When you subtract weekends and holidays, there are about 100 business days remaining in 2014. Any way you look at it, the clock is ticking and you may have less time than you thought to accomplish the things you set out to achieve in January.
Do your colleagues feel your sense of urgency? If they do, how will you focus their time to produce the greatest impact to your organization? If they don’t, what must you do to get them moving?
Sense of Urgency
Leaders of high-performing companies create a sense of urgency in their organizations driven by purpose and fueled by an attitude of acting with immediacy and discipline to drive the results they expect. These high-performing companies follow a written plan that’s more than a roadmap for getting them from Point A to Point B. It’s also their contract for driving accountability.
For companies whose fiscal year ends on December 31, the period between now and year-end is strategic planning season.
Every year, leaders gather their teams and develop some version of a strategic plan. Every year, most of those plans fail. What separates high-performing companies from average performers is high-performing companies use their planning session to build trust, identify the biggest barriers to success, and agree on the top priorities that must be accomplished. They develop a plan to address those priorities and then execute their plan with commitment and discipline.
I’ve led nearly 200 planning sessions and there are countless reasons strategic plans fail. Failure to build trust tops the list of reasons most plans fail to produce the results leaders say they want. Without trust, your colleagues are unwilling to talk about the meaty issues that need to be discussed and resolved.
Failure to hold one another accountable to the commitments made in the planning session is a close second.
Take these four steps between now and year-end to ensure the plan you and your colleagues develop will deliver the results you expect in 2015:
- Redefine the status quo. Ask yourself and your colleagues: What would new management do if they were to come in and replace the existing team? Talk openly and honestly about the things that are holding you back. Declare open season on “business as usual.” Don’t change your principles. Change your practices. At your next staff meeting, ask your direct reports to write down their five biggest frustrations. You’ll see patterns. Pick the biggest obstacle and then commit as a team to remove that obstacle to increase organizational and individual effectiveness for the home stretch of 2014.
- Set clear expectations. It’s your job to establish and communicate your expectations—for your organization, for departments, for individuals, and for yourself. It may sound paradoxical, but setting clear expectations provides a sense of freedom for employees because it frees them from making bad choices. Size up your lieutenants and give them all they can handle. You’re not dumping on them so much as sharing the opportunity for learning and growth. Be sure everyone understands the rewards and penalties of acceptable and unacceptable performance. When you are clear about expectations, you improve performance and minimize the emotion often swirling around issues of accountability in the workplace.
- Make performance visible. Your best players want to see how they’re doing and how their performance is helping the organization make progress against its objectives. Make sure you’re measuring the things that are most important to customers, suppliers and employees—not just to you. Track, communicate and evaluate organizational and individual performance in a timely, consistent manner. And while it’s standard practice to track sales, profit, safety and units shipped, consider tracking soft indicators such as speed of decision-making, fun, pride, flexibility, etc., as a way to shine a spotlight on overlooked indicators that can improve your workplace culture. Make sure all of your employees connect—intellectually, emotionally and financially—to the things you’re measuring.
- Honor commitments. Back up promises with tangible evidence. When people perform, reward them. Failure to reward achievement in a consistent manner hurts your credibility. As you hand out rewards for exemplary performance, be sure you’re taking into account the non-monetary methods—there are five broad categories of these—as well as the monetary methods for motivating people. Likewise, employees that can’t step up must be asked to step aside. Failure to weed out under-performers sends the wrong signal to those who have embraced your new challenges, damages your reputation, and hinders your ability to drive change. Your people are watching to see if they can count on you.