Life’s changing and it’s changing fast. What’s important is what the changes will mean to your organization and how well you can cope with them. For this reason, it helps to have a playbook that charts out your course of action for the future so your organization won’t just survive but will edge its way up toward staying a step (or two) ahead of the competition in spite of any change that comes your way.
Consider these few key insights and leadership exercises ("Leadercizes") as ways to develop the business muscle necessary to get fit for profitable, long-term success, no matter what curve balls are thrown your way.
1. Looking back. Review what your organization has achieved. Take a page from your history and view it objectively, trying to understand the mistakes that have been made and how they could have been avoided. Wise leaders take the time to learn from their mistakes and never make the mistake of repeating them again. More importantly, they foster open and healthy conversations around those mistakes instead of pretending like they don’t matter. The key is this: Wise leaders believe in learning, and in having meaningful conversations around those learnings.
Leadercize: Based on what we’ve learned, what should we Stop Doing? Start Doing? Keep Doing?...and for each of these, Why?
2. Understand your own competitive advantage. They say, keep your friends close and your enemies closer. That’s absolutely true. Don’t live in an ivory tower and expect that you will emerge the winner no matter what. Look around you and inspect what the competition is up to. In fact, always keep an eye open for them so you won’t be surprised by any moves they make. Secondly, ask questions that will move your team’s thinking from the here-and-now into your preferred future.
Leadercize: Who is our #1 competitor, and why? What are we so afraid of? How are our primary competitors making us better than we already are? Confirm: Is what we’re doing today helping us create the future we want?
3. Embrace a disciplined approach and get comfortable with accountability. Don’t hold more meetings. Instead, hold fewer but more robust meetings that maximize your time to begin with. Embed the discipline within your leadership team to have Weekly Adjustment Meetings (instead of Weekly Status Meetings). Talk about adjustments that need to be made and focus on solutions. Each one of your strategic initiatives should be owned by one person. That one person might not be doing every single thing associated with bringing that initiative to fruition, but s/he owns it. S/He drives the train, so to speak, toward what the team decides “success” looked like for this initiative. During your Weekly Adjustment Meetings, then, the person accountable should share how things are going (good and bad) and what’s being done to move things forward, why something just is or isn’t working out as planned, what’s being learned in the process, etc. As a team, pull your heads together to create solutions.Weekly Adjustment Meetings are a time for you to be proactive vs. reactive.
Leadercize: Has it been clear who (exactly) is accountable for what (exactly), and by when (exactly)? Have you defined what “Success” looks like? What's going well? What's not going well? Why? What can we do to get a strategic initiative moving in the right direction? (Consider: What happens if nothing changes?) And…for those of you who shy away from specific accountabilities: What outside guidance do we need to help us create a healthy sense of accountability?
4. Farsightedness. No one can see the future, but if you’re farsighted, you will learn to understand how things work. Try to see things as they would be five years from now and not just with immediate results. You can’t predict the way things will happen, but if you are perceptive and aware of what is actually happening around you now, you might well be able to tweak that to understand what will happen later on.
Leadercize: What change needs to happen in order for us to become more progressive? What are the implications of that change (both positive and negative)? Do we have the right people in the right seats? What is it about our current business model that’s working for us? Where might we need to adapt our business model?
5. Have open discussions around failures. Complacency is a killer. Never allow yourself to get comfortable in your environment so that you lose out on chances to innovate and think out of the box. Always look around for ways you can improve a situation. Be aware; be open; challenge your own assumptions; challenge the assumptions of those around you (in the right way, of course). Sharing failures links back to #1 on this list.
Leadercize: Have an honest, robust, and healthy discussion around what's failed for your organization in recent years. Failure is a great platform for innovation because it's where verge thinking emerges. Great ideas are born on the edge--where something begins or ends. Most companies shy away from failures. Learn to celebrate them for the wisdom they’ve given you, and have honest conversations around them.
6. Declutter your company. It’s all too easy to say that you don’t know why things are so bad. With prior recessions out of your hair (depending on the industry you’re in), look around you and try to gain an understanding of why things go wrong and how the damage they cause can be limited. Stop whining and blaming the economic and/or social environment. Instead, make decisions about what you’re company is going to do.
Leadercize: What is it about our internal processes and procedures that cause delay? What is it that causes 'red tape' and bureaucracy? How easy are we (really) to do business with? How do we know that? Who within our company needs encouragement to change as the company changes?
7. Be prepared to face the Pink Elephant(s). You never know what you’re coming up against, so the safest thing to do is to always be prepared. It might seem a little vague, but if you have keenly observed the way things work around your company, you might realize what could possibly happen.
Leadercize: What's one brutal fact that we simply do NOT want to face? What’s the pink elephant we all see—but we don’t talk about? And then…what are we going to do about it?
8. Chart your course. In my experience, I've seen companies who use the Rhythm Dashboard excel. It’s an invaluable tool to measure not only the level of employee engagement around what’s most important, but also the degree to which people understand the specific "what" they're supposed to be engaged around. This tool measures all sides of the corporate equation so you know where you are at any moment in time. No more getting blindsided by comments like, “I thought so-and-so was doing that!” or “Oh yeah, I forgot about that.” Or “I just got busy with day-to-day so I didn’t have time to do that.” Using spreadsheets to track your progress might be fine, but your overall strategic intent can get literally buried in a sea of spreadsheets. Using the Rhythm Dashboard to guide your Weekly Adjustment Meetings allows you to see the progress you’re making (or not) around what’s most important to you.
Leadercize: If you want to get a more in-depth look at your organization's productivity around your strategic intent…follow-up by learning more. Learn how the Rhythm Methodology and Dashboard can help you become a transparent, disciplined organization that's 'fit' for facing the future.
Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Image
Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images