Leading a successful team or business must have both sides of the same coin: a compelling vision of a desired future and a day-to-day excellence in execution of that vision. One eye on the future and one eye on the present. This blog is about setting and maintaining those high standards for the team to rise up to. Everyone needs to know what a “win” looks like in his/her role. Businesses rise or fall based on people knowing what’s expected of them.
Expectations are most easily spelled out through development of standard operating procedures or SOP’s. These are “the way we do things around here.” There can be an SOP on everything from small chores to mission-critical tasks, especially anything that keeps leading to confusion. Some of this is trial and error as you start your business or begin to lead your team, and then gets institutionalized through writing an SOP for all to follow—for best practice success and for compliance. And as things change or as you grow, you need to look at those SOP’s every so often to reflect current practice. Your managers must know the SOP’s inside and out, and new hires must get trained on SOP’s during their onboarding process.
From that stability, it’s time to set goals. Without goals, there are just hopes, well-wishes, New Year’s resolutions—which are not successful strategies. Goals are dreams with a deadline. Goals are targets to aim for with ongoing tactics to accomplish them. For accountability, your business needs to quantify every goal that is set. The age-old acrostic for a well-written goal is SMART:
Specific. You must drill-down to the actions to be done to avoid shooting at a vague target.
Measurable. You must know if you are actually hitting the target. What does “Done” look like?
Attainable. You must stretch out of your comfort zone, but stay south of your delusional zone.
Relevant to your vision. You must only choose goals aligned to your destination.
Time-dated. You must attach an ongoing or ultimate deadline to every goal—or it won’t happen.
Another author offers additional insight with his HARD acrostic regarding setting goals. They must be:
Heartfelt. You must tie in some emotional motivation to pursue a goal.
Animated. You must be able to see yourself accomplishing the goal in order to take the next step.
Required. You must be able to tie the goal to the business’s success.
Difficult. You must choose a challenging goal that is more than just an item on a to-do list.
When it comes to goals, only set ones on lead measures and not lag measures. Lag measures are how much revenue you have made or how many customers enter the store. You cannot control that; you can only influence those numbers with your lead measures. Lead measures are actions within your control. You can control how many social media posts you make (lead measure); you cannot control how many followers you have (lag measure). Of course, lead measures trigger lag measures; so if you design effective lead measures, you will get the lag measures you desire.
Measurement is important in running a business because what gets measured gets done. Everyone needs a number, a target for their performance that is within his/her control. Jobs or roles without measurement begin to plateau after a while, for there is no standard to continually hit. People then just put in their time, and it may be devoted to sideways energy instead of focused energy.
You can measure how quickly someone gets greeted when they enter the store (e.g. within 3 seconds) or how often an upsell is offered to a customer. You can measure the number of one-to-one’s you do with your employees, or the clean-up tasks undertaken by the team. The upside of measurement is that people can see their progress—or lack of it—and take pride in it—or re-commit to getting their act together. Measure what matters most.
Too many priorities means you have no priorities-–because everything then is a priority. Chasing two rabbits usually means you catch neither. Personnel make mistakes when paying attention to too many things. But you know that some goals are truly more significant, or more on the critical path, than others. Cut through the fog by making these one-to-three top priorities for this season very clear to your whole team. If I personally interviewed each individual on your team right now, would they all say the common priorities that you are emphasizing?
A dashboard is important when driving, in order to monitor all the vital gauges for your vehicle’s performance. A scoreboard is important to sports teams to know who is winning and how much time is left before the game ends. Your business also needs a dashboard and a scoreboard. What are your most important metrics to track daily? Those go on the dashboard, and maybe it is on a TV screen/monitor in the break room for all to see. What are your overall goals or initiatives that everyone is working toward? Those go on a scoreboard to keep everyone apprised on long-range success metrics.
Measurement is additionally important when helping your team improve their performance. Just telling someone to “get better” in their customer service, or “work harder” on their attitude with fellow staff, do not give them a snapshot of how to make progress by their next performance appraisal. Clearly specify the time they need to be present, the accuracy level of their task, or the speed they must keep up with. To be clear is to be kind to your people, and to be kind is to be clear. Fuzzy expectations lead to unnecessary conflict.
A simple way for your managers to help employees map out their goals is to use a storyboard. Storyboards are used by cinematographers to show the action of their characters from one scene to another. Just draw six boxes (two rows of three boxes fits nicely on a sheet). Put their starting point (where they are now) in upper left box one, and put the desired future in lower right box six. Together decide on baby steps to put in the remaining four boxes–actions that the employee can take to get to the finish line. They must be small enough and clear enough that the team member can visualize doing it and seeing they’ve made progress. Storyboards are great for getting people unstuck.
Sometimes on that road along the storyboard path, employees run into obstacles that they cannot overcome without your aid. Think of yourself as a barrier-remover to team success. One time all my team was asking for was a functioning vacuum cleaner! The biggest problems rise to your level, and when you clear the path for success, they can keep moving forward on your expectations. You are a stage-preparer, not a performer. This leads to both managing processes and leading people—a good perspective for measuring your own success.
Anything worth doing is worth evaluating. Measurement is just one part of you evaluating every facet of your business, and there is a lot going on. It reminds me of a recent trip to Las Vegas, when in a show, an actor spun one plate after another until he had eight plates spinning at the same time—always running back to the one that was starting to wobble to give it another spin. Build evaluation time into your weekly schedule so that every area gets your focus. Give areas that are slipping a fresh burst of energy and focus and send it back spinning efficiently Since you’ve hired well, this evaluation often comes through the lens of your core team who can report in weekly meetings how their area of oversight is going: which employees are thriving or fading, which processes need a tweak, which products are successful or not turning a profit. You monitor and execute through your delegates.
Don’t get in a habit of skipping meetings. They are lifeblood to communication. That’s the time to look at the dashboard and scoreboard to maintain a culture of accountability. It’s the time to wrestle through problems and have collaborative discussions. It’s a time to re-cast the vision and to get on the same page with anything ready to launch. And it’s simply a place to keep building relationships with your team.
Making expectations clear is 99% of good management. A focused leader is an inspiring leader. Point the team’s bow and arrow at the mutually-agreed upon target. Effective leaders create and reinforce clarity on the main things that will lead to success.
Need a facilitator to help your team establish goals for the year (or quarter) ahead? Let’s set up an off-site mini-retreat and make that happen. Everyone will appreciate the clarity. Reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org