Rhythm Blog

by Patrick Thean and the Rhythm Team

Using Zoom to Facilitate Your Strategic and Execution Planning Meetings for Stellar Results

As in the past many years, I entered 2020 with a full schedule of strategy and execution planning work with my clients. Then the pandemic hit, and I was not sure what that was going to mean and how I was going to take good care of clients. The good news is that nearly every session went forward virtually. Other consultants in our firm had the same experience. I give our clients a lot of credit for having the trust in us to run the sessions virtually using Zoom, and the courage to work with their teams this way. A couple of CEOs expressed concern and doubt up front, but they knew that moving forward with planning was mission critical; their teams needed to work on their strategies and develop strong execution plans that would ensure people would execute on the right priorities.

Are Your Employees Feeling the Love?

As we celebrate Valentine's Day this year, are your team members feeling the love? How's your company culture holding up in today's world where change is constant? Stanford quotes the late, former Zappos CEO Tony Hseih saying, "Our whole belief is that if you get the company culture right, most of the other stuff — like delivering great service or building a long-term, enduring brand — will just happen naturally on its own." 

2021 Meeting Audit: Design Your Team's Meeting Rhythms Now

As we head into 2021, now is the perfect time to step back and take a hard look at your team's meeting rhythms. Much like your junk drawer at home, some of us collect meetings over time—a weekly team huddle, a 1:1, a coffee break, a project meeting, a recurring training session, a retrospective, a cross-functional alignment meeting, etc.—and then our schedules are full and we forgot why we ever thought we needed those things in the first place (ok, the drawer thing might not be a perfect analogy, just an unrelated personal problem for me to deal with). Anyway, the point is that your new year is a new opportunity to take a hard look at your meeting calendar and do a meeting audit.

How CEOs Sustain Team Alignment in a Constantly Changing Environment

In 1998 I was traveling on I-95, just south of Cocoa Beach, Florida, where brush fires burned along the highway. When I arrived in Fort Lauderdale that night, I watched a news story recounting a chief in the middle of the crisis who was attempting to help his team. The chief identified a need for his team and called in for supplies. A few hours later a box truck arrived at command central. As the driver emerged and then opened the back, the chief happened to be walking by. As the driver began unloading cases of bananas, the chief asked, “What’s that?” The driver replied, “Bananas. Can you believe that in the middle of this mess some idiot ordered cases of bananas?” The chief shot back, “Can you believe in the middle of this mess that some idiot misheard bananas instead of bandanas?” Clearly there was misalignment in the midst of a crisis.

Don't Let Your 2021 Annual Plan Fail by Using Spreadsheets to Run Your Company's Strategy

Many companies have strong Annual Plans but fail to execute on them and miss their targets year after year. They know that they are missing something, but they aren’t sure what. There are many reasons why nearly half of all companies fail to meet their annual targets, but one of the most important reasons is that they fail to implement a strategic software system to drive company execution. As more employees work from home, they need to have an operating system for the business to stay aligned for the full year.  It's time to ditch the strategy execution spreadsheet and upgrade to a system that can help your remote teams collaborate around common goals with complete alignment.

Accountability in Leadership: Build Leadership Accountability with the 5 C's Framework

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.

Agile Business Planning: Create an Agile Business Plan in the Age of COVID-19

Business is moving faster than ever before, and these days your business needs to be as nimble possible to respond to the rapidly changing business landscape. In today’s nonstop global economy, there is always somebody, somewhere trying to capture part of your market and your customers. This has only increase with the global coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, you need to be able to pivot faster than ever.  You need to create an organization able to respond to the changes in the market more quickly than ever, or you will lose market share to the competition. Unfortunately, many of the legacy software tools that businesses use don’t adapt fast enough to work in today’s cutthroat global economy and need to be modernized. Software teams realized this decades ago and quickly shifted from the outmoded Waterfall methodology to the Agile software development framework; it is time for the traditional business planning to catch up to this advancement when implementing business strategy.

Employee Engagement and Motivation: How to Increase both Motivation AND Engagement

In working with middle market CEOs and their employees and they often wonder about their employee productivity and professional development.  I often find that they are overlooking one of the biggest components of productivity, are your employees engaged or are they motivated?  The team members may be motivated by a bonus and they will be productive, but if a team member is also engaged with their work - and its purpose - they are almost a third more productive.  Let's talk about employee motivation and engagement, as they aren't the same thing.

