John Strom: Doing more of what you do best |

John Strom: Doing more of what you do best

John Strom

I recently published a book title Maximizing Your ROPI — Return on your People Investment (ROpI). It’s about doing the most important and most challenging part of a manager’s job — working with your people!

In the book I talk about how to coach people more effectively and how to get people to take action using questions. I point out how important it is to “catch people doing things right and tell them about it,” or rather to “catch them doing the right things (for them) right” … to have them do more of what they do best — what makes them the most productive and most profitable. When people do more of what they do best — more of what’s truly important in their jobs — they make a significantly greater contribution to the bottom line. And they also do it in a way that satisfies more customers in a deeper way — satisfaction that can get them coming back and recommending your business to others. This begs the question:

How can you know what your people do best?

You want to know the specific actions in their job where they’re “at their best,” where they’re the most effective, most efficient and where they do their best work. Here are some ways to learn this about each of your people:

Watch them as they do their job — when are they “whistling while they work?” When do they seem to be “in the zone” — doing great work quickly and easily, all the while enjoying it? What things do they do that produce the best results? Make note of what they’re working on, what they’re producing.

Ask their coworkers about them — the people around us often are observant of when we’re in that above state. They can tell you what their coworkers do well, where they excel. Ask: “You work around (name) a lot … what do you think he/she does best?”

Ask the person what they like doing best — not surprisingly research has proven when we’re doing something we truly like to do we do it well, we produce good results, usually quickly and easily. Ask: “Of all the things in your job, what do you like doing the best?”

Of course you’ll also want to learn what gets them down — those things they have to do each day that slow them down and they don’t naturally do as well. Your observations and the answers to the opposites of the two questions above (what do they like doing least, seem to have the greatest difficulty doing? What do you like doing least, seem to have the greatest difficulty doing?) will give you what you need.

Once you’ve done the above, you’re ready to sit down with them and adjust what you have them do every day in their job. Verify with them you’ve got it right — XXX in your job is what you “love doing and do well,” YYY is the opposite, what you “don’t like doing, have greater difficulty doing really well.”

You want them doing a lot more of what they do best and a lot less of what they struggle with.

By doing this you’ll maximize their productivity (and the resulting profitability). You’re doing your job as a manager — what you get paid to do — get the most out of your people everyday! (The bonus is you’ll also be working with people who really like their jobs — with all the positive benefits this brings)!

Perhaps you’re thinking, “who’s going to be doing all that work they don’t like to do? Somebody’s got to do that stuff!” That’s one of best parts about this approach. What you’ll discover is one person’s “dislike doing” is another person’s “love doing.” If you take some time to selectively match the work that needs to be done with what people do best, you’ll find you can cover most all of it. What’s left over can be given to the person who “dislikes it the least” (being careful to balance the work load). Typically in any job there’s quite a lot of work we don’t dislike, but we also don’t really enjoy. We can do it and even do it well — we’re just not “doing what we enjoy doing.”

The implications of this approach aren’t minor. It requires you think about work in a different way. It often requires you be more creative and less traditional in how things are done and who does them. I don’t have enough room here to go into all the nuances of this. It’s worth it. I’ve seen managers who have applied this thinking make some interesting adjustments to work assignments in their area of responsibility — with some get results — higher productivity (with the resulting lower costs/greater profits) and improved customer and employee satisfaction and retention.

As I said earlier, you’ll be amazed at the performance you’ll unleash in your people. You’ll see them doing more and more of the right stuff — the most important stuff they do in their jobs, the stuff they do so well! You’re doing what managers get paid to do — getting your people consistently doing the right things, right. You’re maximizing your ROpI and building your “people assets” along with your bottom line.

If you decide to give this a try, please let me know how it works for you. I can be reached at Or call me at 775-851-3000. I’d really appreciate it!

When asked what their greatest asset is, most managers answer “my people.” Interestingly, when asked what’s their greatest frustration, these same managers will again answer “my people.”

John Strom is a SCORE Mentor and author of Maximizing Your ROPI — Return on Your People Investment. He has over 30 years experience in management training and development. Contact him through his website or through