How well am I doing?

by Sam on April 4, 2011

Edwards Deming, the father of the total quality movement, said that 80% of all American managers cannot answer these three seemingly simple questions:

1. What is my job?

2. What in it really counts?

3. How well am I doing?

The third question is one that many of us struggle with even if we’re not managers.

Its importance is this. If we want to do a better job of serving others, we must start with accurate knowledge of how well we serve them now in order to embark on the correct journey of improvement. Let’s look at how to gather feedback that best informs that journey.

Long-time readers of this web site will remember the so-called “one-finger” question. Its strategy is to put the concept of “one” somewhere in your request. This is a sure way to get performance feedback from others in a way that is most comfortable (least threatening) for them and most useful (revealing) to you. It’s also a big improvement over the title question above, which so easily lets feedback givers answer, “You’re doing fine; when you screw up I’ll tell you.”

Consider these possible one-finger questions for key people in your life. (You will want to reword some of them to fit the actual situation, your style, and your relationship with those involved.)


“What is the best way for me to ensure that the monthly report I prepare yields the greatest value?”

“If a higher level responsibility opened up that I might be eligible for, and you had one hesitancy recommending me, what would most likely be the cause for that hesitancy?”

Direct Reports

“What’s the one thing you count on getting from me more than anything else as your supervisor?”

“What is the most challenging barrier to performing your job up to world class standards?”


“If I could do one thing to become an even more valuable member of this team, what would that be?”

“What one thing can my team do to support the success of your team?”

Job Applicant

“Of all the qualities of this company that might make you want to work here, which one stands out for you?”

“If this job were offered to you and you turned it down, what would be the most likely reason?”

Voluntarily Exiting Employee

“What one thing might we have done to have kept you here?”

“If you were to give the person who will replace you one piece of advice to succeed here, what would that advice be?”


“What one thing can we do for you that we’re not doing now to give you the most exceptional service imaginable?”

“The one thing that would cause us to lose your business would be what?”

Significant Other

“If there is one thing that you wish I would do more of what is it?”

“What do I do that most says, ‘I love you?’”


“What do I do as your mother (father) that you wish I would do even more of?”

“What do I do that most says, ‘I love you?’”


“What should I know about you that would help us increase our friendship?”

“What one thing can I do to become an even more valued friend?”

To the Reader

“What’s one way I can give you greater value with these emails?”

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