As an employer, you want your workforce to be both engaged and motivated. With employee engagement at around  15% worldwide and 34% in the United States according to Gallup, it is important to know the difference between employee engagement and motivation.  Engaged employees will decrease your employee turnover rate and you'll have much happier and longer tenured employees!  This reduces training and recruiting costs to help the bottom line over the long term

Key Performance Indicators for Employees in 2021: Employee KPI Examples

It is no secret that your people are instrumental to the success of your business. In order to have a great company, you not only have to hire the right people and get them in the right seats as Jim Collins says, you also have to work to retain and engage those people once you have them.  The best companies use key performance indicators for employees to drive performance and ensure that they are getting the most out of their most important investment - their employees.  Having the right set of quality metrics can greatly improve your performance management in creating a high-performing team.

The ROI of Replacing Strategy Spreadsheets with Systems

Spreadsheets are a powerful tool and very inexpensive. Compared to most software, they seem nearly free. That's why most businesses use a spreadsheet as their tool of choice for working to solve most problems and run many of their strategic projects. Companies use them for project management, financial management, data analytics, task lists, and so many other purposes that I can't even list them all. While spreadsheets are inexpensive and easy to get things started with, they pose a problem for our businesses as we grow.  Have you outgrown your strategy spreadsheet? What is the ROI of replacing it with a system?

The problem with spreadsheets is that while they seem inexpensive and convenient, the labor involved in creating and maintaining them is not. Spreadsheets don't just magically do whatever you need them to do. They are a blank canvas that a spreadsheet artist must craft. To truly get that spreadsheet right takes time from your most expensive assets: your people.  Even the most detailed excel templates require hours of customization.

You must build them, craft formulas and references, format output, and maintain them as the business changes. This takes time and that time costs money. Lots of money. If you start adding up the cost of that time daily, weekly, and monthly, you will find that you are spending more on your spreadsheet creation and maintenance than you would on best-in-class software crafted to solve your specific business problems. I've worked with clients where staff members devote several days a week of their time creating and maintaining spreadsheets. Several days a week! That's nearly half a work week for a highly paid, highly skilled team member.

Not only that, you need to factor the opportunity cost of this time. What growth goals could you have achieved with the time your people spent creating and maintaining your spreadsheets? Instead of programming rows and columns, they could have been formulating and executing against strategic
growth goals for the business. Wow! What a change in mindset that would be!

A spreadsheet is a computer program. They are usually created informally and lack the core elements of professionally developed software. Elements like good requirements gathering, design, and testing for quality assurance by multiple parties. They also lack documentation and product roadmaps for future improvements. So when the staff member who created the spreadsheet leaves, all that problem domain knowledge goes with them.

So that's enough about the problem. What do we do about all the spreadsheets we have and run our business on today? How do we break free from spreadsheet slavery and direct our energy and time toward growth?

I suggest searching out systems that replace what your home-grown spreadsheets are doing for you. Invest in good project management software, good financial management software, good CRM software, a good Business Execution platform like our Rhythm System. You may think that the cost is too high to buy software, but you are fooling yourself. You are actually paying much more in payroll cost, productivity loss, and opportunity cost than you ever would for professional software license fees.  Spreadsheets have their place, but strategic plan execution isn't one of them.

So, start working on a plan today to understand the spreadsheets you are currently using and why. Then put in place software and processes to replace what your spreadsheets are doing for your business. You will see immediate ROI in your investment in these systems and processes and free the minds of your team to direct their energy and time to achieve your goals and dreams of growing the business.

3 Things to Do when Planning for the New Year


2020 was an extraordinary year on many fronts. Most people I know are very glad it is behind them, and now that it is and we are a month into the new year, it is the perfect time to reflect and make sure you are poised to make 2021 a great year.

How to Facilitate A Strategic Planning Session [With Strategy Session Agenda]

As strategy planning experts, we often get asked how to run a strategic planning meeting, as great strategic meetings don’t happen by accident. They happen because someone is committed to  THINKING through the purpose and outcome, PLANNING all of the details in advance, and DOING the hard work of running the meeting. This is the role of an excellent virtual planning facilitator that can help you better define your strategy, create a winning annual plan and leave with an action plan to get your annual initiatives done. In order to facilitate a planning session, there is a lot of hard work that needs to be done.  These same techniques should be used for in person sessions and virtual strategic planning sessions with your management team.

Zoom Icebreakers: 55 Pro Tips to Energize Your Virtual Meetings

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 their 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.  As the experts in effective weekly meetings, we have compiled a list of the best Zoom Icebreakers for you to increase engagement and productivity at you next team meeting.

