I am just back from presenting “Scaling Up Your People for Growth” two times last week– one to a startup incubator and once for the Scaling Up Workshop in Niagara on the Lake with established growing companies. (Take a look below for a short summary of the “People” section from the book.)
One of the exercises we used at the workshop was for the owners/ founders to evaluate the “alignment” of their team.
“The leader’s final job is “to keep the main thing the main thing” — to keep the organization on message and everyone heading in the same direction” -Verne Harnish, in his book “Scaling Up,”
Here is a list of questions you can use to evaluate the health and alignment of your team:
- The executive team is “healthy” (no dysfunctional behaviors)
- Everyone is aligned with the #1 thing that needs to be accomplished to move the company forward
- Communication rhythm is established and information moves through the organization accurately and quickly
- Every facet of the organization has a person assigned with accountability for ensuring goals are met
- Ongoing employee input is collected to identify obstacles and opportunities
- Reporting and analysis of Customer Feedback data is as frequent and accurate as financial data
- Core Values and Purpose are “alive” in the organization *
- Employees can accurately articulate the key components of the company’s strategy: Who are our core customers? What is our brand promises? Where does the company sees itself in 5 years? What is the company’s elevator pitch?
- All employees can answer quantitatively whether they had a good day or week [“everyone has a number”]
- The company’s plans and performance are visible to everyone
I am sure you have experienced the challenges when “one hand does not know what the other is doing” — and you know it is not the most effective way to run a team or a business.
–> So take a few minutes to rate your team on the 10 questions above, and see where you need to improve clarity, focus, and alignment for a healthy team and to achieve more success.
According to a very informative and detailed Harvard Business Journal chapter, there are 8 different and distinct “Cultures” in organizations.
If you are looking to increase your organization’s performance in a positive way, you might choose to shift your culture to include characteristics from both Results and Caring.
Here are some excerpts from the main article, describing both types and how they can be combined:
Results is characterized by achievement and winning. Work environments are outcome-oriented and merit-based places where people aspire to achieve top performance. Employees are united by a drive for capability and success; leaders emphasize goal accomplishment
Caring focuses on relationships and mutual trust. Work environments are warm, collaborative, and welcoming places where people help and support one another. Employees are united by loyalty; leaders emphasize sincerity, teamwork, and positive relationships.
It is common to find organizations with cultures that emphasize both results and caring, but this combination can be confusing to employees.
Are they expected to optimize individual goals and strive for outcomes at all costs, or should they work as a team and emphasize collaboration and shared success?
The nature of the work itself, the business strategy, or the design of the organization may make it difficult for employees to be equally results focused and caring.
Each of the 8 culture types can be effective if properly aligned with strategy and leadership behaviors.
For a small or mid-size organization, much of the direction is set by one or two owners, and based on their personality and core values.
Clarity around the strategy, core values and then the what and how of expected results is imperative for any organization to function at it’s best. That is why many business planning frameworks, such as the One Page Strategic Plan and Entrepreneurs’ Operating System start with Mission, Vision and Values before even defining Strategy.
As Peter Drucker is credited for saying “Culture eats Strategy for breakfast…”
For more inspiration, see this Slideshare overview of 12 Reasons Culture Eats Strategy for Lunch.
Last week I had very similar conversations with general managers at two very different businesses.
They both had teams that seemed to be less focused, productive and efficient the more time they had.
One is a seasonal business where everyone works overtime for 4 months and then have very little to do during the off-season. Yet despite the “extra” time, the wish list of improvement projects never seems to be completed.
The other business sells short-term consulting solutions to clients, so they are “all hands on deck” for 1-2 months and then may only have smaller tasks to fill in between the big installations. Yet during a slower schedule, clients wait a bit too long for response to their smaller requests.
You may see this in your own business, or in your own week. I know that I sometimes don’t have a large list of “done” items when I have a whole day to work on them, but can check off 1-2 proactive items in a few hours between client meetings.
The cause: What you are witnessing is an actual documented sociological principle I learned in college:
“Work expands to fill the time.”
The solution: plan, develop work habits, and track for accountability
- make a list of what needs to be accomplished – whiteboard on the wall or online tool such as asana.com
- plan the week with your big 3 (projects, not just ongoing work)
- begin each day tackling the next priority item
- end each day re-prioritizing what to focus on the next day
- review regularly, track progress and expect results
- remember that deadlines are motivational– pre-schedule a time to review a specific outcome
These steps will improve your own focus on activities that achieve results.
They also work well to focus your team members, build their work habits and hold them accountable.
The key is planning with progress reports in a weekly coaching conversation.
Perhaps take this Friday afternoon to plan out a few items on your “wish list” and then assign one 90 minute task to each day next week to make progress on the first one.
Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
Last week I was speaking with a small business owner who told me “you aren’t telling me anything I don’t know…
but HOW do I get my team working together to grow the business..
HOW do I get out of overwork and overwhelm?”
In a sentence, his firm lacks Accountability.
But what can/ should he do?
To quote an owner who has made this transition: “Knowing doesn’t make the difference.. it is Doing that matters.”
We talk about Accountability as if it is a “thing” that other companies have but we can’t seem to find, an elusive dream, a pink elephant.
Accountability is not something that is “done” to people but a contract between you (as coach) and your team member.
They know the Right Things to do, how and when to do them, what Right looks like, and agree to Get’r Done (said in your best Jeff Foxworthy voice).
It’s a process of being clear, getting people to commit, and then coaching with feedback, re-direction, praise, follow-up and sometimes tough love. It’s the proverbial “holding someone’s feet to the fire” or “inspecting what you expect.”
It’s also important that you have process to setup, agree to and expect Accountability.
The aforementioned owner thought his main problem was “finding better people”– yet a “better employee” will not be much more effective in a team who lacks accountability as a system.
Here are two quick videos from leaders on the accountability front to explain more:
From the Zenger Folkman group’s author Kathleen Stinnett, Accountability Success in Coaching
Great overview from Roger Connors of the Oz Principle: Steps to Accountability- Above the Line and Below the Line
Many organizations realize that “prior job experience” is only one element that determines success in a job role.
Since 82% of managers are in the wrong job— mid-size and large employers are looking toward other indicators to use for selection, career paths, training and development.
A client was mentioning his frustration with a fairly new employee, when these words were uttered “He seems disorganized, after one year.“
This person had 5 years of experience in a similar role and was hired with high expectations to come onboard, quickly learn the job, and start taking on more client work and responsibility to free up the owner’s time.
But you may have been in this situation before.
The person takes a bit more time than expected to “learn” the job (or at least your systems and procedures). And he does the activities of the job adequately, but doesn’t achieve the results you expected. Or take on a larger role or more responsibility that you would like.
So you spend more time monitoring and coordinating work, and feel like you still can’t delegate anything off your to-do list.
He is a stable employee in the role but the growth and impact is not what you wanted at one year.
So you are questioning the root cause of the performance gap:
- Are the expectations clear?
- Does this person want the role I thought I hired him for?
- Will training help?
- Is this even the right person?
This is a challenge for even the most seasoned People Coach.
To uncover the true cause of the gap between what an employee is doing and what you expect in the role, you need to “evaluate for job fit.”
To assist in this detective work, I have created an article and template to guide you.
Download the “Job Fit Performance Maximizer” here.