Picture this. You’re driving across America from the Eastern shore to the Pacific Ocean. After a couple of days into the trip, you reach the Mississippi River…and the bridge is out.
What do you do?
You’re still headed west, but your route must take a necessary detour. So, you announce to your passengers that their cross-country journey will have to change course if they’re going to reach their destination.
But what does that have to do with business leadership?
Myriad changes in the marketplace have forced businesses to become fluid in their annual plans. Companies are navigating the waters of Covid-19, Wall Street volatility, inflated housing and auto markets, ransomware hacks and other supply line interruptions. (Bridge closure costs the trucking and logistics industry $2.4M each day.)
Many organizations have been forced to adjust 2021 goals and objectives during the year…as if Plan A is cracking before their eyes like the Hernando de Soto Bridge over the Mississippi River.
If you find yourself in that circumstance, now what do you do?
Post Good Road Signs
One function of leadership is to manage expectations and to ensure understanding for those impacted when plans are disrupted.
More often than not, a gap exists between what the manager knows and what the rank-and-file are thinking. Leaders sometimes are guilty of assuming the people in their organization understand where the business is heading and what it is they need to be doing to be successful. This disconnect happens because the manager attends meetings and may be privy to things that their direct reports aren’t knowledgeable about (and perhaps shouldn’t know). It’s incumbent upon the manager to cascade information that helps everyone understand what the new expectations are.
“A good way to make it easier for team members to hold one another accountable,” says Patrick Lencioni in his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team,“is to clarify publicly exactly what the team needs to achieve, who needs to deliver what, and how everyone must behave in order to succeed.”
Organization leaders should post new goals in clearly visible places as a constant reminder, so that every person knows their team goals and can hold each other accountable.
Own the Results Before Seeing Them
Individual team members will respond differently to mid-year course corrections. Some people are allergic to change, in general, and will be slow to embrace a new plan. Even if it occurs over time, achieving buy-in is extremely important to the success of the team.
Keep pressing the importance of why change is necessary and how making a few adjustments will lead to the success everyone desires. Encourage everyone to internalize and recite the goals and outcomes that are set before them.
There is something quite powerful about declaring and owning the results in advance.
Think of Joe Namath’s guarantee that the New York Jets would win the Super Bowl. The quarterback’s bravado certainly was bulletin board fodder for his opponents, the Baltimore Colts, but it also inspired his teammates to rally behind their leader to ensure a victory.
A brash, outlandish public declaration of results sometimes provokes those who are opposed to you (i.e. internal nay-sayers and saboteurs), and it activates a competitive drive within your allies. Would NASA have won the Space Race against Russia without President John F. Kennedy’s bold 1962 speech at Rice University in Houston?
“We choose to go to the moon in this decade…not because [it is] easy, but because [it is] hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills…”
NASA had been put on notice – in front of all of America – that their ingenuity and desire would be held to a specific standard: “in this decade.” Urgency set in. There was no time for debate. The clock was ticking. It became time to get on board or get left behind. How badly do you want to rise to this challenge?
“Teams that are willing to commit publicly to specific results are more likely to work with a passionate – even desperate desire – to achieve those results. Teams that say, ‘We’ll do our best’ are subtly, if not purposefully, preparing themselves for failure.”
“No amount of trust, conflict, commitment, or accountability can compensate for a lack of desire to win.”
– Patrick Lencioni
What can a manager do to fan the flames of desire to win?
- Establish clear expectations and keep goals and declared outcomes visible before every person on the team.
- Regularly check for understanding with teammates to ensure they are clear on expectations and working on the critical actions that lead to success.
- Be proactive and have that tough conversation when someone needs coaching. Your highest achieving individuals respond best to feedback that is firm and upfront. Be specific in the action or behavior that requires improvement.
The Manager’s Part in Team Success
The key to success is selecting talent that wants to win and then having regularly scheduled discussions to make sure they continue to understand what’s expected of them.
The worst thing that can happen to an employee is to receive an evaluation that is totally unexpected. If, as their manager, you’ve led them to believe they were doing a great job, because you only recognized the positive throughout the year, and then give them an average or subpar rating on their performance review, that plot twist is difficult to swallow.
The manager’s job is to let every employee know where they stand and give them time to correct any potential problems that crop up during the course of the year. Positive reinforcement alone is not enough, because sometimes everyone goes off the rails. Pointed, timely, and actionable coaching is also needed for individual and team success.
If your organization is facing mid-year challenges and needs to redirect team efforts, inclineHR has a team of consultants available to guide you through the changes.
Contact inclineHR. We build exceptional leaders.