10-5-3™: The Program for Building Your Team's Greatness

by | Jun 01, 2023 | Uncategorized

The 10-5-3™ program are three numbers that have huge impact and are everything about making our direct reports great. If you have direct reports, read on…I challenge you to MAKE YOUR DIRECT REPORTS GREAT!

Why is it important to know our direct reports?

So, what is the 10-5-3™ program? Simply put, it is understanding the people who report to us in a way that allows us to find opportunities and to make meaningful connections with them. Of course, this assumes you believe in paying it forward. We teach the concepts of the 10-5-3™ program as part of the Accelerated Gross Profit Program offered by my company Evolve YT (designed for frontline field service managers).

The concept of the 10-5-3™ program is where do you want to be ten years, five years and three years from now professionally and personally. For many of us leading others, this is something we can answer easily. Yet the more I work with leaders and managers in companies with 10-250 employees (and many larger ones) it is surprising that many of their managers also cannot answer this question. When my team is working with service personnel in field service companies (pest control, landscaping, HVAC…) and we ask this question it is shocking how many have never thought this through (you may be one of these people).

When introducing the 10-5-3™ program, it is critical for the person you are asking the questions to understand the WHY behind the questions. They must truly believe you want to know more so you can work closer with them as their manager and leader to help them achieve their dreams. Once this is set in motion here are some questions to get things going, posing each one in the three different time realms 10, 5 and 3 years from now. I always start with 10 years.

As you think about this, a great read to get your juices flowing on 10-5-3 is “The Dream Manager” by Mathew Kelly, written in fable form it helps you understand the power of truly getting to know the people that report to you and the questions you may want to ask.

While the 10-5-3™ program is the method I developed, I have to attribute the 10 and 3 years to one of the greatest thought leaders of the 21st century, Gino Wickman. Wickman, author of Traction, uses the time frames from a business visioning perspective in his Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS®) and I have adapted this, added five years and now use it to learn more about our direct reports.

We start at ten years from now as this is our big picture, what Jim Collins calls our “BHAG,” our big hairy audacious goal. There is nothing wrong with dreaming, but it should also be based in reality, we may not know exactly how we are going to get there but we are intent that we will achieve it. Five years is where we start to refine what our path will be and our three year, will give you as the manager, the insight of what you need to do with your teammate to develop their plan.

When I am talking about the 10-5-3™ program many ask, “What about the one-year plan?” and again I have to steal a page from Gino Wickman. The 10-5-3™ program is what Wickman would probably describe as a “Personal Vison.” The 10-5-3™ program is where we are going whereas the one-year plan is how we are going to get there. So, while every service manager should have a one-year plan, they must start with 10-5-3. We then use the 10-5-3™ program to help formulate their one-year and even shorter-term plans.

What questions should I ask when using the 10-5-3™ program?

Instituting the 10-5-3™ program begins with taking the time to ask questions and listen. You’ll also want to take lots of notes during the process. If you need to help your direct report along, you can because you want them talking.

1. Do you want to be living somewhere else?
2. Will your family situation be different?
3. Will your hobbies be the same?
4. Do you want to be in the same job?
5. Do you want the same responsibilities?
6. How much money do you want to earn?

Here is where the hard work comes in. As I mentioned earlier, you better have your best listening skills on and not only listen to the words, but watch the body language. Are they uncomfortable when answering certain questions, do the answers come too easily? It is your job to get them to answer truthfully and to get them thinking.

While they are answering the question, I am the lookout for the following:

  • Do they want to be promoted to another position OR do they simply want to be great at what they currently do?
  • Do they have entrepreneurial aspirations, do they want to own their own business and if so, do they want to do this on the side or full time?
  • Do they LOVE the industry you are part of are do they want a different career path and/or a different industry?

How they answer these questions will greatly impact the things you can do to help them. So often our direct reports are scared to tell us the truth for fear of losing their jobs. But if you can get the best two years from one of your reports and help them achieve their dreams what is wrong with that? I suggest nothing. I would take ten people giving me two great years versus ten people that are above average, or worse yet, going through the motions.

One word of caution, when we ask the questions the first time it is likely your direct report will be stupefied. That is OK and you want to give your employee an opening to go home and think it though. They probably want to talk it over with their spouse, significant other or a family member, maybe even a close friend. This is profoundly hard for them as most people have not thought past one year if even that far.

Also be on the lookout for things that do not match up personally and professionally. For instance, if the person in ten years wants a house on three acres and is making $50,000 and their spouse is at home with the kids and the market rate for the property is $500,000 this clearly is unlikely to happen. Now of course that is dramatic, and I used it for dramatic effect. More likely you are going to find the personal and professional goals are close but maybe not completely in sync. It is our job as their leader to help them achieve all they want and in return, they will look to you as a mentor. Helping them come up with a career plan to get them to their dream, helping them in setting realistic steps to make it happen OR helping them to set realistic personal goals are all part of it. Either way, your job is to help them to achieve their GREATNESS.

