This blog is all about my latest insights into growth, strategy, and execution.
It’s that time of year.
Yes, we’re at the annual planning season.How will you be making sure you get frontline feedback or input in your upcoming annual planning process? Although strategy is usually created at the top of the organization, it’s implemented by the middle managers and the front line. They have a lot to add, especially about how things actually get done. It’s imperative that you include them in the process somehow; you learn things that you aren’t aware of and it creates buy-in when you act on their input. At the same time, including frontline feedback in the annual planning session is usually impossible. It’s just too many people.
So, how do you make the most of this time of the year?
I have two solutions for you. One solution gets the job done. Another one is riskier but delivers much better results.
My first suggestion isn’t difficult to do.
Do a “start, stop, keep” survey of every person in the company. Use something like Survey Monkey or Google forms sent to everyone, asking four questions.
- To continue the success of our organization, what are one or two things that we need to start doing that we aren’t already doing? Please explain.
- To continue the success of our organization, what are one or two things we need to stop doing? Please explain.
- To continue the success of our organization, what are one or two things that we do well that we need to keep doing? Please explain.
- What else to you want to tell us?
Do the survey confidentially. No tracking answers back to names. Don’t even spend time trying to figure out who said what. Compile the information, and then during your planning sessions analyse the data. You’ll certainly get some quick hits on some simple things to do to improve the company. Additionally, you gain insight into your company culture, teamwork, and execution. You’ll certainly get a lot of feedback on what the team needs to succeed.
After your sessions are over, make sure you formally thank the organization for the input, and tell them what you learned from them. Let them know what you are committing to as a result of the survey. This is important. If you don’t do this last step, you can forget getting honest answers in any future surveys.
The second suggestion delivers even better results.
My second suggestion is to have, what we call at Gravitas Impact, a Pre Annual-Planning Accelerator session with the front line and middle managers. It’s a half-day session, without the senior leadership of the company, that delivers the necessary frontline feedback. It’s specifically designed to capture direct input from the participants. You have an outside facilitator (a Gravitas Impact Premium Coach or equivalent) work the participants through a series of exercises: Victories or Bright Spots, SWOT, and Five Highest Priorities. Then the participants prepare a briefing for the senior leadership team. When this is completed, the senior leadership comes in and reviews what has been documented and then listens to the briefings. Senior leaders get to only ask up to two questions each, providing no commentary.
The conversations are rich, the insights are phenomenal, and they result in a better annual-planning session afterwards. The team building and leadership development is beneficial, as well.
Click here to get more information about my Pre Annual-Planning Accelerator session.
My clients that have the strongest benches, or work on building a strong bench, are usually my most confident decision makers. I see this confidence in all of their decisions not just the staffing ones.
That’s because they know they aren’t stuck if someone leaves or has to be asked to leave. There are options available, maybe not perfect ones, but options. Things won’t fall apart. They’ll be able to get through it.
This is why one of the primary responsibilities of the CEO, and his leadership team, is building the bench.
Each member of the leadership team should be on the constant lookout for the good people from within their organization that can be moved up as well as people from outside the organization who they would love to add to the organization. Even at times when promotions from within or positions also offered to those outside are not available. Besides being on the lookout, they should be nurturing relationships with those people as well.
One of the certainties of business is that people will leave you.
People retire. They get recruited away, or their spouses get transferred. Some get burnt out, and others get asked to leave. It’s going to happen no matter what. Hopefully, most of it will be positive. No matter the reason though, you can minimize the impact and act faster by developing your bench and your virtual bench. The virtual bench is those people you want to add but don’t have a position for at a particular time.
I have some clients that keep a chart that they review each month of all the people on their two types of benches. They track where they are in building a relationship with them so when they do have to add people, they can do it quickly. These clients hold themselves accountable for it. It’s a metric they have to report on to each other.
Besides making yourself more confident about staffing changes and additions, building the benches builds confidence in all the other decisions as well. Your entire team will get better and better. With that, the pressure from the many tough situations you face lessens. Better input, faster response, better execution. Better results.
Want to build your confidence? Build your benches.
Want a template of that Bench Building Worksheet? Schedule a time to talk to me about it.
At all the quarterly sessions I facilitate for my clients, we celebrate! That is, we start with a Victories, Brags, and Personal Pride exercise. We’re trying to set up the day well by taking time to identify the organizational wins and individual accomplishments that have occurred since the last quarter. It’s important to do so, because the challenge of the moment (or the bad news of the day) naturally takes up space in the front of our minds. This can render the good work and victories to go unnoticed. Doing this exercise forces a celebration that frees up the minds of the participants to more open dialogue and better decision making for the day. It’s also a great team building and learning experience. Teams are always somewhat astounded by the number of victories and personal accomplishments that have been achieved. Awareness of them is an opportunity to build your culture.
