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In their book "First, Break All the Rules. What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently", authors Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman cover a lot of territory. One of the most interesting sections for me is their research regarding top performers. They found that measuring the strength of a workplace can be simplified to twelve questions.

These twelve questions don’t capture everything you may want to know about your workplace, but they do capture some of the most important information. They measure the core elements needed to attract, focus, and keep the most talented employees. These twelve questions are the simplest and most accurate way to measure the strength of a workplace. So, here are the 12 questions (each followed by Kevin’s comments):


Twelve Questions That Top-Performing Teams Answered Very Positively

1. Do I know what is expected of me at work?
An innocuous little question, but too often over-looked. Assumptions are made. Inattentiveness occurs. The outcome is role confusion, a lack of motivation, and poor results.

2. Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?
An organization’s performance is severely impacted by the amount of unproductive time that results from employees not having what they need to perform at their best.

3. At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?
So many good employees are in the wrong role. Think how many more great employees there would be if job requirements and people’s skills and talents were better aligned.

4. In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for doing good work?
No surprise that frequent praise is a vital ingredient of a healthy workplace. But is praise in your organization being provided frequently, equitably, and properly?

5. Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?
We’re not machines. We have wants and emotions. If our work isn’t tapping into these basic human needs, then we’re merely scratching the surface of our true potential.

6. Is there someone at work who encourages my development?
Who besides me is looking out for me? We all need a mentor, manager, coach, or coworker…somebody, who can help us be more accountable for our continuous improvement and development.

7. At work, do my opinions seem to count?
"Hello. Is anybody listening to me?" If no one wants my opinion, then maybe I’ll just do the bare minimum to get by, or maybe I’ll quit and go work for an organization who will value my input.

8. Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel my job is important?
You’re working really hard…but to what end? If you can’t see the connection between your day-to-day efforts and the company’s objectives, your morale will suffer and your productivity and effectiveness will decrease over time.

9. Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work?
If I’m the only one who cares, then I’ll likely get dragged down into the muck with the other "slackers". If everyone else is doing quality work and I’m slacking off, then I’ll stick out (for the wrong reasons) until I improve my performance.

10. Do I have a best friend at work?
We spend so much of our lives working, we need to have strong relationships that we can rely on every day.

11. In the last six months, has someone at work talked to me about my progress?

We have goals for a reason but, once identified, we must work hard and consistently to achieve them. Having an outside perspective to help us understand where we’re succeeding and where we’re falling short is invaluable.

12. This last year, have I had opportunities at work to learn and grow?
We all want to feel that we are progressing…not standing still or falling behind. Continuous growth and development keep us engaged, invigorated, and open to new and exciting challenges.


What lies at the heart of a great workplace? Which elements will attract only talented employees and keep them, and which elements are appealing to every employee? The authors searched for special questions where the most engaged employees – those who were loyal and productive – answered positively. Notice that there are no questions dealing with pay, benefits, senior management, or organizational structure. This doesn’t mean they are unimportant. It simply means they are equally important to every employee, good, bad, and mediocre. The authors wanted those questions that most resonated with top-performing employees.