Are You Inspiring?

It's a new year, and that's the perfect time to think about communication-not just a manager or leader's communication to their team, but what your team members communicate about themselves.

You'll never maximize the potential of those you manage---or yourself-if you don't start by helping your team communicate that potential. In my new book, Conversation for Creating Star Performers, I tell the story of a recent college grad and 20-something named John, who volunteered with me during the national problem solving competition, Odyssey of the Mind. We were checking in teams and John was so relaxed about the work he came off as disinterested and bored. Everything about him-his body language, his speech, his facial expressions-communicated a lack of interest and a lack of self confidence.

It turned out John was actually confident and competent. He could perform enthusiastically, but only when his boss or the female colleague he had a crush on were watching. Unfortunately for John, you can't just perform for the benefit of others. There needs to be a deep, internal commitment to a personal, high standard of performance, no matter who's watching. And even when no one is watching.

Figuring out that individual standard of professionalism and performance is a conversation we have with ourselves, one about what kind of person-whether we are mid-level managers, coaches, front line workers or C suite residents-we want to be. And that's a question-and a conversation-we should also have with those we coach, manage and want to develop.

As you assess your team's strengths and weaknesses and think about your high performers-or how to be a high performer-spur that conversation by asking these questions:

What causes you to perform well?

When was the last time you had fun at work? What were you doing?

Remember, if you are a manager or leader responsible for developing others, you are a coach, and coaches develop their quarterbacks. They engage their people in growth and learning, help them build new skills, and enable them to reach ever higher levels of success. That important work-and the many conversations it entails--starts with questions.