21 COVID 19 KPIs to Monitor Now

These are crazy times we find ourselves in right now. I have heard more than one person say that they have never experienced anything like this in their lifetime—and a few of the folks are a bit more senior than me! That being said, I am so proud of the companies I work with and the friends that I have that run their own businesses. Everyone is doing everything they can to take care of their employees and service their customers to the best of their abilities. Most are doing a really great job despite the social, environmental and supply chain challenges.

Increase the Value of Your Weekly Team Meetings with Expert Coaching & Feedback

There is no way around it—the quality of your Weekly Team Meeting makes or breaks your Quarterly Plan. Most teams simply update each other on the status of their various projects, rather than problem solving the biggest challenges keeping you from your goals.  Whether you are new to leading a weekly meeting or a 10-year veteran, everyone is vulnerable to the dreaded weekly meeting rut.  Don't worry as experts in strategy execution we have decades of experience helping teams just like yours make their meetings productive.

I have seen it at one time or another at just about every company that I have had the pleasure of coaching.  It starts out as a few people falling behind on their Weekly Meeting Preparation process —missing statuses, Comments stop going in and some Actions become overdue. Before you know it, a Weekly Adjustment Meeting gets cancelled here and there, attendance drops and there's no chance of an effective weekly meeting. The Weekly Adjustment Meeting devolves into a status read-out with only a few people talking. Next, people start saying the meeting is a waste of time. Quarterly Plans start getting missed, and the snowball is already halfway down the hill.

Lack of Accountability in the Workplace is Costing You

In a recent client conversation, a CEO said to me, “He’s really (really) smart, but it’s just hard to hold him accountable. On top of that, he isn’t approachable because he gets really defensive and reminds us all that he knows what he’s doing.” But in reality, the rest of the executive team doesn’t really know what this executive-level leader is doing. His goals are vague, his metrics aren’t really solid measures of success, and he statuses everything “Green” in preparation for their weekly executive team meeting. And, no one wants to challenge him.

Executive Meeting Agenda: Maximize the Effectiveness of Your Weekly Leadership Team Meeting

Executive Weekly Meeting Team Size

For the most effective weekly team meeting, your weekly leadership meeting team should consist of 8-10 people. If your group is too large, consider who truly should be part of the executive team meeting. Perhaps some people should participate at the departmental team-level weekly staff meeting only if they aren't part of the strategic planning process.  You can always invite them into the executive meeting when they have an important project that you need to discuss when it is time for an important update or discussion.  Your goal is to avoid unproductive meetings by inviting too many people for the entire executive meeting, when they might only be relevant for a portion of the meeting.

Executive Meeting Framework

Also, the executive team should be using your Quarterly Plan as the framework for the meeting. The plan should consist of 3-5 Strategic Company Initiatives and 3-5 Personal Priorities each. Owners of those Priorities should have statused them Red, Yellow or Green prior to the Weekly Leadership Team Meeting.  You need to discuss long term growth initiatives, not just the "urgent" items from your daily firefighting that need to go through the executive decision-making process.

The ROI of Business Coaching: Executive Coaching Statistics (Updated for 2021)

My last blog, 6 Excuses for Avoiding an Executive Coach (and Why You Should Think Again) talked about all the negative internal chatter (aka, excuses) we give ourselves for not wanting to have an Executive Coach. That blog also pointed out some of the key business benefits of Executive Coaching. What do some of those benefits actually look like and how do I know if I need executive leadership coaching?  More specifically what is coaching ROI?

How to Make Staff Meetings More Engaging: 5 Tips to Increase Engagement in Team Meetings

In your next weekly team meeting, take a moment to look around. What are you seeing? Are your team members engaged—are they looking at each other, leaning forward, nodding, and exchanging ideas? Or, are they staring at their computer/phone or leaning back with arms crossed and eyes glazed? If you are on a virtual meeting platform, have everyone turn on their webcam so you can observe the non-verbals. However, you might not even need to do this to know that people aren’t really “there.” It is usually pretty obvious when everyone has muted their line and proceeded to work on something else, daydream, or run errands during your meeting.

21 Manufacturing KPIs and Metrics Updated for 2021 to Improve Production KPI Performance

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.

Download our free KPI Guide to help you drive results with KPIs.

Here are some of the most effective manufacturing KPIs and metrics:

12 Tips to Engage and Keep Top Talent Infographic in 2021

Many successful mid-market companies have cracked the hiring code. Perhaps you use a hiring method like Topgrading to ensure that you bring in only the best people - the ones who are superstar contributors and a good fit for your culture and Core Values. But, then what?

In our current economy with the extremely low unemployment rate and the rise in popularity of contract work, your top talent has more options than ever. And, according to Gallup's latest State of the American Workplace Report, 51% of employees say that they are actively looking for other opportunities. You have to give them compelling reasons to stay, or you will just keep wasting resources to hire and train for the same positions over and over again.

