Raise your hand if you have ever worked for a leader who always seemed frantic. Too many priorities, not enough time, everything was always on fire. Now keep your hand up if you have ever been that leader.
I know I have. Many of the leaders I work with run into this challenge. There is a lot of activity all year long, yet when the end of the year comes the results that should have mattered the most mattered the least and fell short of the target. The important fell victim to the urgent.
When you find yourself running on this treadmill as a leader, it is critical that you find a way to step off it and align the execution of your team’s day-to-day work with your most important goals and priorities. It's highly likely your team already has annual goals and targets—the ones often set at the beginning of a new fiscal year—in place. If you are like most people I work with, those goals get locked away safely and securely in some HRIS system only to rear their heads again as the year draws to a close and performance evaluations begin.
A management system—even the most basic of ones—can help you overcome the frantic pace of focusing on everything, increase the likelihood of you achieving your most important goals, and provide increased clarity and engagement to your team.
Ready to create your own? Start with the four steps outlined below.
1. Lock On Your TargetWhat are the three or four most important goals or results you need to achieve within your given time period? Typically this number needs to be narrowed so you can focus on achieving the most important results. Sometimes you have 10 or 20 measures, targets, or goals that you think are important, or you have four bosses trying to tell you what to do. One of the most significant things you can do as a leader is gather the stakeholders’ inputs about priorities, decide what truly matters, and negotiate as needed to allow your team to focus.
2. Build Your SystemDesign your management system by breaking down your team's long-term goals into short-term targets that can be tracked frequently to ensure progress. When goal setting with individuals, align their specific actions with the steps needed to achieve the overarching team goals. I encourage you to be creative with your approach. Build a system that works best for your team. Let’s look at a couple examples:
- Work plans. Have each team member build a weekly or monthly work plan to show the tactics and measures they'll accomplish to contribute to the goals. This may include key milestones, achievements for the last work period, or barriers to success that need to be resolved.
- Team meetings. Meetings focused on solving roadblocks and following up on action items can be highly effective. Consider weekly or monthly one-on-one meetings with team members to assess their progress, discuss challenges, and align on solutions. Other meetings could include daily or weekly huddles to track metrics and ensure progress. Remember, you will also need regular meetings to communicate and celebrate achievements with your team.
3. Rally Your TroopsOnce you have initial thoughts about your management system and its design, get your team's ideas. In Stewart Leadership’s book 52 Leadership Gems, gem eight explains that people tend to support what they help create. Creation is a natural human instinct, and as humans we are much more likely to support policies and procedures that include our ideas. Incorporating your team members’ inputs will ensure everyone becomes invested in the success of the system. When new people join your team, ask for their thoughts and find ways to include them. This single action plays a critical role in ensuring success. It's also an easy means of incorporating team building into your regular workflow.
4. Structure to WinStructure "forces" the right things to happen—or at a minimum makes the likelihood much greater. It's why using a smaller plate helps you eat less and lose weight and why the preponderance of meals and combos at fast food restaurants generally get us to eat more and gain weight. By building your management system into your structure and calendar, you engage in a time-tested change management strategy. Stick to the timeline and keep your commitments; you'll be glad you did when the positive results start rolling in and you achieve more wins.
Using these four steps to achieve goals within your team will help members at all levels of an organization step off the treadmill of running too fast and not getting far enough. These simple actions provide focus, clarity, and structure so that you and your team can achieve your most critical priorities in an efficient manner. Here’s to you and your team’s success this year!