9.5. The best work attitude

An unspoken assumption of the workplace is that people are working hard and trying to do their best work. But because there's no way to measure how hard people work,(6) or what their best work actually looks like, managers rarely spend time talking about it. This is a mistake. A manager should help each team member cultivate a desire for achievement. The relationship between worker and manager must involve the manager assisting the worker in being as effective as possible.

It should be entirely natural and acceptable for a PM to ask a tester, developer, marketer, or designer the following question: "What can I do to help you do your best work?" No preface is needed, nor any caveats about what you might not be willing to do. Just by asking this simple question, three positive things happen:

  1. You establish the possibility that the person you are talking to is capable of doing her best work on the current project and that perhaps there is something preventing her from doing so.

  2. You put her in a framework of evaluating her own performance and identifying things she can do that might make a difference.

  3. You make it possible to have a discussion about what both of you can do to improve the quality of the work being done. By framing the discussion around "best," you dodge the possibility that she feels criticized or that her current work isn't good enough.

This approach has nothing to do with being a nice guy or trying to make people like you. Getting the best ...

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