No matter what your profession, you have projects. Projects are larger-scale tasks/initiatives that gather multiple people with a myriad of steps to accomplish something of impact for a recipient. They take a lot of energy and time. And, I believe that anything worth doing is worth evaluating–both for what worked and what could be improved for the next project.
Sure, the main metric for effectiveness is whether we got ‘er done, but what about looking at many different gears in the process for fine-tuning. Doing a post-mortem following a project’s completion might include a rating scale of 1-10 on these statements:
- The team worked together well (good communication, dynamics, and relational connections).
- The team was able to succeed without the leader.
- We did our best work within the time frame allotted.
- Everyone was given the big picture. Expectations were aligned to the vision and well-communicated on the front end and clarified throughout based on ongoing results. Feedback flowed freely–with respectful candor.
- The team held themselves accountable to their action items.
- Status reports were timely and well-communicated to those who needed to be included.
- We hit our milestones along the way and celebrated them. The final product accomplished what was intended.
- We included those who needed to be engaged.
- Our constituents were pleased with the results.
- We stayed on or under budget.
- Our work benefited our organization and each team member.
Then there are questions to ask yourself as team leader (or team member) for evaluating your part in the project:
- Did I contribute quality work?
- Did I meet the deadlines with my tasks?
- Did I improve the project in some way?
- Did I learn something that will help me in future projects from someone else?
- Did I stretch myself outside my comfort zone?
- Did I help someone get over some hurdles, stay out of trouble, and succeed?
- Did I delegate appropriately both responsibility and authority?
- Were the expectations on my role fulfilled?
- Did I stand on high moral ground and take the high road when in conflict?
- Did I self-regulate any negative feelings along the way?
- Was I approachable for communication and never a bottleneck to progress?
You might want to add your own questions to mine to customize it to your situation, or to emphasize an area of greater importance to what success looks like. I’d love to hear your additions to the list! I’m at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are like most workers, you look forward to Fridays. Some people have chosen to intentionally set aside Fridays for one big activity every week, to close out the week strong. Consider one of these “themes” for your Fridays as we enter a new year.
- Finish It Fridays: Got lots of tabs open on your computer? You know, those things you said you’d come back to later and wrap up. Got emails needing some deeper thought before you respond? What about half-completed to-do list items or post-its gone wild around your desk? Use Friday as a finisher to get things officially crossed off your lists.
- Forward-looking Fridays: With potentially fewer emails come in from co-workers, this might be the time to block out an hour or two each week to preview your next week and two or three weeks beyond that. You are looking for what preparation is needed prior to appointments or meetings or deadlines so that you can get prep time onto your calendar next week. Sometimes this is a good habit to do with your team or assistant.
- Follow-up Fridays: If you are in a business that is always on the lookout for new customers, use Fridays to prospect those leads that you met or were referred to during the past week. Call or email those contacts, reminding them of when you met, and seeing if you can be of service to them. Or, this them could entail responding to clients or co-workers who needed one item from you during your weekly meeting so that they can move forward with you.
- Favorites Fridays: After you have surveyed your team for what they enjoy most, recognize them more thoughtfully by buying them something to make their day. Favorite coffee drink, snack, flower, office supply–lots of options here.
- Face-it Fridays: Put one big, hairy, audacious goal (BHAG) on the last day of the workweek, and move the needle on it. No more procrastination. You can’t do anything else until you Eat That Frog! Ah, the weekend already seems lighter.
- Face-time Fridays: Tell your team that you have open office hours during a block on Friday for them to touch-base with you about any concerns or ideas they might have. Or use Friday to go on the road and bring a gift to your top customers to show appreciation for doing business with you.
That was fun to brainstorm! Do you have another positive F-verb that could become a Friday theme? Let me know your thoughts at email@example.com. And, speaking of Forward-looking Fridays, I have a new free tool to share with you: it’s a quick tips sheet on Crafting, casting, and carrying a compelling vision. Just text Beyond to 72000, and we’ll get it to you. Vision time!
“Your job is to leave the organization better than you found it. You are its steward,” states John Addison, and the way to assure that happens is to always be striving for excellence in every area of both your own leadership and your business processes. There must be a discontent with the status quo, or “business as usual.”
Some leaders don’t want to “mess with things” as long as they are going relatively well. But that is the opposite of a continuous improvement mentality. Sure, when you tell your team that you want to evaluate a process for how you are conducting business, to make it even better (more profitable, more streamlined, more attractive to customers) than it is now, you are going to get some eye-rolls and deep sighs. But you do it with the vision of a better tomorrow as the goal, not just to make change for change’s sake.
Excellence is defined as: to be superior in some area, to do extremely well, to surpass or outdo.
There is always a better way to do things, even if it’s just 1% better. In fact, when you brainstorm solutions with your team about making something more excellent, use that language: What are some possibilities for making ____ 1% better? If you did that every week at your leadership team meeting, do the math: how much better would your business be in 52 weeks?