Remember, people leave companies because they do not like their supervisor even when they like their companies. You want your direct reports loving you, loving your company and referring their friends to come and work for you and your company.

Taking this to another level is what Ed Robinson does. Robinson is one of the greatest Vistage Chairs and mentors I have ever met. Located outside of Baltimore, Robinson is a voracious reader and developer of amazing leaders. Recently Robinson was leading a discussion about truly understanding your direct reports and shared a few other questions which I consider great ice breakers.

1. Why did you come to work here?
2. What keeps you here?
3. What do you enjoy the most about your work?
4. Do you have a skill or an area of expertise you would like to share with others? What is it
5. What are your talents? Please help me know the things you think you do best
6. What would you say your weak points are? What would you want me to understand are areas of difficulty for you?

What Robinson stresses is that you have to really get to know someone at a deep level. This takes questions and probing, and let’s not forget that the 10-5-3™ program is not a single meeting. It should be integrated into everything that you do with your direct report and constantly be updated. You must truly love your direct reports and have their best interests at heart.

Robinson then takes all of this and produces what he calls the Direct Report Employee Success Tool, it is worth the download!

Harris Pastides, two-time President of The University of South Carolina, understands this intimately and takes it to a deeper introspective level. Pastides was magical with the student-body as I personally watched him connect with them during his first stint while my daughter attended USC 2011-2015. I would get Pastides emails and marvel at the connection and care he had for every student. He retired and his successor ran into trouble, saying things that cost him his job. Of course, in a time of chaos, the USC Board of Regents turned back to Pastides to calm the waters.

On July 9, 2022 Pastides sent this note to the Student Body and it resonates with everything the 10-5-3™ program is about:

Dear Students,

When I made the decision to return to the university as Interim President, friends reminded me of legendary basketball player Michael Jordan. After an exceptional career with the Chicago Bulls that resulted in three championships, Jordan retired in 1993. Twenty-one months later, he returned to the NBA with a short note that read “I’m back.” Jordan then led the Chicago Bulls to three more back-to-back championships before retiring once again. But as I followed the story, I was reminded that he came back again, after a second retirement, and the results were … shall we say … not illustrious. I’ll let that serve as a reminder to me that coming out of retirement should not become a habit!

Jordan’s story inspired me to think about why we do the things we do and how we make our biggest decisions. How do you make your biggest decisions?

Over the years, I’ve been asked by many students, many hundreds I would guess, to help them decide on choosing a major or career path and I like giving advice about this. I start by “holding up a mirror” as I ask them to think about three relevant factors. Let me try it here with you.

First, I encourage you to consider if you’re passionate about, or at least have developed interest in, an area of your studies. For me, during college, that was public health and medicine. If you’re going to spend a lifetime doing something, it’s certainly relevant that you enjoy doing it. Second, I would ask you whether you are particularly skilled in certain areas. What are you good at … math, writing, sales, public speaking, design, teaching, or maybe giving helpful advice to friends? You can learn many things in college but your aptitude is a strong determinant of how good you will be at something, which in turn, should help predict your professional success. A third consideration is even more practical. Will the major or career you’re contemplating afford you the life that you’re hoping to achieve? This factor includes salary considerations but also the opportunity for geographic flexibility, travel, working directly with people, the ability to improve persons’ lives and help society – to name a few.

These are not all easy questions and it’s okay to be undecided at first. Freshmen can surely take some time to figure things out, but by the time you return for your sophomore year I think you should have chosen no more than two possible majors. Other than in extenuating circumstances, you should be on a firm track by your junior year. Beyond that time, if you’re finding it hard to focus, it may not become easier and you may have hit a wall. But as Michael Jordan said, “If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.”

There’s something else to remember as you assess your future. Remain open to unexpected opportunities along the way. You may become inspired by a guest lecturer, an after-class conversation with a professor, a book, or even lunch with a friend. Soak it all in and look in the mirror to see if you’re smiling! You never know when a thunderbolt might change your life.
Students, if you think I can help you with any advice, send me an email at president@sc.edu … but please don’t ask me about your relationship decisions – that’s way too big a responsibility!

Pastides makes us think of our potential and all that is in front of us. Your direct reports have dreams, aspirations and talents that simply have not been harnessed. More than likely no one has taken the time to help them create a path to realizing their dreams, and you can be that person!

So, whether you use my base questions looking for discrepancies, Ed Robinson’s insights, Gallup’s deeper questions or if you reach for your direct reports with Pastides insights, you have the opportunity to use the 10-5-3™ program to make your people GREAT. As I say so often BE IT, DO IT, LIVE IT and here is to making your team GREAT!