Everyone has to participate in the exercise, personally presenting the victories and accomplishments they have witnessed. Here’s where the exercise gets serious. I don’t let them just announce the victory or accomplishment; I push the presenter to dig deeper and go beyond the obvious. Each is required to:
- tie the victory or a accomplish to a core value,
- and/or go into detail about how it was accomplished,
- and the impact it will have on the future of the team.
I push hard on this, because I want the participants we celebrate to be both cheerleader and coach.
Think about a football game and when your favorite team scores.
The cheerleaders go crazy, making sure the team and every player know that they have done something good. They’re celebrating. That’s important; it needs to be done.
But what are the coaches doing? Of course they go crazy, too. We usually see them jumping up and down, ripping their headsets off, hugging players, and giving each other high fives. Kind of like the cheerleaders, but very shortly afterwards they switch gears and go back to work. They stop the key participants in the play and start giving them feedback on why the play was successful and why their individual parts of it worked. They often get into technique and tell them what they did differently this time that they didn’t do last time they ran the play. Coaches might even give some input on how to do it even better next time.
When the coaches do this, the players know what to repeat, what to differently, and what to do better. They copy from each other. It’s all to build towards another victory or accomplishment.
That’s why I push people in the exercise to get specific identifying the core value exhibited and the specific details of their successes. Those involved learn from this. They can copy the successes of others. Then, they get inspired to find additional successes, and the culture grows.
Finally, I ask one more question. “Have you told these people (especially those not in the room) and everyone else in the company about these successes and why they are important for the company?” Often the team sheepishly admits that haven’t done this. This is immediately added to the “Who What When” list to be completed after the session.
If you haven’t been keeping track of victories and accomplishments, start doing that and celebrating. When you are doing that, start cheering. If you are already cheering, start coaching. It’s how you build culture.
Gravitas Impact means more. Much more.
My coaching organization recently broke away from its parent/partner organization, and I went with them (or stayed with them, depending on your point of view).
Gravitas Impact hasn’t dramatically transformed my effectiveness or expertise as a coach just yet. Currently, I’m working from the same body of knowledge and techniques from my previous affiliation. However, with Gravitas Impact, my body of knowledge, techniques, tools, and support will grow significantly. In fact, the transformation process has already started.
It means more, so much more.
We’re building from our base, The Four Decisions Model®, and adding new thought leaders, as well as new content, new tools and new support. We’ll be able to continue to “unleash growth” but in a premium way.
The Four Decisions Model® applies to all business leaders. Each leader, no matter the challenges, faces four critical decision areas that must be addressed correctly in order to maximize revenue, profit and time—and ultimately enjoy breakthrough business growth. It focuses around people, strategy, execution, and cash.
Gravitas Impact, let me translate it for you. Coaches of substance that bring companies, CEOs, and teams to life in order to unleash their growth.
Let’s stay in touch. When you’re ready to learn more, set up a Discovery Meeting. Ready now? Click that button below.
Rocks or Sand?
That is the question. Is it nobler to push the sand or move the rocks? If you have read my book you know that the answer is not one or the other, but both. Both need to be front and center within your organization if you want to unleash growth.
So, why can’t you keep both front and center?
Because the sand is relentless, makes your money for you, and is immediate. I recently talked to my pastor about this. He knows what I do and was asking for advice on moving the parish forward. He had read my book. “I just can’t get to the rocks that will build our parish, the need to minister (his sand) never stops coming and the rocks never get attention. I can’t say no to ministering to others.” So the growth of the parish is stalled. But if he doesn’t get to the rocks, the ministering will disappear. I’m going to be advising him on how to make both front and center.
It’s not easy but necessary.
Your sand is “right now” and demands and requires immediate attention. Rocks are for the future yet should be worked on now too. If not, the sand will go away. Either that, or the sand will become quicksand that will swallow you up.
The title of this post makes me want to ask an additional question about your talking or conversing.
Are you or aren’t you talking about your Rocks and Sand?
We GI Coaches often say that “Meeting Rhythm Moves the Rocks.” I say it all the time. What we really are saying is that “CONVERSATIONS move the Rocks and Sand.”
Timely, regular, effective conversations get things done.
