Leading your team to goal setting

Last week, I suggested that you communicate company goals to each team member so that your company-wide goals have context for them in their daily work and with their department’s goals. That’s only part of the job when working with team members and goal setting. The other part is making sure they have a process for identifying what they want to accomplish and how they will break it down and knock off the steps required to make departmental and personal goals happen.

Goal setting training?

You might be looking at that last paragraph and wondering how it is possible that anyone on your team doesn’t already have a process they’re happy with for goal setting. Have you asked them what process they use for identifying, prioritizing and achieving goals? For a business owner, this may not seem possible, but business owners usually have a different worldview, mindset, background (and so on) from at least some of their staff.

To shine a light on that thought: In all the companies I’ve worked for and with since I started post-collegiate work in the early ’80s, not one offered (much less required) goal setting training of any kind to help employees or teams with this critical responsibility.

NOT ONE. How is this possible?

Even if your team members have a goal setting / achievement process they are happy with, do you know how it fits with the process your company uses? What if yours is better? How will learning yours impact their work and life? What if THEIRS is better? How would that change the lives of the entire team and the future of the company?

Yes, training.

The same way that it’s possible for companies to forget to train their people on project management, process management, product management, etc. The assumption at companies that don’t do this may be that “We hired an experienced person, so we expect you to know this.”

That’s great, but if the experienced hire hasn’t been trained, or uses a sloppy, misguided or incomplete method – who pays for that? Even if the method is good, but it’s incompatible with your company’s process, it’s worth discussing.

Are these things a part of your employee on-boarding? Are you showing them where the health insurance forms are and how to file expense reports, but failing to provide them with information (and training) on the company’s preferred goal setting process? Are you spending any time acclimating them to how project management is done at the company?

Are they being trained on the systems and tools your company uses to communicate, manage projects, collect and review feedback, store ideas, plan projects and identify goals? If not, how will they thrive in your system?

People systems are as important as other systems

It’s all too easy to see a need in a company, hire for it, plug someone into a position and turn them loose like a replaceable part. You may feel that your front line people can be handled that way since they aren’t viewed as a strategic hire. I suggest that they are because they are customer-facing, but it’s more than that and goes back to our discussions last week where giving context to company goals is critical to achieving them.

When you take that concept of giving your team context to company goals and apply it to the systems across your entire company, even the front line staffer needs to know your systems and the importance of using them. How else will they determine and achieve their goals? How else will they know the importance of passing along client feedback, much less how to do it?

One of management’s responsibilities is to see that the staff has the systems and training to handle everyday situations. You train them to run the register, but it shouldn’t end there. What are you doing to prepare them to become of strategic value to your company? We see stories on a regular basis where someone started at an entry level position at a large company and somehow managed to end up as the company’s CEO (or as the company’s owner). These things don’t happen by accident.

How you prepare someone to become an integral part of your success is more important as any other training you provide. Train, mentor and guide them – even if you don’t plan for them to become CEO.

6 questions that will shake your productivity beliefs

The easy question sometimes ends up playing the role of the hardest one.

The easy question – What system (paper, software, methodology, whatever) do you use to manage ToDos, Goals and Priorities on an annual, monthly, weekly and daily basis?

That question is part of The Rescue Interview because managers, CEOs and company officers usually have a ToDo/Goal system that they use to organize and prioritize the work they do.

Typically, they’re using that system because of a book they read, a seminar they attended or because they were referred to it by someone whose productivity they admired. The last one tends to be the most prevalent source of the system that my clients are using, if they’re using anything. The “where I found the system” really isn’t important, but the referring person is. Pay attention to their habits and it will pay off.

Urgent!

If you have a system, the most important aspect of it is that you use it consistently. It can be a battle reminding / forcing yourself to focus on that system consistently every single day – particularly given life’s ever-present desire to inject other priorities.

If your daily focus doesn’t use your chosen productivity mechanism, you’re probably working as Covey describes – on the urgent but unimportant. You may roll your eyes because you’ve heard that phrase so many times – but does “urgent but unimportant” work still monopolize your daily routine?

