Welcome to the beginning of 2017 and that time of year we look back and try to decide what to repeat from last year, what not to repeat and try to determine what to change and avoid. But what makes those that are able to be successful different from those that seem to be in the same place tomorrow as they were today? I believe it is the commitment to education, planning, communication, execution and education; yes I said education twice on purpose; that makes all the difference in the world. I thought I could share a few thoughts on them in hopes of helping you not only want better success but understand how to achieve it.
First I am a product of my studies and I feel I study more than some and less than others. I do it because of what some refer to as productive paranoia. I will read just about anything that I feel will help me be a better person, father, husband, business person and leader because as Marshall Goldsmith said; “What got you here will not get you there”. Not all of what I read turns out to be earth shattering and to be honest much of it is reworks of the same concepts and topics. But even in reading what I would refer to as “retread” works I can take time to reflect on what I know, believe and do. I get a lot of what I read that does bring new light to my efforts and direction from those that I feel have achieve success in those areas before me. I will ask them about what they feel helped them gain success and when they mention authors or topics I jot them down to go read and research. I am always amazed how much people want to share their journey and help others avoid the same struggles and pitfalls. I know some of you are saying that you don’t have time to read because of your busy life. I believe that to be an excuse for something you clearly don’t see as valuable enough to spend your time on. There is always an hour a day you have to spend on bettering yourself. You can read/listen to books while at the gym and on your commute, you can read over lunch, you can read before bed instead of watching TV, there is always time. So if you aren’t an active reader and don’t know where to start google “Top ten books on [the topic you are interested in]” and I am sure someone has posted a list you can start with.
Now planning is a topic I have written a fair bit on. We use the EOS system for planning in our business but which system you use is less import than your commitment to consistent adherence to the program and process of doing it. If possible include others in the effort. As many of those that can help guide you or that will be part of executing the plan as you can afford until you have 8 people in the room with you. Eight seems to be the maximum number when planning groups start struggling and you then have to break them into subgroups to get work done. Spend a day at least once every 6 months if not every 90 days reflecting and planning the next cycle of time. In that planning you need to set S.M.A.R.T goals and assign people responsible for achieving the goals. Be sure those goals you set support the long term plans. Sometimes you are working today for something that you will not leverage for several cycles. We do this with leadership growth and team planning. If we see that we will need another Account Manager or vCIO in 12 months then we know we need to start either searching for them or grooming them 6 to 9 months before we need them to be productive. If not we would hire when the need was upon us and then spend months finding, on-boarding and training them while struggling to still grow.
Communication is another important area in success for a business. You go away sometimes alone or with a small group to plan and then come back and try and make changes or execute to new goals that some or all of your team don’t know you have at worst and in some cases have heard of but don’t understand the details of or their role in achieving them. I believe that once your core planning team has set the direction and goals they are all responsible for going back to their teams and communicating the big picture and details of their efforts to achieve them. Also the leadership has to stand in front of the entire team from time to time and repeat the vision, mission, plans and goals along with why they matter to everyone there, the clients and the company in that order. In my efforts to communicate I always spend time writing down what I want to say and at least walking through it in my head with the following goals in mind; what do I want them to Know, Think, Feel and Do. Know is about the facts I want to clearly communicate and in most cases repeat at least twice. Think is what lines do I want them to draw from those facts because if I can’t make connections how can I expect them to. Feel is the emotion that everyone has from facts and thoughts and do I want them inspired, appreciated, irritated, angry. Do is the actions they will take in the short time after hearing the message and in many cases will not always be long lived if unless you are somehow repeating the message in a systematic way.
Execution is about the 20 mile march that Jim Collins advocates for in his books like Good to Great and Great by Choice. We all have a finite amount of resources; time, money, product, risk; that we can use. We can’t go 1000 miles in one day but you can move forward every day. This is about taking things like BHAGS, Vision, Annual Goals and breaking them down to daily actions. This is what makes a S.M.A.R.T. goal come to life. For me each quarter when our team sets goals, we call them rocks, I take mine and try and break them down to 3-10 steps to achieve them. I try to set deadlines for each and dependencies for those that require others to be part of effort. Then I schedule those steps into my daily calendar along with all of the other task I have to do to help run the business, like writing this BLOG. I try and give myself no more than 2 hours to work on any step because if I can’t complete it in those 2 hours I probably need to break it down further. As a team we check in with each other every week to see if we are “on track” with them. If not or if we feel someone might not realize they aren’t we spend time then helping get it back “on track”. This ensures we aren’t getting to the end of the cycle and having to rush to cram something in. Which by the way if you can cram a goal in to completion I would argue you didn’t set a big enough goal.
Which brings us back to education. If you work through this kind of process you will realize where you need to work to improve yourself and your team so where better to end and then begin again but through education. For those that worry about spending time and energy educating people on your team because they might leave I ask what if you don’t and they stay? So Education, Planning, Communication and Education are the work that makes my world go around 20 miles at a time. What ensures success for you? As I said I am always a student and would love to learn from those of you achieving great things so please drop me a line and tell me what you are doing and plan to do in 2017 to cover ground on that 1000 mile journey toward success.