2021 Annual Planning Meeting - 5 Step Process to Create an Annual Plan with Agenda

Did you know that nearly half of all companies fail to meet their financial targets? Much of this lack of success can be traced back to poor annual planning sessions. Perhaps you talked about the targets and set them, but you failed to create an action plan to get there. I understand - there is an amazing amount of work that goes into facilitating a winning planning session. We know how hard it is, as our Rhythm experts have facilitated thousands of successful planning sessions to set our customers up for success. This blog will give a high-level overview of the five keys to creating a winning annual plan for 2021.  To have an effective planning meeting make sure you and your leadership team follow the five steps highlighted in this article to have an effective planning meeting.

Business Competencies Examples: Using Company Core Competencies to Innovate in 2021

In our fast-moving world of innovation and disruption, some leaders may wonder if it is no longer beneficial to hone core competencies over time. Are business core competencies - those unique combinations of capabilities and resources that make your business operationally different and give you a competitive edge - a strategic tool of the past?

Download our free Strategy Connector Tool to help you.

It takes years and a lot of focused energy to hone these diverse skills, activities, and technologies to near perfection, or to the point that they would be too difficult to replicate by competitors. So, is it still worth it to play the long game in our rapidly changing marketplace?  Here are some great business core competency examples to help you define yours.

Align People in 2021: Getting Everyone on the Same Page to Drive Alignment

Sounds like a simple concept: Alignment.  What makes this so hard to achieve?  The fact is, if you are hiring the right people, you will have a lot of smart people on your team who disagree with each other.  This is a good thing.  Alignment doesn’t mean that everyone starts on the same page; if that were true, then you’d just have a bunch of robots running around who all think the same way and who never challenge your ideas or come up with anything creative, interesting, or groundbreaking.

Difference of opinion among your team members is a key ingredient in developing the right strategies for your team, the ones that have been analyzed from different angles and debated in your planning sessions. However, when the dust settles and the decision has been made, this is where alignment takes over from diversity of viewpoints as the key to your strategy’s success or failure.  

What to Listen to in 2021: 8 Great Podcasts for CEOs

This has been a banner year for new podcasts! It seems like there's a new one launched every week. I suspect people who found themselves suddenly unable to travel or with more time on their hands due to the pandemic turned to this alternative medium where you don't have to be in person to be connected and reach an audience.

If you are heading back into the office in the new year and looking for some interesting and informative podcasts for the commute -- or, if you're like me and still working from home but looking for something to listen to as you aimlessly walk your neighborhood streets for the thousandth time, you'll find something in this list!

Clear Expectations: How Your Employees Know What Success Looks Like

For many, it's time to roll out those 2021 plans and kick off some new initiatives to help your company build back or accelerate growth in the new year. This may present additional challenges in the current environment in which many teams are working remotely or in hybrid scenarios where some are in the office and some are not. Truthfully, even if your team is all together in the same room, getting aligned around your company's new initiatives can still be a big challenge.

M&A KPIs: The Right Merger and Acquisition KPIs and Metrics to Prevent Failure

Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A) are not for the faint of heart. Any CEO who has navigated those waters will tell you it is a tremendous challenge to blend cultures, systems, processes and teams successfully. The statistic is 70-90% of M&A's fail -- that's a scary number! Instead of focusing on that metric, let's talk about numbers we should be measuring around M&A.

Every acquisition deal starts with an incredible amount of due diligence. Are the cultures and values compatible? Do the product lines and customer bases support each other? Do the numbers work and take us down a path of growth? Ultimately, if the deal goes through, benefits have been seen by both parties. Now, it's up to the newly-merged company to both preserve the current value of the organization and meet growth projections. It's a delicate balance.  

How to Retain & Grow Customers in the Time of COVID-19

As you strategize for the year ahead, there are a lot of unknowns. One thing is certain: keeping and growing your customers has never been more important. What are the best ways to retain and expand your existing customer base mid-pandemic? We all know that it is much more expensive to acquire new customers than to keep the ones you have, so regardless of what you are planning to help you grow revenue in the future, you need a plan for your current customer base.

Zoom Facilitation: Host a Virtual Meeting Like a Pro

Think about the last in-person meeting or conference you attended. Close your eyes and visualize the space. Was there a stage? What was on the stage? Was there a notepad or a glass of water at your seat? A tablecloth? What was the lighting like in the room? What was the temperature? Who was sitting at the head of the table? Was there a whiteboard or a big screen?

