As 2016 comes to a close, I’m left reflecting about the many conversations I’ve had with owners and leaders throughout the year. I find that many of those conversations contain simple, yet powerful phrases of wisdom that have been graciously shared with me over the years. I now get to pass these on for others’ consideration. I thought I would conclude my final blog of the year by offering three of these gems that I’ve found most impactful in my life and career.

Success is a result of consistency in the basics. I remember one of my former bosses and mentors sharing this concept with me when I was manager of a residential and commercial service department. As I’m sure many of you can attest to, management can often feel like you’re being pulled in more directions than you have the capability to go in, that it always seems like there is more work than there is time in the day to do it, and there are plenty of fires, employee requests, and shiny new techniques to distract you along the way. However, at the end of the day, I’ve found that success and satisfaction in the role comes down to prioritizing the fundamental activities that have the greatest impact on the business and committing to do them consistently. For a service manager, I found it comes down to training regularly, tracking performance, and coaching individually. If you consistently perform these three basic things above all else, you will discover, as I have, that success is sure to follow.

Inspect what you expect. This always seemed to be the one that bit me in the butt and led to many unpleasant surprises if I slacked on it. Often times, we invest thousands of dollars into trainings to roll out new procedures, but we fail to follow-up to see if they’re actually being implemented. When coaching leaders about this concept, I often use the illustration of following the speed limit — there are plenty of speed limit signs posted all along the road, but does the simple knowledge of what the speed limit is cause us to follow it? If you’re anything like me, probably not. But when you fly by the occasional police officer standing by his car with radar gun in hand, you immediately hit your brakes and check your speed. Think about it, they are inspecting what they expect, and if it wasn’t for them doing so, how many people do you think would actually follow the speed limit? Now, consider how this relates to your techs and the many “rules of the road” that you’ve laid out for them to follow. Are they following them? Do you know for sure or are you just assuming? What would happen if you started getting out in the field more to get the ground truth of what’s really going on?

Never tell what you can ask. As a coach, this is probably one of the most profound statements that has shaped my career. At the end of the day, it’s not about what we know and what advice we can give, but it’s really about how skilled we are in asking thought-provoking questions that lead to transformational conversations. Consider for a moment, how many times have you said, “I’ve told him how to do it a thousand times, but he’s just not getting it.” Have you ever stopped to consider that maybe knowledge isn’t the problem? That perhaps there is some underlying resistance, some belief, or personal objection that’s holding him back? We can tell someone things until we’re blue in the face, but no thought/idea/advice will ever be more powerful than what a person comes up with themselves. If you want to elicit powerful and permanent change to help others reach their full potential, then start by helping them discover their own ideas and reasons for change themselves.

I hope these simple, yet powerful axioms have sparked some thoughts of how you might work a little differently in 2017. And for a special end of the year bonus, I leave this one for you to marinate on — Nothing changes until someone changes.