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ATD Blog

6 Insanely Brilliant Questions That Boost Performance

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Like many managers in his organization, Jim was experiencing herculean levels of pressure. Having worked with him before, I sensed that he was actually in tears as he described his request.

“Nineteen thousand membership cards were processed and mailed incorrectly. Our call centers were instantly overwhelmed, and it happened at the worst time. It’s our busy season, and our customer satisfaction has hit rock bottom—an all-time low. My team trained the employees who made the data entry errors leading to this large-scale catastrophe, and I’ve been given a mandate to fix my training program. So, I’ve gotta get my trainers some training as soon as possible. We have one day to do the training, and due to budget constraints, the training has to be delivered virtually.”

We can all empathize with Jim’s experience, can’t we? Imagine how his team must have been feeling.

Here I had his request—and an all-too-common response to requests for training is to simply comply and deliver training without conducting any form of a needs assessment of the performance gap.

When training professionals do that, the hissing sound you hear is the air slowly leaking out of the training team’s balloon of credibility.

“So, what’s the solution?” you ask.

I’ll frame it up this way. Like most training professionals, for years my prescribed solution to all performance gaps was to offer training. Early in my career, I simply didn’t know any better, and frankly neither did the training managers I worked for.

We were clueless. That’s not a criticism of them or of myself. It was just a harsh reality.


Frustrated by my inability to truly solve performance issues back then, I turned to mentors I had acquired from my membership in ATD, people like Joe Willmore and Dennis Mankin. I asked them for guidance in helping me figure this out. And the solution was revealed to me: I needed to enhance my skills and knowledge in performance consulting.

As Dana Robinson says, “Performance improvement is a solution-neutral approach.” It is a systematic approach that leads to a recommendation of an unbiased solution set.

Remember our distressed manager Jim?

One component of the performance consulting process focuses on identifying the potential influences (barriers and facilitators) of performance.

Despite his intense pressure to have me deliver a six-hour virtual training course (his prescribed solution), I asked these six insanely brilliant questions from the performance consulting process:


1. How do workplace environment factors impede or enable performance?
2. How does the training impede or enable performance?
3. How does the recruiting process impede or enable performance?
4. How do managers impede or enable performance?
5. How does the job/role impede or enable strong personal motivation?
6. How does technology enable or impede performance?

By asking Jim these six initial questions, I uncovered a great deal of information that ultimately enabled me to help him see that training, whether for his team or for the seasonal operations employees, was not the root cause of their performance gap.

The ATD Master Performance Consultant course equips participants with a full set of templates, tools, and job aids to conduct a comprehensive assessment that results in a highly targeted recommendation.

The influence analysis is one of the most powerful components of the process because it contains a series of questions for each of the six influences (explored in the six questions above) that train the consultant to look, with laser-like precision, at the parts of performance that often go unseen and undetected. And often that is where the keys to boosting performance lie.

If you want to boost performance in your organization, develop your performance consulting skills. You’ll save your organization a lot of money, time, and resources, thereby dramatically increasing your value and credibility as a solution provider.

About the Author

Sardek P. Love is president and founder of Infinity Consulting and Training Solutions, a global management and leadership development consulting firm. Possessing over 26 years of expertise, he has worked in 32 countries, inspiring, developing, and educating thousands of managers and their employees to consistently deliver exceptional results.

Known globally for his energetic and thought-provoking style of delivery, Sardek teamed up with Anne Bruce to co-author the updated version of Anne’s best-selling book “Speak For A Living – The New and Expanded Edition” which will be published by ATD in 2018.

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Thanks Sardek for the sharing, very great holistic view of questions, from recruitment up to workplace environment.
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I really like how you phrased the questions, forcing the leadership to first assess and decide whether each factor impeded or enabled performance. You also kept training on the list of possible performance influencers. I find that this is important because it validates the leader's initial viewpoint. It's important that we don't respond to them as if they are not capable leaders. We need to value their expertise and seek to enhance it as consultants.
Thank you Sam. Your points are excellent. As you noted, Master consultants are experts at getting results because they remain curious and reaffirm the manager's role in the diagnostic process so that the eventual recommendation is a solution with a high probability of a positive impact. Thanks for the comments and for sharing! Cheers!
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Great insight Sam, thank you for sharing!
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What about the Mager Pipe Flowchart? Did you try this as well?
Hi Patrick. The Mager Pipe Flowchart is another excellent tool that provides guidance and a structure for the diagnostic process. It helps prevent the natural inclination of stakeholders to unintentionally focus on symptoms and redirects the focus to be that on uncovering potential root causes. So to your point, there are a variety of tools and methods for doing this, and these 6 questions are part of a systematic approach to the performance consulting process. Thanks for the question. Cheers!
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