Your Journey to Great Execution in 2021

How much did misalignment cost your organization in 2020? Misalignment comes from poor planning, and it results in poor execution and missed numbers. The missed numbers happen in many categories: poor customer delivery, lost revenue, employee frustration/bad morale, great people leave the company and the loss of great customers. You don't want your team looking like this one.

How to Pressure Test Your Plan

This year, our expert consultants have been recommending a more agile approach to strategic planning; rather than hunkering down for two days in a conference room and emerging with a fully fleshed-out plan for next year, we've advocated for several shorter sessions with some time between each to gather more data and see what you can learn from the constantly evolving market conditions. As the year comes to a close, however, it is time to put some stakes in the ground and make some decisions about what to focus on in the coming months. Now's the time to ink a few clear objectives, which can always be adjusted as we learn more down the road.

Company Culture Checklist for Remote & Hybrid Teams

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.

CEO Secret Weapon: Simple, Proven System for Success

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.

Power SWOT: Harness the Power of a 2021 SWOT Analysis!

A common tool used in planning sessions is the SWOT analysis.  The acronym SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.  The tool was developed by Albert Humphrey of the Stanford Research Institute in the 1960’s.  Although we typically use this tool for strategic planning purposes, it can also be used to evaluate a person, product, market, industry or business opportunity.  Typically during quarterly planning, we focus on the external market by looking at opportunities and threats to ensure we are looking outside the organization as we plan and develop priorities.  During annual planning, it is more common to conduct a full SWOT analysis by also looking at the strengths and weaknesses internally to aid in our organizational development and strategic thinking. 

Management Meeting Agenda: Make Your 2021 Zoom Management Meetings Effective

In my last blog, I talked about how most meetings suck. Now, I want to focus our energy on ways that we can fix them and have effective meetings. One of the biggest complaints that I hear about bad meetings is the lack of an agenda or getting it two minutes prior to the meeting. While having a meeting without an agenda is horrifying, I have attended several bad meetings that had a detailed agenda sent well ahead of time! The problem was that the agenda didn’t cover all of the areas that the company needed to discuss in order to grow their business. It isn’t just having an agenda; it is about having the right management meeting agenda template focused on solving problems facing your organization.

Manufacturing KPI Dashboard: 25 KPI Examples (Updated for 2021)

Because Rhythm strategy execution software acts as a framework for pulling together into one single system many improvement initiatives and management tools that are popular among manufacturing companies, many of our most successful clients come from the manufacturing industry. One area that our clients come to us for help with is determining the right manufacturing KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) for their manufacturing metrics dashboard to drive performance.  Some production managers are not sure where to start, and many are measuring so many things that their manufacturing metrics are just noise, not driving action or change to drive your operating efficiency and product planning KPIs and KRA (key results areas.)

Download our free KPI Guide to help you drive results with KPIs.

Manufacturing KPI Examples

Staffing KPI Examples: The Top 27 Staffing Metrics (Updated for 2021)

At Rhythm Systems, we work with clients to ensure they are measuring the metrics that matter to allow them to achieve their dreams and goals. Our strategy execution software allows you to create KPI dashboards to ensure team accountability, alignment, and execution-ready quarterly plans. The staffing industry KPIs for recruiting that we have compiled below represent many of the metrics that can be measured. However, make sure that you pick the top recruiting KPIs that work for you and your team.

Strategic Planning During COVID-19: Business Planning for 2021

As the summer comes to an end and fall looms with more uncertainty, it can be tempting to sit back and see what comes next—but if you aren’t careful, you’ll be stuck in reactionary mode and never make forward progress. To successfully weather the storm and recover from the pandemic, you need a strategic plan. You may not know what’s coming around the bend, but you need to be proactive in planning for the future so you don’t get left behind.

There are a range of possibilities for the future which are currently unknowable. How long until the spread of the virus slows? When is there going to be a vaccine? Will there be another round of shut downs? Will there be additional support for individuals and businesses from the government? How long until consumers can resume their old routines, and what will their new routines look like? How long until business travel ramps back up? These aren’t questions any of us can answer right now.

5 Coaching Insights You'll Gain from the Best Executive Coaches

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.

Top 22 KPI Examples for Technology Companies (Updated for 2021)

It can be intimidating to sit down to a blank slate and begin working on your company’s first official KPI dashboard! Over the years, I’ve worked with hundreds of technology and software companies doing just that - beginning their KPI journey in Rhythm. So how do you get started?

First, it’s helpful to think of your business in terms of 4 key areas: Employees, Customers, Processes and Revenue. In order to have a clear high-level view of the health of your company, you should have visibility on all four areas. What can you measure to give you the proper insights on the health of your employees, customers, processes and revenue?  

