Mirror, Mirror on the Wall


Ever thought what is the secret to being successful? August Aquila, co-author of How to Engage Partners in the Firm’s Future looks at 11 self-assessment questions for successful professionals. Ask these tough questions or make up your own –and drive success in your own life.

When’s the last time you talked to your partners about the “mirror questions”? We all know that it’s easy to kid ourselves about how well we’re doing. But when we have to look ourselves in the mirror, well, it’s another story.

Rather than giving the partners the questions they should answer, we suggested that they come up with their own self-assessment. Specifically, we wanted them to devise questions they could ask themselves each week to evaluate how well they had performed. In the end, we came up with 11.

Here’s what one of the high performers wrote about the task:

The exercise forced me to redefine how I view a successful week. … I have always viewed success based upon what closed or is likely to close, but this exercise made me think more in terms of movement and progress.

We are not sure what he or the others will do with their lists of questions. They might forget about them – that’s what happens to a lot of things that fill time in workshops. Maybe they’ll pull them out after a long week and see how well they performed using their own criteria – and get something valuable out of the process.

Or perhaps they’ll do something really bold. What if each partner had a trusted colleague, spouse or friend ask them the questions, holding them accountable each week for their critical behaviors? There would be only one rule: Colleagues and friends could only ask the questions. There could be no disapproving glances, no tongue-lashings and no critical comments.

Management guru Marshall Goldsmith has a few questions that he uses to evaluate his performance each day. Each night he talks on the phone with a friend about his professional pursuits, but also about whether he’s done his sit-ups, eaten sensibly, done something nice for his wife and children, etc. It works for him.

Do you want to come up with your own questions?

If you need some inspiration, here are a few:

  1. Did I define my specific objectives for the week?
  2. Did I add names to my prospect list? Where did those names come from?
  3. Do I have the right mix of businesses on my prospect list?
  4. Did I plan appropriately for each call?
  5. Did I develop a follow-up plan for each call? Did I execute it?
  6. Did each of my pending deals move forward?
  7. Have I reached out to an existing client? To a center of influence? To an internal partner?
  8. Did I prioritise my time/resources appropriately? How can I improve in managing my time?
  9. Did anything unexpected happen?
  10. Did I learn something about my skills?
  11. Most important: Do I know why all of the above are important to my success?

These are all good questions. But our bet is that you could come up with a list that might be more appropriate for you.

So, start making your list of questions and share it with us. We would love to rework the list with some member suggestions and publish it in another edition.