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Climbers near the summit.Vernon Wiley/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Nine Minutes on Monday

By James Robbins

(McGraw-Hill, 230 pages, $27.95)

Consultant James Robbins believes you can become a dramatically better manager if you take nine minutes every Monday morning to ask yourself nine important leadership questions. The questions are specific, intended to lead to direct action. And that action might require only an hour to perform over the week, so it is not a huge additional burden.

Mr. Robbins, who lives in Florida but loves to climb mountains, believes leaders must emulate the guides on his mountaineering expeditions. They are expert mountain climbers, but their focus when leading others is to help those people get to the top.

"Leadership is the art and science of moving people," he writes in Nine Minutes on Monday. "As a manager you are paid to produce results through people, and because your success hinges on those results produced by the people you lead, you want to do everything in your power to help them be as successful as they can be."

From psychology, sociology and neuroscience, he has identified nine core needs that people hold. He compares the needs to switches: Every time you turn one on, it unlocks a portion of the potential within another person.

The primary four needs are care, defined as the need to be more than a number; mastery, the need for challenge and achievement; recognition, the need to be appreciated; and purpose, the need to contribute and be significant.

The other five needs are secondary, in the sense that they are better focused on once the initial four needs are in place. The final five are: autonomy, the need to be in control; growth, the need to progress; connection, the need to bond with others; play, the need to enjoy work; and model, the need for a path to follow.

The challenge is how to create awareness of these nine needs amid the hurly-burly a work week. This is where his nine-minute session comes in; it encourages you to make slight changes to your weekly schedule to ensure you give some time to the nine needs of your staff, helping to build better engagement from them.

"Nine minutes on Monday is designed to help you transform your leadership slowly, implementing small steps," he writes. "Each step might seem insignificant on its own but, when added together, they form a journey leading ever closer to the summit."

Each of the nine questions focuses you on one of the needs, and how you can spend time in the week ahead making progress with one or more of your staff:

Minute 1: How will I take a genuine interest in my employees this week? This might involve a 15-minute walkabout, to chat with staff, or remembering to check in with a staff member returning today from two weeks tending a sick mother.

Minute 2: Whom will I give feedback to this week? Mr. Robbins calls feedback the Midas touch, because people crave it and it can turn them into gold.

Minute 3: Whom will I reward or recognize this week? He notes that opportunities for reward and recognition are like birthdays; they have to be recognized immediately or within a week, or the belated wishes are stale.

Minute 4: Whom will I give the "second paycheque" to this week, helping them to understand the purpose behind their work? He considers purpose like a second paycheque, motivating people even more than their real paycheque.

Minute 5: How can I promote a feeling of autonomy in one employee this week?

Minute 6: How can I help someone grow this week?

Minute 7: How do I make my team cohere better this week, creating greater social bonding between members and with their roles?

Minute 8: Where can I inject some fun this week?

Minute 9: What model do my employees need from me this week? Managers routinely model certain attitudes or behaviours, but sometimes the situation calls for something different or for special attention to some behaviour. This question prods you to ponder the possibilities.

The idea is to make those nine questions routine. For the first month, you start with only the first four questions – the primary needs – until you become comfortable with them. Then you add one new minute a week, building these new habits slowly and not feeling overwhelmed. Some weeks the answer to a question is to continue the same activity you picked out last week, such as continuing to be a model of courage in tumultuous times.

It's certainly a manageable system, focused on important points that can slip by us in the maelstrom of work life. The ideas are presented clearly, with helpful stories interwoven to increase understanding, and a final chapter on how to apply the system for mobile employees.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Harvey Schachter is a Battersea, Ont.-based writer specializing in management issues. He writes Monday Morning Manager and management book reviews for the print edition of Report on Business and an online work-life column Balance. E-mail Harvey Schachter