Download our free KPI Guide to help you drive results with KPIs.

If you are still stuck, we’ve compiled the ultimate KPI cheat sheet for software companies! Below are some of the most common KPIs we’ve seen from technology companies using Rhythm for each of the 4 key areas:

Weekly Staff Meeting: Time for a Meeting Makeover in 2021 [Infographic]

Weekly Team Meetings…we’ve all got them. Conventional business wisdom has proclaimed since the beginning of time that the weekly staff meeting is a necessary evil. Lately, ditching the time you spend in meetings is a popular productivity hack, but without the regular time to collaborate with your team, you miss valuable problem-solving time and run the risk of everyone working in a silo—potentially on the wrong things.

40 KPI Examples for the Service Industry (Updated for 2021)

Research shows that our economy is largely being driven by middle-market firms, especially those in the service industries. Key Performance Indicators (KPIS) are one of the most effective tools for service companies to manage their growth, cash flow, customer retention and customer satisfaction.  According to a press release from American Express: 

Job Scorecard Examples and Template (Updated for 2021)

According to Gallup, only about half of workers in companies worldwide “strongly agree that they know what is expected of them at work.” If they don’t know what’s expected, how can they possibly achieve performance goals? If you are a manager, you need to help your team set and achieve goals, and you need to help each person on the team understand exactly what’s expected from him or her. And, you should know exactly what’s expected of you, as well. This is why we recommend doing Job Scorecards (or Employee Scorecards) for each person in the company, starting with the members of the executive team.

Productivity vs Efficiency in Manufacturing: What's the Difference in 2021?

Two key concepts in manufacturing that often get misconstrued or even used synonymously are productivity and efficiency. Do you know what the difference is? Despite these two words pertaining to improving the production process of a manufacturing, agriculture, or service sector company, they refer to different things. Once you think about the differences, you can better utilize productivity and efficiency in your business. Read this blog to better understand productivity vs efficiency and how it impacts your manufacturing business. 

The 10 Best HR Employee Engagement Metrics and KPIs [Updated for 2021]

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.

How to Conduct an Effective Annual Planning Meeting Agenda for 2021

You can make an argument that your company’s annual planning meeting is the most important thing you do all year. It is where you have your entire leadership team discusses all of the key issues facing your company and industry.  Each of your quarterly execution plans will anchor off of the decisions you make during the yearly planning meeting, and those quarterly plans are what drive the focus of your team’s weekly and daily execution. Plus, your Annual Plan has to move your company’s long-term strategic goals forward and be aligned to your core foundational strategy. Not to mention that you usually have your company’s most expensive leadership team in the room for one or two days - the cost is high and there’s a lot riding on this important business planning meeting.  Don't worry, we have over a dozen years of experience in strategic planning meetings, and we can help get you on the right track.

Virtual Strategic Planning Sessions: 7 Tips for Great Strategic Zoom Meetings

If you are like many of our clients, you may be considering adjusting travel plans for your team in the midst of the concern surrounding COVID-19. This will obviously have a big impact on most businesses, which makes it more important than ever to prioritize your team’s quarterly planning meeting. You’ll need to spend time thinking about the impacts to your team and your business, so even if you are canceling travel, don’t cancel your session!  This is likely to be the most important virtual strategy session in the history of your company - even if you can't meet face to face.  You need to be agile to respond to the ever-changing market conditions while creating your 3-5 year strategic plans.  

The Test of True Accountability (Updated for 2021)

This happens all the time. You are holding someone accountable to get something done. Yet you find yourself checking in and chasing for an update on what is going on. Constantly. And if you do not remind them to report the current status to you, they continue to mosey on and forget about reporting in. So frustrating! But they are supposed to be truly accountable, right? So why are you chasing them around as though you are the one that is really accountable?

Implementation Process: Implementing New Processes and Procedures

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.

How to be a Good Facilitator: Top 10 Qualities of the Best Facilitators [Updated for 2021]

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.

Company KPIs: Creating Business KPIs That Drive Success in 2021

The body has four main vital signs that doctors use all around the world to determine the condition of a patient. The four vital signs are body temperature, pulse rate, respiration (breathing) rate and blood pressure. These are measurements of the basic functions that keep you alive. They need to be functioning properly in order for anything else to work, including your brain! These metrics are just four of the hundreds of potential measurements that a doctor could use to assess the health of a patient. However, the four vital signs are the most important elements of a patient’s current state of health. Once the vital signs are stable, the doctor can begin to diagnose the long-term treatment of the patient, but they don’t do that until they know the vital signs have stabilized.   Do you know the vital signs for your company's success at achieving its strategic plan and key business objectives?

