Whether in the office or on the road, I’m often asked about leadership and my personal set of management principles. With that in mind, I thought I would share a checklist that I’ve presented to HP leaders, outlining the fundamental questions I want our teams asking themselves every day. These five questions are extremely straightforward, but that’s the point – no company can succeed in executing its bold strategies if the basics aren’t being taken care of.
Question 1: Do you know your competitors better than they know themselves?
From your top competitor to the ambitious underdog, you should know what your competitors are doing strategically and operationally. Ask yourself honestly, where and how do they outperform you? What can you learn from them and do differently? What’s your value proposition that beats the competition? You should always know what it will take to win in your chosen field.
Question 2: Does every one of your customers feel like they are the only customer you have?
I’ve been a broken record on this topic throughout my career – the customer needs to be at the center of every single thing you do. Companies, particularly large ones, are often far too focused on historical performance and internal operations. There’s absolutely no excuse for it. Your strategy and approach need to be tied directly to your customers’ evolving needs, not what has worked in the past or what’s easiest to execute internally.
Question 3: Do you have the right person in the right job at the right time with the right attitude?
The right person for a job can vary based on fluctuating needs. Someone who has performed an exemplary job leading one leg of a journey may not be ideally suited for the next. Does the person have the right skills to tackle the specific challenge at hand? The right experiential frame of reference? The right leadership traits to inspire action? If not, can those issues be resolved? If the answer is no, a change must be strongly considered.
Question 4: Do you insist your people escalate fast enough?
As leaders, it’s your obligation to raise issues even when doing so is uncomfortable. Leaders need to create a culture in which people in all roles feel comfortable doing the same. Especially in fast-moving industries, you can’t sit on your hands and hope someone else solves the problem. At HP, if we’re at risk of losing a deal, I want our leaders calling me or camping out in front of my cubicle to tell me why and how they think we can fix it. I’ve implemented a simple rule: escalate in 24 hours and resolve in 48 hours. And we don’t tolerate too many excuses for not following that rule.
Question 5: Do you hold yourself and your teams accountable?
My message to HP employees on this topic has been consistent – we are all accountable for our destiny. Unlike in old Westerns, there is no cavalry to come to the rescue. Every member of the team needs to take personal responsibility for success. That means having an aggressive focus on what matters most: action, results and the customer.
What’s on your checklist? What questions do you need to ask yourself and your team every day to win in your field?