Set the pace

The organization keys off of its leaders


Remember your first day of school? Remember all the doubts and insecurity, as well as the eagerness to get started?

The first day of work can be the same, right? Even if you’re a senior leader – is the team strong? Are they organized? What do they expect of me? Will I like it?

As a senior leader, people look to you, and your task is pretty clear – organize and lead the charge towards the goal.

Here are four behaviors that I’ve followed for any organizational entry:

  1. Survey the team. Who are they? What motivates them? What do they hope you will do?
  2. Set a goal. Whether it is one that you come up with, or it is an already established one from the organization – publicize it, affirm it, and build the metrics that will show progress and success.
  3. Build action steps and timelines. What are the strategies to reach the goal? What are the tactics to drive the strategies? How will those be measured?
  4. Follow up and follow through. Is the team on track? Are they lacking a key resource? Is there a roadblock that needs to be removed?

As the leader, you set the pace for the organization. One of my supervisors once said, “I move with purposeful urgency.” That’s a fantastic summary statement, and I’ve kept it in mind ever since I heard it.

Here’s the live example of how I’ve put these behaviors to work.

  1. Quick meetings with direct reports, as well as colleagues, were crucial. Key concern was the state of the business, particularly the top line.
  2. To address that concern, the team needed to hit the sales forecast. The critical action to this was to elevate this from an episodic exercise for the team, to an ongoing way of looking at the business.
  3. Action steps around the task were many and varied, but boiled down to three things:
    1. Make sure we were all on the same page for the actual forecast template, and using the same analytical framework
    2. Talk through the forecast assumptions with the team, and pull in cross functional resources to make them real
    3. Set up a series of spaced milestone check ins throughout the month and quarter
  4. For follow up and follow through, the spaced milestones served as a forum for communication. I also kept notes, and brought them with me to the meetings, to ensure we had forward progress.

Leveraging this framework, and guiding the team through it, can enable organizational success. Which is why you were selected in the first place.

And remember – set the pace. Be purposeful and vigorous in pursuit of the goal; people will notice, and follow.

What framework do you use? Do you have any organizational entry stories that you’d like to share?

Are your New Year resolutions SMART?

SMART goals improve your odds of success

It’s that time of year again!  The beginning of any period is an opportunity for renewal, but somehow nothing gets our juices going quite like the new yearMany people will make resolutions, but the real question is – will they be successful, or will “resolutionary fervor” dissipate in early February?

A strategy I’ve used is taken straight from the business world – setting SMART goals.  Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timebound goals tend to be completed, and the SMART structure allows you to quickly put together a draft and track your progress.  Let’s take a quick look at the elements.

  • Specific.  The goal is not “squishy” – it is very focused.
  • Measurable.  The goal can be quantified and progress tracked.
  • Achievable.  The goal can be done – it is not beyond the capability of the individual.  This is important, since it improves stickiness.  If the individual doesn’t believe it can happen, they will quit before they get started.
  • Relevant.  The goal has connection to the individual.
  • Timebound.  There is a start and stop period.  This aids in measurement, too.

Let’s take a typical example from this time of the year – improving your health by losing weight.  Using the SMART format, it might look like this:  “I will lose 15 pounds by the end of May.”

  • Is it Specific?  Yes – losing pounds/weight.
  • Is it Measurable?  Yes – we’ve called the number of pounds at 15.
  • Is it Achievable?  Yes – for a person over 150 pounds, it is less than 10% of their body weight.
  • Is it Relevant?  Yes – it connects to health, and there are subroutines that can be built (exercise, eating, etc.) to support it.
  • Is it Timebound?  Yes – by end of May gives us 5 months to complete the task.

This is a simple example of using the SMART structure to set and achieve goals. To make it even more “sticky” and improve the odds of success, share your goal with an accountability partner who can help you track against it.

Do you have others?  What’s your top goal for 2016?

Don’t Be Stupid. Don’t Be the Boss. Lead.

Micromanagement breeds cynicism

A common phrase used by my military supervisors was “Don’t be stupid.”  Besides the mission, my overriding goal while in uniform was not being “That Guy.”

Here’s how I avoid it in my corporate life – be a leader.

Humility is a big part of leadership.  I’ve observed time and again how The Boss is convinced that he is the Smartest Guy in the Room, and dictates not only the objective, but the strategy and the tactics.  This worked when they were a functional expert (maybe), or technical leader – but it doesn’t work when in charge of a larger, cross functional team.

Some might call that micromanagement.  I just call it being stupid.  Which is why micromanagers are often referred to as The Boss.

Learning from others is a key part of being a leader.  Three key tasks can set you apart as A Leader, vs. being The Boss:

  • Invite interaction.  Lay out the issue at hand, and ask for input.  Sincerely ask for input, with an open mind – not filibuster for 7 minutes and then look at the team, asking, “What do you think?”  The filibuster breeds cynicism. True interaction brings out team engagement.
  • Listen. Really, really listen. I know that is difficult for driver types, but ensure that you look at the person speaking (not at your phone), and ask clarifying questions.
  • Check for engagement. Once the team has determined the course of action, summarize the next steps. Then, go around the group and ask if anyone has anything to add. Make sure they verbalize or acknowledge. In a functioning team, this simple step can be the glue that binds the team to the decision, or uncovers the hidden dissent that starts the process over again.

For The Boss, there is only one way – their way.  With a Leader, the team engagement identifies several options – and the group selects the right one.

Is the person you work for a Boss, or a Leader? Which will you be? It’s a choice – and it’s up to you.