Team Huddle: How to Lead Successful Team Huddle Meetings [Updated for 2021]

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.

OKRs vs KPIs: What’s the Difference and Why You Need Both. [Infographic]

As a training and on-boarding expert at Rhythm Systems, I know a lot about KPIs. Recently, I’ve also learned a lot about OKRs. Many of my newer clients have come to us for a systematic way to implement their OKRs. As I help these clients map their goals into our software, I’ve been thinking a lot about whether the KPIs I know and love have a place in this world of Objectives and Key Results. I’ve come to the conclusion that while KPIs and OKRs are different, there’s a clear benefit to having both.  They are both instrumental in goal setting and performance management.

Engaging Remote Employees: How to Engage Employees That Work from Home

Employee engagement for remote workers is a huge topic in the market today, especially with the Coronavirus (COVID-19) limiting travel and forcing a large part of the working population to work from home that don't typically do so, throwing their work life balance into chaos. It is difficult enough to engage employees that are in the same office as you, let alone engaging employees virtually. In today’s hectic and fast-paced work environment, organizations need to do everything they can do to create an engaging workplace that helps find, attract and develop A-players no matter where they are located.

How to Prepare for An Effective 2021 Strategic Planning Session [Video]

At this point in the year, many companies are gearing up to plan for the next year as part of their strategic planning process. Before you lock down your budget for your next year, ensure that you spend a few days with the executive team to assess where you are on your strategic plans and strategic objectives and really think about where you may need to make additional investments to grow your business over the next year in this strategy meeting. Your annual planning session is a key part of your business rhythm; this is where you develop and advance your 3-5 year growth strategies or Winning Moves, map out the annual initiatives to get you there, and create your blueprint for your entire year of execution. In order to get maximum value out of this expensive time with your team, it is critical to have each person in the room prepare well.  The strategic planning session is an important part of your annual meeting to ensure your plan will help you hit your goals.

What Should a CEO Focus On?  How CEOs Should Spend Their Time.

“Time is an inelastic resource. No matter how high the demand, we cannot rent, hire or buy more of it.”
-Peter Drucker

A Quick Note: This is a lengthy blog, but if you read it you’ll already be spending your time in an area where you should be spending your time (as you’ll see toward the end). So sit back, give yourself the gift of time, and enjoy the read.

A primary focus of my job is to help middle market CEOs and their Executive Officers increase their efficiency while also (and more importantly) increasing their effectiveness. Most all CEOs I work with tend to agree that there’s never enough time in a day to do everything that needs to be done. As their companies grow and hit various ceilings of complexity, CEOs find that they, too, hit their own ceilings of complexity. This realization is all-consuming and inundating, with the end result being a string of behaviors that play out to result in focusing on what’s in front of them—on what they perceive deserves their time and attention at that moment in time (and many times, this intense focus also leads to long—very long—work hours). Interestingly, Harvard Business Review researchers found that the most effective leaders aren't the ones who constantly work a ton of hours each week, but rather the ones who are the most attentive and focused while at work. The intent of most all CEOs is to be attentive and focused, yet the hunger to simply work long hours so they can do more can be a massive beast that slowly devours the most valuable resource CEOs have: Time.

Strategic CEO Coaching for Busy Executives: 6 Excuses to Avoid

If you believe the adage, ‘time is money,’ then you’re saying that the concept of time (and the elapse  of that time) costs you and your company money. Therefore, maximizing that time and using it in the right way matters. Most executives don’t need to work on their literal area of business expertise (although continuous learning is important), but what many fail to recognize is that leadership, too, is a skill. The minute you became a leader, everything shifted. At that moment, you didn’t just have to do the tasks you’ve always done; now you had to also lead people to do what they do best, every single day.

Skip-Level Meeting Questions and Agenda [Updated for 2021]

What is a skip-level meeting?

As defined in an article by Jared Lewis, "In a skip-level meeting, upper-level management bypasses mid-level management to talk directly to non-managerial employees. Although there's not typically a special position known as a 'skip-level manager,' senior managers conducting these types of meetings are considered skip-level managers."  The manager meets with employees to try to better understand their team members, build trust in the organization and get a better sense of the work environment challenges facing your front line employees.  Skip level meetings for employees are just as important as they are for managers, and both should be well prepared prior to the "skip level meeting."  Done properly, the skip level meeting is an effective tool to improve communications across your organization. 