Tougher questions

The next five questions are a little tougher:

  • What percentage of last year’s goals did you achieve?
  • What percentage of last month’s goals did you achieve?
  • Did you complete 100% of last week’s goals? If not, what percentage did you complete?
  • Did you complete 100% of the items on yesterday’s ToDo list? If not, what percentage did you complete?
  • Are you happy with those results?

If you’re happy with your answers and using your system on a daily basis, that’s great news – you can skip to the next section.

If you’re doing well but want to get better – Typically this is caused by a lack of daily use of the system that’s clearly working for you. Focus on your system more frequently, fine tune what works and get rid of the parts that don’t. It’s possible you’ll need a system better suited to your desired level of accomplishment / productivity. If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll know whether you’ve given the system a real chance to help you.

If you’re seriously disappointed with your level of accomplishment (not just “well, I can do better”), the current system may not work for you, but it’s more likely that you aren’t using it often enough (or at all). If you’re using it daily and are still disappointed, it’s probably time for a new system.

If you need a new system, ask the most productive person you know to show you what they use.

But wait, there’s more

Now that we’ve determined whether you have a system for getting more of the right things done, how well it works for you, whether you need to use it more often, or that you need a new system, it’s time to ask the questions you rarely get asked.

What system (paper, software, methodology, nothing) does YOUR STAFF use to manage ToDos, Goals and priorities on an annual, monthly, weekly and daily basis?

After refocusing on your entire business, ask yourself these six questions:

  • What percentage of last year’s goals did your staff achieve?
  • What percentage of last month’s goals did your staff achieve?
  • Did your staff complete 100% of last week’s goals? If not, what percentage were completed?
  • Did your staff complete 100% of the items on yesterday’s ToDo list? If not, what percentage were completed?
  • Are you happy with those numbers?
  • Are they happy with those numbers?

It’s not unusual for highly productive business owners to be shocked with themselves if their staff has no system.

Business owners who have worked hard to select and refine their own personal productivity system sometimes “forget” to pass that training and system on to their staff, much less implement a company-wide system that manages the ToDos / goals / priorities of their entire business. When they hear these questions, it hits home.

How are you and your staff doing?

PS: Julien Smith mentioned Action Method in his blog this morning. I haven’t tried it yet. Maybe it’ll fit your team.

Twelve Days of You

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Creative Commons License photo credit: gagilas

Think about your day.

What did you do yesterday?

Were you productive? When I ask that, what I mean is this: Can you reel off a list of high-priority things that you accomplished?

Did you waste any time?

How much of each hour did you spend on real, focused, dedicated work that actually produces a profit (either directly or indirectly)?

Let’s go on the assumption that you are one of the most productive people around and spent 50 minutes of each hour doing work of a nature that I just described.

That leaves 10 minutes to stretch, hit the restroom, and do whatever.

The Price

What’s that cost?

At a billable rate of $50 per hour, that ten minutes is only worth $5.00.

Or so it seems.

If you only work 40 hours a week, that 10 minutes consumes 400 minutes (about six hours) a week, worth $200.00.

In terms of time, that seems like a lot. In terms of money, maybe not so much.

Until

Until you multiply that times 50 weeks a year, when it becomes… Ten grand. 300 hours. 12 days.

Yet, you’ll assert that you don’t have enough time.

If you were focused and organized, what could you get done in twelve days?

9 minutes of “Will power”

Yesterday, I happened across this video montage of Will Smith interview clips that has him discussing what motivates him.

His comments on persistence, work ethic and competition are a good listen and well worth the 9 minutes.

Do you have that kind of will power?

What *finally* tripped your trigger?

During a recent mastermind session, the gang was talking about motivation and decision-making.

While that was stirring around in my head, I managed to stumble across CC Chapman’s insightful post about inspiration.

Stir in the TED Behind the Scenes video included in CC’s post, which I’ve included above. I strongly suggest you read CC’s comments even though the video is included above.