Whatever stage of your business you are in (start-up or growth), you either put some processes in place just to get going and they became commonplace—and thus need a check-up for efficiency—or it’s been a couple years doing things the same way–and it’s time to take it to the next level.
Go to those on the front lines for implementation wisdom. Ask your social media person, What’s one way to increase our visibility? Ask your web master, What’s one way to make online ordering easier? Ask your receptionist, What’s one way to increase our courtesy when greeting customers? Ask your cyber security people, What’s one area where we are most vulnerable to a breech and how can we get ahead of that? By asking for staff input, they will most likely be bought-in to the solution and will eventually have even more pride in their work.
Another question to ask your team is “What would a typical customer expect in their typical experience with a business like ours?” Consider the before, during, and after experience with your business. Once those typical answers get discussed, take it up a notch and ask, “Now what could we do that would be going beyond that expectation, that would WOW the customer because it was such a pleasant surprise?” And use those answers for motivating a pursuit of excellence. People return to businesses that give them a WOW experience.
Driving for excellence is not just about knocking the socks off your customers, but it’s how your treat your employees. Find ways to upgrade their benefits within your budget, whether it be offering medical insurance, expanding your time-off policies, granting them professional development opportunities, or even meeting an emergency need that comes up—just to show you care. How about that for creating an internal culture of excellence!
With those same employees, you also expect excellent work ethic from them. You hold them accountable whenever they don’t hold themselves accountable for delivering excellent results. Ask them periodically at the end of their shifts: What percentage of your time today did you pursue excellence in the roles you played? 30? 60%? 90% What can you do tomorrow to up your game?
Set metrics for each employee so they know what winning looks like. Everyone needs to know their “number,” and it must be something within their control—something they can accomplish each day or week with hard work. That’s called a “lead measure” (rather than a “lag measure”, which are things like customers coming through the door or reviews left on social media). As the boss, you get to set these high standards to keep the bar high and to prevent plateaus in performance.
Has each person on your team been appraised this past year? Performance reviews are the perfect time for giving feedback for ongoing improvement; in fact, don’t deliver an appraisal without a few practical ways that team member can get a little better. Consider shortening the time between reviews so that there is more real-time feedback and so that you don’t go too long without addressing sub-excellence behaviors. Some companies are now doing reviews twice a year or quarterly (and more informal with their process) so that momentum can be maintained.
Certain employees will rise to the occasion whenever you challenge them to improve something for which they are responsible. Or, they are the ones who, on their own initiative, are experimenting with ideas or speaking up about what needs to be fixed with a solution with which they are considering bringing up to you. Watch for these emerging leaders who have that constructive (not destructive) spirit of discontent. They need to be put into the succession plan for positions one level up from where they are now. You never know when someone might leave and you will need someone to step up without major transition stress—because you’ve groomed them for what’s next.
Basically, you are trying to keep the company’s staff in the place between under-challenged—where people are just going through the motions—and overwhelmed—where people feel “piled on” with more and more responsibilities. That’s a tough balance, for sure. Observe them and their energy levels, and listen to their stressors, to gauge if and when they can handle the next process improvement.
Oh, and by all means, follow-through! Don’t just talk of the ways to be more excellence-driven. Assign a champion to put those wheels in motion, either by him/herself or with a small task force who have a set goal and a deadline. Nothing is more defeating to the superstars on the staff than to get their hopes up for positive change, and then dash it to pieces with neglect.
“At the gates of excellence stand 2 fearsome sentries: risk and learning. The keys to entrance are faith and courage.” –Robert Quinn
Unless you struggle with perfectionism, “good enough” will never produce the quality that will make your business stand-out. Effective leaders are “averse to average” and always thinking about how to make every area of their business more excellent. Growing Forward Services is all about taking your life and leadership to the next level, and it would be my honor to come alongside you in that pursuit, whether informally (through staying connected through my videos and posts on social media) or formally (through becoming your coach or team-builder). Reach out today at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you have ever been in sales, the common saying is “Always be closing”, or always be thinking about making the ask and trying to get that call to action into a sale. I thought of some other “Always Be’s” and would like for you to also add to my list:
- Always be serving: Servant-leaders are thinking of others and how to make their day before they think about getting their own “wants” met. And you actually feel great when you are propping others up!
- Always be learning: Be in a continuous learning mindset from the moment you wake up until you go to bed. Every person can be a resource to learn from, if you ask good questions and really listen. And, of course, leaders need to be readers: book, magazines, Kindle books, audio books, podcasts…
- Always be hustling: A good work ethic will net positive results. You cannot rest on your haunches and assume you will be successful. Make that extra phone call, write that extra thank-you, set up one more appointment, go to one more networking event, connect one more person to a helpful resource.
- Always be laughing: Here’s one just for fun because of all the health benefits of a hearty laugh. Get around people with a great sense of humor, and watch humorous videos–and don’t take yourself so seriously!
OK, time for you to add to my list! Ready, set, GO!
And have you signed up for my e-newsletter Target Practice yet? It’ll give you more pithy success advice that you can put into practice right away. www.paulcasey.org