We’ve known for a while that an increase in remote work was coming, and the pandemic has accelerated this trend. Many workers are eager to return to offices (some have already), and many more want to continue working from home for the foreseeable future. Gallup found that 2/3 of the people who have been working remotely due to the pandemic would like to continue doing so.
For over a decade, our consultants have worked with client CEOs to help them exceed industry standards and build great companies. Having seen thousands of business plans and helped hundreds of CEOs around the world, some very clear patterns emerge in our work. We’ve distilled the most important factors to building a great company of aligned teams who execute flawlessly into a simple system. I say “simple,” because the concepts are easy to understand; however, they can be challenging to implement—just as the concept of exercise and balanced diet are easy to understand but be difficult to achieve.
The famous mountain climber, Phil Powers, said it best during an interview on NPR’s "This I Believe” segment: “Concentrating on how I move through the world is important. It’s why I reach mountain summits and life goals with energy to spare.”
As a best practice, Powers uses a concept taught to him by his mentor, Paul Petzoldt. Penzoldt recommended a ‘rest’ (i.e., a slight pause) with each climbing step taken. It allows a climber to move swiftly, yet still find a brief pause in every step. The cadence of this sequence creates, in the end, a higher degree of forward-movement with what seems like less effort.
Most leaders dive into leadership without a second thought. I love the optimism that comes when people find themselves suddenly leading people (vs. tasks and initiatives, they’ve been responsible for completing). The problem, though, is that most leaders simply don’t see the impact their leadership approach has on those around them (positive or negative). They don’t pause while climbing the mountain of business objectives for a rest step. They don’t give themselves quick moments of pause that allow for slowing just enough to gain the energy to keep moving forward.
Couple this lack of ‘pause’ with how fast everything moves in today’s world. Every motion, every thought, every piece of information we gain in a 24/7 world makes the concept of ‘pause’ seem ridiculous. It can even make us feel unworthy, lost, and unproductive and some senior leaders aren't wired to slow down to speed up. Senior leaders learning to skill to stop to think and focus on long term strategy is a huge part of their leadership development. Executive coaching, and the coaching relationship, is a good way to hold yourself accountable to developing these new habits.
It is important to grow the top line of your business on an annual basis, but you also need to make sure the bottom line is healthy which can help fund that growth. This is particularly important if you are a manufacturing company and need to be efficient in your production process. In most cases, the two biggest expenses in your manufacturing business are labor and raw materials. There are exceptions, of course, in machine intensive automated manufacturing plants, but let’s focus on the former. So how can we make sure the production line is running at peak performance? One very effective way is to put the right balance of production KPIs in place. Some of these are leading indicator KPIs that help provide insight into future performance and some are results KPIs that tell you how you have done. It is good to have both, although I always prefer giving my production managers a good set of leading indicator KPIs as these manufacturing metrics drive the results.
Here are some of the most effective manufacturing KPIs and metrics:
As I was scrolling through my social media feeds this week, I noticed a trend that more tech companies are announcing a permanent move to hybrid or even a “remote-first” approach for the indefinite future. As companies look to 2021 and make budgeting and resourcing decisions, it’s not a mystery why many are choosing to reduce investment in physical spaces and double down on the remote work infrastructure if their business model allows it. That means many of your meetings will be moving online to Zoom, Microsoft Teams, WebEx, Skype or any of the video conferencing applications available.
After recently reviewing thousand of Annual Plans and Quarterly Plans, I can say without a doubt that improving employee engagement seems to be top of mind for everyone this year. How on earth do you keep today's dynamic and diverse employees happy, engaged and productive? It's the million dollar question that we ask ourselves year after year.
According to Gallup, companies with highly engaged workforces outperform their peers by 147%. Gallup also concluded that 87% of employees worldwide are not engaged. So, how do you know if your company is on the right side of those statistics? You need to start measuring employee engagement KPIs this quarter so that you can keep your A Players and reduce employee turnover. This is not just a function for the human resources department, the best team managers measure employee satisfaction KPIs on their teams.
What is process implementation and what does it mean to me? As companies grow, the need to establish and effective implementation processes to help you scale to meet your business goals becomes inevitable. We've all reached a place in our role when the way we used to do things no longer works and we have to innovate. Necessity becomes the mother of invention - there's really no way to avoid it in a healthy growing company. The best companies are continually improving and have systems to implement a new process quickly and effectively.
The truth remains, however: implementing new processes at work is hard. It's some of the most challenging work that teams do. Some teams struggle with change itself - it pushes people out of their comfort zone and sometimes there is resistance. Other teams struggle to develop the processes themselves - they can't agree on the best way to proceed to improve the business process. Even if you can define a new process and make some headway on changing people's mindsets, there is still the uphill battle for implementing the key processes that turn plans into action. Management teams can help their employees to implement a new business process in five simple ways to maximize their implementation efforts and build the best project team to get it implemented.
From a leadership perspective, there’s a real thirst for increasing leadership accountability. Executives have recently asked me various questions that linger over the concept of building team accountability to help them achieve their strategic plans while creating high performing teams:
“How do I build accountability in teams?”
"How do I increase accountability in leadership?"
“What else can I do to get people to do what we need them to do?”
“How can I hold a team member to be held accountable and still be seen as a good leader?”
"How do I balance leadership accountability and personal accountability when building a team?"
"Creating a culture of accountability is hard, how do I provide constructive feedback without being the bad guy?"
Building team accountability requires that we understand a few dynamics because it’s more complicated than we might recognize. It goes beyond the responsibility for the outcomes, which is obviously important, but effective leaders know that they need a culture of accountability in their teams that provide the inputs needed to achieve the expected team performance. Holding people accountable is one of the most important things that a successful leader does, but it is also one of the hardest.
Are your meetings the butt of work-related jokes? Why is it that we roll our eyes with disdain when our calendar is loaded with meetings, and more specifically, why do we dread the planning meetings that are so important to our strategic success? Let me ask, have you used senior team members as facilitators? If so, you’ve likely chosen the wrong person. Save yourself an unwise decision before your next planning session. Don’t choose your CEO or an executive team member for strategic planning. If you do, you’ll pay for it all year (or quarter) based on the plan developed and the pain to get there. Most executives are great at their jobs, but they don't have all of the qualities of a good team facilitator and may not be the best at facilitating a productive discussion. When you are in charge, it is hard to be an active listener, which is extremely important to bring out all the great ideas from the team and cover every relevant point of view.
The foundation of a successful Daily Huddle Meeting, Team Huddle Meeting or Weekly Huddle Meeting is a great facilitator to keep the weekly team huddle on track for an effective and productive meeting.
Team Huddle best practices:
Be dedicated. A good facilitator is dedicated to the regular meeting rhythm. Weekly Huddle Meetings and Daily Huddles should happen on their designated days/times without fail and held to strict time limits. If a person is not able to attend, they should still prepare by doing their Weekly Meeting Prep and sending their Victories, Priorities and Stucks to the Daily Huddle facilitator so that their voice can be heard. A good facilitator holds the team accountable to being prepared for each and every huddle.