A few takeaways from the video:

  • Everyone fears failure. Even Sir Ken and the other TED speakers.
  • None of these people are perfect.
  • They all seem to have a very clear vision of what they want to accomplish and what’s really, truly important to them.
  • Watch what Raghava KK says to Ken Robinson after Raghava’s talk – and how Ken responds.

Little Things

A takeaway from the mastermind chat was recognizing the importance of the little wins that happen when you’re just starting toward a big goal. These little wins are, at first, what fuel us to become what everyone else eventually sees as an overnight success.

A friend who has lost almost 100 lbs over the last 2 years reminded me of this when saying (paraphrased) “No one sees me doing the hard stuff. The sweat. The celery. They only see the result, and they have no idea how hard it was to get here.”

That friend didn’t say that angrily, but was recognizing that few see the bulk of the effort we make on the way to our goals. The people who didn’t see the loss 500 calories at a time after an hour on the treadmill almost every day for 2 years know better, but some still have the impression that it disappeared overnight.

Little successes. A mile in 15 minutes today. A mile in 14 minutes after 2 weeks of effort.

Doesn’t seem like much unless you’re the one having those successes.

Translating that elsewhere

Those small victories fuel the confidence to keep going, regardless of the goal you’re chasing.

I remember a sale to the Wyoming Red Cross and having the X-Prize folks use my software back when almost no one had heard of them (much less me). Those events were a couple of the small victories I look back on that were essential to building the confidence that helped me move forward.

Remembering those got me to wondering about the small victories that encouraged you. I’d like to hear about them.

Don’t Listen to these Creativity Killers

Green Elephants Garden Sculptures
Creative Commons License photo credit: epSos.de

I‘ve been reading John Maxwell’s “How Successful People Think” recently.

This list of creativity killing comments from John’s book reminded me of so many things going on in the world these days that I simply had to make it a guest post.

How many times have you heard these comments when you shared an idea?

  • Follow the rules.
  • Don’t ask questions.
  • Don’t be different.
  • Stay within the lines.
  • There is only one way.
  • Don’t be foolish.
  • Be practical.
  • Be serious.
  • Think of your image.
  • That’s not logical.
  • It’s not practical.
  • It’s never been done.
  • It can’t be done.
  • It didn’t work for them.
  • We tried that before.
  • It’s too much work.
  • We can’t afford to make a mistake.
  • It will be too hard to administer.
  • We don’t have the time.
  • We don’t have the money.
  • Yes, but …
  • Failure is final.

While some of them might be worth a discussion somewhere down the road, they’re guaranteed to kill creative thought during idea formation.

This is just a sliver of the riches in this compact, valuable read: Buy and READ John’s book.

One guy and 12 minutes to a lifelong customer @SouthwestAir

Not long ago, a little boy was murdered.

Soon after, his grandpa was traveling to see his little 3 year old grandson one last time.

He was running for the plane, desperately late despite getting to the airport several hours before departure.

After two hours of standing in line, pleading with TSA officials and airline employees to help him get to his gate on time, his perception was that no one seemed to care how important it was to make that plane.

Waiting

While the drama takes place in the ticket and security line, the airplane was sitting at the gate.

Waiting, waiting and more waiting.

It’s a Southwest airplane.

Anyone who has traveled with and/or read about Southwest knows that one of their top operational priorities is fast turnaround at the airport’s gate.

It’s simple. Planes make money in the air. They don’t make money sitting at the gate.

Southwest takes that to heart. Their focus on at-the-gate efficiency is so well polished that they can turn a plane from arrival to departure in 20 minutes, 2-3 times faster than many competitors.

Every employee is well aware of that focus.

The grapevine

Somehow, someone at the gate found out.

Despite the focus on turnaround and the potential risk to their jobs, the ticketing agent and pilot refused to move the plane away from the gate until the grandpa arrived.

People know to make these kinds of decisions every day, but they often don’t out of fear for their jobs or the specter of “policy”.

The wrong kind of business culture breeds that behavior.

The right kind of business culture empowers their employees to make decisions that are the right ones for the customer at that moment, even if they temporarily fly in the face of business policy or strategic goals. They hire and train with those things in mind.

