are skilled at hiring and developing talented teams. This is the most common weakness we observe in leaders and their teams. Flawed hiring methods yield a 50% hiring mistake rate vs. research-based methods that produce a 90% hiring success rate (e.g., having a consistent set of criteria to rate candidates; unbiased, structured, past-oriented interviews; reference validation; etc.).

Do We Have The Right Relationships?

About 47% of leaders achieve good relationships with people within and outside their teams. “Trust” typically gets a lot of attention as a variable that predicts or even defines relationship quality, but our database suggests that 91% of leaders behave in a trustworthy fashion. Therefore, while important, it is not rare for a leader to build trust. Instead, the “special sauce” in building successful relationships in a professional context is to create relationships that are focused on achieving win-win results. Mutually beneficial results matter when forming and maintaining productive professional relationships, not just feelings of trust or empathy.

If you want to build a team that runs at full power for the good of your teammates and the constituents you serve, consider spending a few moments on Monday morning asking these three essential questions.

Dr. Geoff Smart is the chairman and founder of ghSMART, a leadership consulting firm that exists to help leaders amplify their positive impact on the world. Dr. Smart and his firm have published multiple New York Times bestsellers. He stays active in his community and has advised many government officials. 

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