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TT&S Weekly

TT&S Weekly (10/3/11)

Topic of the Week  Checkmate: Using a Daily Checklist to Focus Your Efforts

 Checkmate: Using a Daily Checklist to Focus Your Efforts:

  • Catalyst
  • Inhibitors
  • Nourishers
  • Toxins

 How do we keep our focus each day and learn how to do a better job tomorrow? I can hear what you're thinking, "Who has the time?" To which I'd ask, who can afford not to figure out a way to do a better job each day given our faltering economy? Which reminds me of how some upscale restaurateurs believe that diners will soon willingly pay more for a beef dish if it comes with disclosure of the DNA of the actual cow being eaten. "People want to know where their food is coming from," said one excited chef, lauding the knowledge to be gleaned from a calf's upbringing.
To me this cow story is a classic case of TMI, too much information. But I do believe that we'd all do a better job of bringing home the bacon from work if we were always figuring out new ways to monitor and improve our performance. Which is why I've given you four questions, below, to ask yourself each day and then to check back at the end of the day to see what you've learned on each topic. Believe it or not, this technique was developed by a surgeon and after creating a daily checklist in his hospital he saw dramatic and measurable improvements in successful surgeries. For more, check out "The Progress Principle" by Amabile and Kramer (HBR, 2011).

Catalysts. Start by looking for events during your day that could either be a small win or a major breakthrough. Identify these events, for no other reason that you probably want to be prepared to put extra thought and energy into them. You also want to examine your team's dynamics to see how you could all do a better job of extracting success from the jaws of defeat.

Inhibitors. What events in your day could either serve to be a small setback or a major crisis? Again, it's always interesting to me how a possible negative event can be mitigated or eliminated with a small bit of planning. What have other people learned that might help to reduce the risks of a negative outcome? What are all the things that could inhibit performance?

Nourishers. What events could provide positive support and energy to the team? Have you ever noticed how some events can just bring people together and make them feel like they're making a positive contributions. We often over look this, but events that charge people up can provide ballast to your entire organization.

Toxins. What events just empty all of the air out of everyone's tires at work? We often spend a lot of time examining outcomes, but we don't often look at the impact that these events have on our team. Have you ever had a customer who just drained the life force out of everyone they came into contact with? You might find that some customers just cost too much to serve.
Follow these patterns and you won't be dead meat at your job, you'll be a success.

About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, "The Boss's Survival Guide." If you have a question for Bob, contact him via

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