Gandhi once said you can measure the civilization of a people by how they treat their animals. Translated into corporate terms: you can measure the success of leaders by how they value teamwork and day-to-day operations.
Recently, a law firm partner who specializes in joint ventures and venture capital transactions asked me what I look for in workplace success. It was an operational due diligence exercise to help investors determine “am I on a winner?”
I gave her a list of questions to consider when assessing quality, whether you’re an investor or a CEO wondering about your own operation. Here are four to get you started:
- The management: are they leaders?
- The team: are they organized and primed to execute?
- What happens when people ask questions?
- Is there an overall sense of unity and positive energy?
Most people might just focus on the first question. Totally understandable. But, if you’re investing in a company with a growing or changing operation, you may want to take a closer look at the day-to-day workplace. That’s where the magic happens. Where the vision you’re investing in comes to life, in the form of people, process, and teamwork.
It’s where ideas are given arms and legs so they can move forward. The value in any company depends on it, and so does the value of leadership. Answers to the bottom 3 questions will tell you a lot about the #1.
Whenever I assess a new operation, I closely observe the day-to-day and sit side-by-side to interview members of the team. I find out what they do and how they do it, and am very curious about the why and when as well. I especially look for a sense of unity — if each person understands the importance of their role in achieving goals, and how they affect the people around them.
The team: are they organized and primed to execute?
Means: are there workflows, processes, schedules, and deadlines with assigned tasks and responsibilities? Are there to-do lists and scheduled meetings for follow up and review? Does the team have what it takes to do their job well?
To succeed, you need structure, focus and accountability to get things done. Most people yawn over these details, but without them, even the best strategies are just air. Think of any team sport without rules, goals, timing, talent and training. Total confusion and chaos on the field. Cause for concern for investors and CEOs.
What happens when people ask questions?
I ask a lot of questions. You have to. You need to know if priorities and goals are communicated clearly and often, especially when they change (which happens a lot during growth and transition). You need the team to feel comfortable asking questions too. What you don’t need is frustration caused by fear and confusion — it wastes time and money: yours.
Is there an overall sense of unity and positive energy?
This is crucial. I cannot emphasize it enough. Even if the operation is disorganized, it can be fixed. Some disagreement is expected — it can even make a product or service better. But if there’s no sense of willingness — to cooperate, to collaborate, to win as a team — then run, don’t walk, to the next investment. Constant conflict is a deal breaker.
Value is realized in the day-to-day workplace. Look closely, and it will inform you about quality leadership and teamwork, and warn you about vulnerability and its hidden costs of conflict, confusion and control.
It is the revenue line — where money is made and lost — and that’s the bottom line of business.