12 years ago I enhanced my workout routine by joining a gym that is focused on a circuit training type routine. The specific difference is that there is a Whiteboard that lays out all exercises to be completed within an hour. It is instructor led, but not one on one; we are broken up into groups and the instructor is there to educate us on the workout before we start, to answer questions as we move through the Whiteboard, and to motivate us to do the routine the right way and finish on time. The result is that my workout group has had the same people in it for all these years (low turnover) and everyone works hard and gets along. They are all top notch people in general as well. However, if you took the white board and instructor (our leader) away from us, we would probably just drink coffee and do a couple of sets of something, or we would most likely leave and go find a better leader/organization to be part of. Staying with the gym/workout theme….. Who do you think performs higher – people who go to an instructor/course led facility where they are held accountable, or those who go to a regular gym and their routine and motivation is all on them? Just walk into each type of facility and the answer is apparent.
People expect strategy, motivation, and accountability to be driven by leadership. It is a mistake to convince ourselves that the team should just be naturally motivated, strategic, and hold themselves accountable. If this were the case, why would leaders be needed. Only 10% of people do these things naturally and rise to the top. However, that 10% and the other 90%, expect the organization and their leader to lead them on their path to success. This is the same for me when I go to my 5:45 a.m. class each morning; My expectation is that I am going to show up, be led, and I am going to perform at a very high-level because of the environment, the leadership, and my peers all being on the same page.
Leaders should always provide the vision/plan, give guidance and motivate others for execution, and inspect/hold others accountable. Otherwise, the team might just be wondering around the gym and getting much less of a work-out completed.
As a leader, it is a constant battle to have the right plan, attitude, and belief that success is attainable and within reach. The leadership commitment is to exude confidence and be a positive force in the organization at all times. People check their leader(s) for genuine feeling/emotion constantly, and what they are looking for is positive energy, motivation, and hope.
When you are dealing with the biggest issues and are feeling a bit down – know that no matter what you do, your true feelings and state of mind are trickling down to those you lead. You may believe you are not showing a negative side to your team, and you may even say that your peers, but don’t fool yourself for too long. In these moments (which there are many in leadership) we must act swiftly and do whatever it takes to get our heads back in the right place; only then will others feed off of the positive energy they need and deserve, and in turn everyone is then part of the solution.
Reminds me of a great quote………..
“To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart”
– Eleanor Roosevelt
If you fail to handle yourself first, others will feel it and the impact is magnified.
The importance of relationships is generally understood in business. Given there is little opposition to the concept it is easy to assume that all will act accordingly and need little guidance. However, we must be consistently intentional about the Relationships that are built and maintained with our Clients and Team Members. I am fortunate to have been brought up in environments where Relationships were at the forefront of how we cared for Clients and our Team Members, therefore it has always been the #1 focus and I would argue that it is what has made our organization special and attractive. In regards to measurable results: Long-tenured team members, high client retention rates, and consistently performing at the highest level in our sector, are all attributed to our intense focus on Relationships, more than anything else.
Not many people in life give more than they receive (I recommend the book “Go Giver” if you have not read it), but that is exactly how great relationships start and how they are maintained. When this happens, the other side gives back in the form of trust which is the centerpiece of any great relationship. The hardest thing is training on this concept and getting people to really understand what it takes, and then to make sure they start doing it rather than just thinking they are. In regards to our clients, we should make sure to continuously train team members (typically sales will have the most responsibility in this area) on all that they should be doing to build great relationships, and we should inspect their efforts along the way and provide feedback/mentoring as needed. In regards to our team members, every Leader and Manager must have the same level of understanding as to what great relationships are and the commitment required to build them with those they lead, which is the only way for the concept to be ingrained in the organization’s culture.
While the concept of relationships being important is easy to understand, it is also the easiest to ignore in the face of other more tangible challenges. As we grow, our organizations will need new systems, additional team members, and we will confront many new issues. While all of these things should and will change, the one constant has to be our commitment to having the best Relationships with our Clients and our Team Members. Great Relationships will not only get us through it all, they will also be the reason that we lead the way.
To provide context, let’s define a “project” as it relates to this post: A project is a complex issue, with a defined set of goals, that requires a leader to influence/motivate many others, implement strategy, inspect, and ensure execution.
The vision for an organization is one big project that cascades into other projects and supporting goals, which also have cascading projects that are nested all the way down. The importance of justification and prioritization is critical at every level.
All projects (starting with the highest level vision) must be justified; Similar to culture, they should not just “happen” and there should be some guiding principles/values in place.
Here are some tips on justifying projects:
- Challenge, challenge, challenge; The leader should vigorously challenge their own projects/vision during the planning process. The higher level the leader is, the less likely they are to be challenged by others, therefore know that it is appropriate to be hard on yourself when planning. Then ask your peer group to beat you up a bit more; which is all about crisp justification for something that is about to be your obsession for a period of time, and that will impact many (if not all) others in the organization.
- When assisting others in justifying their projects: Ensure they have gone through the exercise above by having them answer the following questions:
- Why in the heck should we do this?
- Is it supported by our overall vision?
- What will our measurable(s) be?
- If successful, will the results be material?
- What happens if the project fails? This should be the last question because the answer(s) will validate importance/justification
In regards to prioritizing projects:
- Stack/rank by measurable and the impact of outcomes
- No one should have more than 3-5 direct projects at any given time; any excess should be kicked down the list or deleted (if they are important they will resurface)
- If there are too many projects for the leaders who are available to manage them, change an input. Either the team/investment needs to grow, or the priorities need to shrink to a manageable level. The key is in justifying the projects first; if there really are more than the team can handle and they have all been justified, grow the team and invest in people and resources at a higher rate.
The things that we find ourselves hoping for, are exactly those that we need to break down into actionable projects with the appropriate accountability/inspection points. We have to be intentional about our success, while being able to predict failures and act in advance to avoid them.
Today is the day. Dive into your areas of hope; break them down, and turn hope into the highest probability of success. Once that corner is turned, stress is minimized and confidence replaces hope.
This is true at every level of the organization. We each have a personality type that is better suited for a certain role. The most successful leaders realize this and are purposeful in how they organize their team. An Executive Team with all the same personality types will fail to capitalize on all the opportunities to grow and deliver the expected results. The same goes for departmental teams; if everyone is the same, working together takes no effort, but failure is likely just around the corner.
Below is a snapshot of a behavioral analysis for MCCi’s Management Team (I have redacted all the initials other than mine). This is just one snapshot of a report that we are able to view – there are many others for each person’s personality, their decision making style, communication style, etc.
Understanding personalities and conforming to them is a leadership responsibility. As leaders, we should not expect others to conform to our personalities.
Many organizations have started personality testing prospective hires to make sure they have role alignment, which is the first step in building a successful team. The next step is to analyze existing teams and go through the exercise of understanding (which is the same thing as respecting) one another; there is much more relationship building and alignment work to do after joining forces.
Things never go as planned with large projects/big changes. If the proper inspection cadence is not set as part of rolling out the plan, then it is futile to be frustrated by a lack of execution. I have accepted that where people (and even the best people) are required, certain things will not start, be done as intended, be finished, etc., without proper follow-up by the leader…….and that with more people, the chance of miss-alignment is magnified.
For the project to be worth starting, the leader of the project must be willing to do what is required for success and put in the inspection points at the onset. Similar to a meeting being unproductive with out a leader, agenda, and set duration, so is a plan that does not include an audit process.