The agent and pilot knew what should be done and took action.

Loyalty

Who do you think that grandpa and family fly with in the future?

Opportunities to create life-long loyalty are fleeting. Make the most of the ones you get and make sure your people do too.

Especially when it’s the right thing to do.

The President of You


Creative Commons License photo credit: dev null

Been talking about this for a good while, glad to find someone else who agrees.

There is one President who matters to your business: The President of you.

What you do today, tomorrow, the next day and every day to improve your products, services, customer support, and to continue to provide better value to your customers makes a ton more difference in the results seen in your business than anything done by anyone else, regardless of party, regardless of office.

Quit fussing over elections and political issues. If you want to make a difference in your business, get to work.

PS: Happy Veterans Day. Thank you to Veterans for all you did. Thank you to active duty personnel for all you’ve done and continue to do.

Just One Thing

One of my favorite movies – and a scene that every business owner needs to consider.

What’s your business’ one thing?  What’s yours?

Is that what the bulk of your current efforts are working towards?

If you need some help figuring that out – or just staying focused on it – check out The Power of Focus.

Why is management tracking us? Evidence.

I‘ve been reading Joel Spolsky’s blog for a really long time.

So long that he’s sort of retired it, or at least changed it substantially from its earlier days.

There are some posts I return to frequently. The Joel Test being one of them.

The Joel Test is a simple 12 checkbox way to tell if your software company is serious about what it does. You may not agree with all of the items on the list, but there’s a darned good reason for each one of them.

Ship it on time is not in the vocabulary

One of the biggest problems software companies have is shipping a product on a schedule. On time, that is.

The biggest ones (Microsoft, Intuit, Apple and Adobe come to mind) seem to have figured most of this out, evidenced by annual releases of their mainstream products (eg: Office, QuickBooks, iTunes and Creative Suite). Naturally, everyone can think of an exception case for those 4 companies.

The rest – especially the smaller ones – seem to get sucked into a maelstrom of delivery problems. Part of the reason is that programming is a bit of an art and a science rolled into one.

Add management issues to that and you begin to see why the Joel Test is so important.

Bigger

Shipping on time requires far more than just discipline. It requires a system (or systems) for making things happen, or not happen.

Ultimately, this involves people and their performance – which varies widely from task to task.

Shipping on time requires that you know how long things take – and that this varies from task to task and person to person. Not the mythical man-month where we can get 9 pregnant women together to make a baby in a month (a classic software company problem), but the kind where we know that Joe, Sandy and Jerry produce different kinds of work results at different speeds – and that’s OK. Really.

This has applications in your business even if you don’t produce software.

Today’s guest post, Joel’s Evidence-Based Scheduling, discusses how collecting real-world information about how your folks work (and how their work environment works) isn’t just some evil management plan to cut back on the number and lengths of the bathroom breaks employees take, but in fact can be the secret sauce to setting deadlines that make sense to everyone and then going out there and ACTUALLY HITTING THEM.

Yes, all that noise you just heard is software developers and product managers worldwide hitting the floor, or their foreheads, or something.

Think about what it would mean to your business to be able to accurately schedule work and then DELIVER IT on time. Think about what it would mean to be able to do that time after time, despite changes in the work product you’ve been asked to produce (no matter what you do).

Why it’s OK to gather the evidence

Measuring the work you and your staff do serves your business well IF you do it and IF you use what you find to make your company better.

In some lines of work, measuring staff performance is considered evil and predatory and downright wrong. Those folks should be arguing against the poor methods used to measure the work, rather than the measurement itself. No matter what you use, some prognosticate that their work can’t be measured.

Horse hockey.

Again, please note that Joel’s article doesn’t talk about measuring so he can flog his poor staff, pay them less or belittle them. He simply does it so they can set a date to accomplish a task and have some sort of assurance that they’ll come close to hitting it.

Ultimately, gathering this “evidence” serves everyone – and especially the customer who buys their products. The company that can build complex products and services to spec on time and on budget might just have an edge, ya think?

Saying what you’ll do and then having the systems in place to help make sure you do what you said. How revolutionary.