It’s not that I want you talking to each other all the time. That would drive most of us crazy and take up so much time. But at regular intervals of the daily huddle, weekly meeting, monthly meetings, and quarterly meetings you should be having the appropriate types of conversations about the Rocks and Sand.
You want conversations that generate progress.
Except at the daily huddles, the conversations should veer away from the “tell and sell” conversational pattern and towards the co-creator pattern. How you converse is just as important as what you are conversing about. Make the how and what match.
You must have these conversations if you want growth. Make sure they take place whether you think you need them or not.
To see your Rocks and Sand, they must be visible. Visibility is one of the better ways to make sure your Rocks and Sand stay front and center. Are your Rocks and Sand visible to your organization?
Can others in your company see the Rocks that need to be moved?
One of the best ways to do this is to have a war room or a war wall. Post the lists, the graphs, the pictures, and the progress in this place. You want your team to see the progress; this is most important.
Have a wall, or set of walls, with white board paint. Or, just have a set of walls where you can post flip-chart sheets, or posters, depicting what everyone needs to see. What do they need to know, and what needs to be worked on? Show the progress being made. Let those involved see pictures that layout for everyone what processes to follow and how things fit together.
In the past few years, we have seen lots of digital tools developed for companies to use to document plans, and processes, and data, and progress. Great innovative tools are out there. While some are useful, I’ve been thinking that the immediacy of hand drawn charts and tables and diagrams do a better job of keeping the Rocks and Sand (both) front and center, and they’re more engaging.
Use those digital tools to get the work done and enhance communications, for sure, but have the visual pictures too. It will make a huge difference. Try it and see.
Do you think having good people or good strategy is more important for the growth of your organization?
It’s not one or the other. It is really both your people and your strategy. It’s kind of a chicken and egg thing.
Good people want good strategy.
They want, no, they require good strategy. They want to be a part of it. In other words, they want to create it, and they want to implement it. Growth happens faster with the right people plugged in the right places.
Good strategy requires good people.
Not automatrons following orders. You want team members with good judgment, and people who are good with other people. You need those on your team who can be analytical.
It’s good strategy to hire good people. Get good people, and build a great strategy.
A TopGrading Talent / Hiring Tune Up can help you identify your talent. Know who your “A,” “B,” and “C” players are and how to hire more “A” players.
That about wraps it up. Create a great strategy and build a team of good people.
The most important question to ask your customers is…oh, but don’t ask right away.
It is an important question to ask but not during the sales process.
Ask it after you have landed the customer and have delivered well on your commitments. Ask it of all your existing customers that you think are your “Core Customers,” those that love you, are loyal, tell others about you, don’t bitch about price, and are fun to work with.
Keep in mind that this set of customers is probably only 20% of your client base but probably delivers 80% of your business.
Here’s the question:
- “Do you remember when you first talked to us (or ordered from us)? Will you tell me about what was going on in your business and job that made you decide to make a change and consider us?”
Then probe the answer to death to gain insight as to what drove their decision to make the change and talk to you. Resist the urge to make another sale.
In fact, don’t let your sales person make this call or ask this question.
You as the CEO, or maybe a marketing expert, make this particular call. This is not a salespeople call; they’ll try to make a sale and ruin the conversation.
The answers you get will be the keys to building a great “brand promise” to apply to all of your customers and prospects. Infuse what you learn into all of your processes that intersect with your customers. This should be reflected in marketing, sales, customer service, etc.
Get ready to learn and grow.
Usually, I’ll post recommended book lists a couple of times a year. This recommendation for selling couldn’t wait.
Stop Selling and Start Leading
This is a book your management/sales team should read.
I mean it. Read it. Don’t pick it up and set it on your credenza or nightstand. Order it, and crack it open as soon as you get it. Finish it quickly. Then put it to work.
We’ve all learned that the sales game has changed. Customers don’t want to be sold, but they do want to buy.
Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner have taken their findings on leadership from their seminal book, The Leadership Challenge and have explored the world of sales and have learned that the way customers buy lines up with the strong leadership habits outlined in The Leadership Challenge. They have compiled this new book, Stop Selling and Start Leading (with additional co-author Deb Calvert) that outlines and demonstrates how it works.
Your best sales people (if you have good ones) aren’t pitching anything to customers and prospects. They are leading them through a buying process to make good decisions through good leadership behaviors. Modeling the Way, Inspiring a Shared Vision, Challenging the Process, Enabling Others to Act, Encouraging the Heart.
Get Stop Selling and Start Leading, and get to work.
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