5 Steps to Define It Before You Design It

By Barry Pruitt

dateTue, Jul 28, 2015 @ 09:00 AM

It’s time to call it out. Why do we, as business leaders, put up with mediocrity? I’m talking about leaders in your company who get the work done but don't think beyond what has to be completed in the short term – the leaders I call mediocre. They rush from one task to another, always working hard and with good intentions; their heart is right you’ll argue, they’re loyal to the company -- but in the long run, they fail to align with your company’s Winning Moves, Key Initiatives or Quarterly Priorities. These are the leaders that cannot, or will not consider what’s most important to your larger objectives.

You might argue that these players show up every day – they’re dependable. True, they may be dependable when it comes to (your directed) short deadlines and heavy workloads. Yet dependable doesn’t mean that they add real value to your company, functions, or people they manage. By definition a mediocre leader cannot help you grow at gazelle-like speed. So, let me shift your thinking.

Frame your thinking to that of an extreme producer (a concept shared in The Self-Made Billionaire Effect by John Sviokla and Mitch Cohen). As an extreme producer, you see the big picture and should expect the same of your leadership team. You need leaders who consistently manage operational practices and day-to-day activities with an eye toward organizational Key Initiatives and Priorities. These leaders institutionalize the Think-Plan-Do process to maximize the synergy and energy of process and team effort.

Here are some examples of what you can expect from your extreme producer leaders:

  • Ownership  They assume direct responsibility for outcomes, taking the initiative to make things better.  
  • Influencing through enrollment – They are able to demonstrate and convey a plan in such a way that others see and take on the vision for themselves.
  • Quality dialogue – They communicate with the intent of making a difference or moving a topic forward.  
  • Active – They take action and initiative to get things done without being deterred by setback.

For insight on taking action, I asked Jack Daly (the energizer of taking action) for his thoughts. Jack made it simple - define it before you design it.

Jack said to first identify "where you are" - your baseline. One can't begin moving in the right direction until one knows where one is at the present. An effective analogy is to imagine wanting to travel coast to coast. If you didn't know which coast you were starting from, the journey could be a long and wet one as you started out with just a destination in mind. Additionally, knowing where you are helps you determine what will be necessary for you to get to the destination.

Jack followed with these 5 steps for taking action:

  1. Identify "where you want to be," your end state goal. Putting this in writing is a must, otherwise we call this dreaming, not goals. Dreams don't often come true, but goals in writing do. We call this "backward thinking," determining the end zone and charting back to the present. It's how you organize your view of the future that determines what the future is.
  2. Employ the acronym SMART.
  • "S" is for Specific. The key is to break down each of your goals into bite size chunks that will lead to getting the goal accomplished. One of my goals is to run a marathon (yeah, 26.2 miles) in each of the 50 states. I have further broken this down to 4 per year, and went on to identify the specific 4 for the first year. Specificity!
  • "M" is for Measureable. Inspect what you expect, with a minimum of a monthly review of results compared to plan. Some of the key candidates here for a sales professional include: phone calls (inbound/outbound), personal visits, presentations, proposals, orders taken, etc.
  • "A" is for Attainable. Challenging, yes, but reachable, otherwise we risk the goals being de-motivating. This I call the reality test. If you are the #10 ranked salesperson in the company, probably not attainable to be #1, at least in a one year timeframe!
  • "R" is for Realistic, and often this comes down to timeframes. Time blocking and scheduling are the keys to effective implementation. Scheduling your activities is essential to goal attainment.
  • "T" is for Trackable, which underscores the necessity for the activities necessary to accomplishing the goal to be trackable and reported on. For many years I have effectively used the simple calendar, in which I record daily activities related to each of my goal action items, then summarize monthly and compare month-to-month results, as well as year-to-year performance on applicable items.
  1. Too many leaders in business think of goals in terms of only business. Broaden your thinking to personal/life quality goals. I once heard Dennis Waitley put this so well: "Most people spend more time planning Christmas and holidays than they do planning their life." Make your goals multi-dimensional.
  2. Accountability. This is where one turns the heat up on oneself. Share your goals with people you respect and care about, and establish a system to review your performance with them and garner feedback. This review process should be minimally quarterly. I make it a regular practice of giving my goals to my 2 adult children, my wife, and my 2 business partners, for each to review my progress quarterly. Talk about pressure! 
  3. Once the goals are in writing and a system in place to help get the results, identify a few goals that are 1) non- negotiable, 2) most difficult and 3) most important. This will further emphasize the focus, and Focus precedes Success.

Thank you, Jack for sharing your experience (and mistakes) as a sales, sales management, and culture expert. As for the reader, begin with producer accountability before you design it. Find your own mentor – your own Jack Daly. This could be a CEO group, a monthly lunch partner, etc. You can begin the conversation using the above as a framework and making commitments for holding one another accountable. Now go design it!


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