Welcome to 2018! I have been looking forward to saying that for the past 3 months. If you wonder why I feel that way, it is because I can finally take all the planning that the executive team has been doing to get ready for 2018 and communicate it to our team. Everyone here works hard until the last day of the year to achieve our goals so once the clock strikes 1/1 we can turn our focus to the new year. This starts with ensuring we have a clear direction that aligns with our long-term plans and vision. Then we must ensure we are communicating it all to the team in the right way. I am sure all of you leaders reading this have already started your communication of 2018 plans to your teams, right? Well if not here are 3 tips that might help and if you have these tips might help you refine what you are doing and how.
Start with the long game
I am amazed how little effort is put into having a long-term view of an organization. Many have these plans and goals for revenue, growth, improvement but have no connection to how they connect to success further down the road. Jim Collins in Great by Choice outlines how we need to have a 20-mile march that we get up every day and work toward to move incrementally toward a long term set of goals. People can’t sustain high levels of work when the goals are too far out in front of them. They need to know they are successful today. But he warns that you can’t just get up and move 20 miles in any direction. Without a connection to the long-term plans and goals you can march in the wrong direction or even worse in circles, so it must all be connected. We start with a 10-year vision which are broad stroke ideals we want to reach way off in the future. It is inspirational and vision setting. We then refine that into a clearer 3-year picture that helps us have some real milestones and measurables along the way to that idea. Though not actionable alone. We then pull that down into a 1-year plan that are the real “Big Things” we must achieve this year if we have a hope of reaching that 3-year picture. Now we go even a step further and break those goals for the year into what we call 90 Day Rocks. These are the items we are committed to for the next 90 Days and that we have built milestones for that if we complete we will be ¼ the way to a successful year. We check in on these as teams weekly for “on track” status updates so we know how our 20-mile marches are are going and to ensure they are aligned with the long game.
Tell the Story
Now that we know what we are doing for the year and even the next 90 days what do you do with that to ensure everyone is aware and understands how their daily work, rocks and measurables support the long-term plan. This is when you and your leadership must talk, ask questions and listen. We start with an annual All Hands Meeting which to get our entire team together must be on the weekend. This “full day” meeting is where we do 2 things. We help repaint that long-term vision and connect it down through the next 90 days so everyone understands where we are going and why the work is important. We do this for each department but in front of the entire team so that everyone understands about the whole. The other thing we do is we Sharpen Our Saws based on Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits. We spend nearly half of the time working together to improve our skills and connection to each other, the company and the clients. We know that this one day of effort can’t be all we do. We continue communicating and helping make better connections to our plans and goals in every interaction. Our meetings are structured to help reinforce them as are our mentoring and leadership efforts. As a leader you have only successfully communicated something when your team answers questions before you can and does it with the same details and plans that have been set out.
Connect it to them
What too often is the case that we as leaders talk at people and inform them of things. We don’t as often stop to listen and ask questions. We must take the time to connect with our teams and understand where they are going and how what they want to achieve and connect it all with where the company is going. In works by Patrick Lencioni like The Truth about Employee Engagement you have to solve both the connection to meaning and value and the measurement of success for each team member. Taking the time to move the company vision and plans down into each department and ultimately to each employee in a way that they can come to work each day and know they are making a difference both to the clients and to the company and they have a way to measure that success is key. How you do this is through daily interaction and intentional mentoring and meetings. You must ask questions that require more than Yes/No answers. Through a dialog you achieve the best results and help everyone build the skills and understanding to execute toward the vision and plans at a high level even when you aren’t there.
So What Now What?
To close out you need both a long-term vision and a near term set of plans. You need to connect those to your team through story and dialog. This effort will ultimately not be a one-time thing. You then must make sure what each team member wants to get from their journey and what the company is trying to achieve have a connection that is meaningful and measurable. If you can do that with 100% of the team you become Great by Choice. Otherwise you become something by accident and most likely you won’t like it. What are you doing to bring your organization’s vision and plans to life with your teams? Would love to talk more with you about your journey as I am always learning from other leaders as we all try and become an organization of impact.