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What’s the Most Important Predictor of Success for Your Company?

It’s how many people answer “yes” to one simple question.
The one question you need to ask your team
photo by Andrew Bret Wallis, Getty Images

Before he ventured out on his own as a consultant, Marcus Buckingham worked for the Gallup Organization and coauthored the 2001 book Now, Discover Your Strengths with the company’s chairman at the time, Donald O. Clifton. Although the book came out a dozen years ago, it made the news again in March, when Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg told the New York Times it was the best business book she’d read lately.

As Sandberg said, “This book has been instrumental in how we think about developing talent at Facebook. Like all organizations, we have a system for giving feedback to our employees. A few years ago, Lori Goler, Facebook’s head of human resources, brought Marcus to meet with our leadership team to help us improve this system. Marcus and his colleagues surveyed employees for 25 years to figure out what factors predict extraordinary performance. They found that the most important predictor of the success of a company or division was how many people answered ‘yes’ to the question, ‘Do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?’

“And this makes sense. Most performance reviews focus more on ‘development areas’ (aka weaknesses) than strengths. People are told to work harder and get better at those areas, but people don’t have to be good at everything. At Facebook, we try to be a strengths-based organization, which means we try to make jobs fit around people rather than make people fit around jobs. We focus on what people’s natural strengths are and spend our management time trying to find ways for them to use those strengths every day.”

#onequestion

THE PLUS

Sandberg offers two other very cool book recommendations in the Times interview. She touts The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries for getting Silicon Valley right. “Ries advocates that, for tech, a better way to perfect a product is to introduce it to the market and get customers using it and giving feedback, so you can learn and then iterate,” she says. Sandberg also recommends that every executive read Fred Kofman’s Conscious Business: How to Build Value Through Values. “[It] had a profound effect on my career and life. I think about his lessons almost every day—the importance of authentic communication, impeccable commitments, being a player not a victim, and taking responsibility.”

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