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Power Score

By Geoff Smart, Randy Street and Alan Foster

(Ballantine Books, 174 pages, $31)

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Wouldn't it be nice if there was a neat formula for business success?

The GhSmart consulting team believes there is: P times W times R.

P is for priorities – do you have the right ones?

W is for who – do you have the right people, or in their lingo, the right who?

R is for relationships – have you cultivated the right relationships?

"The key to great leadership is to have the right priorities, the right people on your team, and the right relationships that achieve results," Geoff Smart, Randy Street and Alan Foster write in Power Score.

They recommend bringing your team together and asking: "Are we running on full power?" Listen to what colleagues say, as it will indicate what you can do differently. But then hone in on the formula, and ask them to rate your organization, from one to 10 (with 10 being high) on each of the three factors. Finally, ask them to multiply the three scores together: P times W times R.

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That gives your power score (the letters P, W, and R reminding you of the word power). The maximum would be 1,000, if people thought you were running at full throttle and deserved 10 points in each category. But that's probably impossible. However, an excellent goal would be 729 – 9 times 9 times 9.

If your team achieves a PWR score of 729 or higher, they say you are running at full power. If you're between 500 and 700, that's reasonably good (8 times 8 times 8 equals 512). Some tweaks should raise your score. If you're below 500, however, – as rated, remember, by your team – you have some focused work ahead of you.

It begins by probing deeper at that initial meeting, finding out why your scores lag, and using the reasons to guide you toward initiatives that can raise your score (and your organizational effectiveness).

Over the past 20 years, their company has interviewed more than 15,000 leaders, to understand the dynamics of success. The data show that leaders who run their teams at full power – about 10 per cent of their sample – are twice as likely to have succeeded in their careers as the average leader.

You need to perform well on all three criteria. Just like you can't win a triathlon if you skip the swimming portion, no matter how superb you are at biking and running, you have to be strong on all three elements here. The most common failure is not having the right people on your team – the W, which was the subject of Mr. Smart's and Mr. Street's previous book, Who (which I chose as the best book of 2009). Fewer than 14 per cent of leaders excel at the who, hiring well, removing non-performers, and developing their teams.

Just under 24 per cent excel at setting priorities. Building relationships is the most common strength of leaders, but even for that only 47 per cent of leaders are considered proficient.

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"Only 1 per cent of leaders excel in all three – P, W, and R – on a sustained basis throughout their careers. That is a tough standard to achieve week after week and month after month. The good news is that this isn't about being a perfect leader yourself; rather it's about bringing out the best in your team. Approximately 10 per cent of leaders run their team at full power at any given point of time," they write.

So begin today, by asking your team what it feels like to be running at full power and what it is like to fall short. Then ask them to rate the team's priorities, focusing on the three aspects the consultants highlight: Are the priorities – and there should only be a few of them – connected to the mission in a compelling way; are they the correct priorities, likely to produce the right results; and are they clear, so everybody understands them?

Next move on to who: Have you diagnosed your team to understand its strengths and weaknesses; have you deployed the right people against the right priorities; and have you developed the team?

Finally, rate relationships: Is communication co-ordinated within and beyond the team; is your team committed to the mission and to one another; and does your team feel challenged to accomplish something bigger than themselves?

Then have everyone calculate their scores and hold them up for colleagues to see. That should take about 15 minutes. You'll probably have a range of scores and should take 30 minutes to explore the various numbers and the thinking behind them. Then decide on what priorities have emerged from the discussion, and set up another PWR discussion in 90 days.

Of course, the hard work begins after that hour-long discussion. But the book offers insights on improving in each dimension and inspiration. It's written briskly, in a question-and-answer format that keeps ideas clear and concise. The book's a winner and maybe you will be too if you try its approach.

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Retired U.S. general Stanley McChrystal, who oversaw the Joint Special Operations Task Force in Iraq, explains in Team of Teams (Portfolio, 290 pages, $34.95) how he developed a network with transparent communications and decentralized decision-making to fight al-Qaeda, an approach that can transfer to other organizations in a complex world.

Real Women, Real Leaders (Wiley, 184 pages, $42) offers edited transcripts of interviews with female leaders by non-profit founder Kathy Hurley and consultant Priscilla Shumway, organized around skills like motivating others and taking initiative.

Consultant Linda Popky shows how to attain strategic advantage in Marketing Above the Noise (Bibliomotion, 204 pages, $30.99).

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

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