Hedgehog Concept Examples: How a Hedgehog Supports a BHAG

Does your who do what? It sounds somewhat funny, but this is really a serious question. Many people know what these terms are, but for those that do not, here is a brief refresher. These terms come from author and management consultant Jim Collins in Good to Great.  You can find some great BHAG examples on our middle market CEO blog that can help you take your company from good to great.  The main gist of the hedgehog concept is to find where the intersection of your passion, financial drivers and where you can be the best in the world in your organization.

20 Ways to Achieve Your 2021 Annual Plan

What should you do if you cannot seem to come up with enough sales opportunities to hit the revenue target for next year?  This scenario sometimes comes up during an annual planning session.  You've built a sales and revenue plan for the year based on assumptions and this year's historical performance, and it does not add up to achieve the revenue target that you have set for the next year.  And now you are staring at a gap.  How do we fill this gap?  I would suggest that you do a "20 ways to..." exercise to come up with ideas to fill this gap.  

How to Be a Fit Mid-Market CEO for 2021 and Beyond

To give your business an edge against the competition in 2019, you might be considering some ways to level yourself up in the process. Instead of looking for extra hours, more meetings, and hiring new personnel to help you tackle it all, have you considered using fitness to your advantage? The benefits of being physically active and healthy are many, but for the business-minded, the boost in mental productivity, creativity, and optimism are three tools you need to increase your success in the coming year. 

KPI Audit: Measure What Matters in 2021 Audit KPIs with Examples

It may still feel like the middle of winter to some, but you might find that it is time to do some spring-cleaning when it comes to your KPIs. We recommend tracking no more than 8-12 KPIs at a time for each team, but we’ve noticed that some of our clients get trapped by what we call “KPI creep.” They may start with a list that makes sense for their business, and then over time, the KPIs just get rolled over from one quarter to the next and one year to the next, and they keep adding to the list as they develop new critical numbers or want to move the needle on different metrics. Before too long, their KPI dashboard is like that nightmare closet; you know, like your teenager’s closet, when you open the door and stuff falls out on your head because it is just so full and disorganized.  If this is happening to you, you need to perform a KPI Audit to get back to measuring what matters.

Daily Huddle Meetings: Agenda to Make Them More Productive in 2021 (Agenda)

Staying aligned in today's modern work environment is harder than ever.  There are so many distractions in your daily work, that it is hard enough to know what you are up to - let alone your team members.  One of the best ways to get aligned and everyone on the same page is to have a daily huddle with your team to share your victories, priorities and remove your roadblocks.  You can implement an effective daily huddle as part of your effective meeting rhythm by following the seven rules of Daily Huddle!

Models for Successful Cross-Functional Planning

One of the biggest challenges for companies is aligning their priorities across the entire organization. As a leader, you need the right people working on the right things at the right time in order to move your strategy forward—so how do you do that?!

We’ve seen that the companies who do this the best use at least one of these three proven models for successful cross-functional planning:

Job Scorecard vs. Job Description: What's the Difference in 2021? (Video)

Job Scorecards (or employee scorecards) have been a hot topic recently. Many companies are looking for a way to provide more constant and balanced feedback and coaching to employees while scaling up, instead of just an annual review.   The scorecard approach allows company managers to achieve their strategic objectives.

The truth is traditional annual performance reviews can be riddled with anxiety. Many times, employees perceive a connection to salary or a raise, which is stressful for everyone. The true value of a performance review - an opportunity for development and coaching - is often missed.  The role and goal clarity that the employee scorecard provides enables managers to be more involved in employee performance.

Brand Promise Examples: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly (Updated for 2021)

Your Brand Promise is the commitment to your customers that really matters to them and differentiates you from your competition.  It is one of the most important building blocks help you win more of the right customers by helping you focus on how you sell your product/service to your Core Customer. 

What makes a Brand Promise “good” is not only its appeal to your Core Customer and its ability to help you close sales with them, but also your ability to consistently deliver on that promise.  It will let all of your customers know what to expect from your company.  You'll find that most of the brand promise examples listed below you are already familiar with as they clearly define the what the brand promises the customer and is used heavily in their marketing as it completely aligns with their brand.

3 Rhythm Tips CEOs & Sales Leaders Use to Hit Their Numbers

If you ask any salesperson what their #1 Priority is, they will say, “Make my numbers!”

Truer words were never spoken, eager salesperson!

So how do the most successful Sales Teams use Rhythm to achieve desired results? Below are three patterns we’ve seen that drive extreme focus, increased pipeline predictability and speed of execution.

Planning for an Uncertain 2021: Tips to Create Plan A and Plan B

We recently held our 6th annual Breakthrough Conference, although it was our first ever virtual conference, and I want to share a few ideas from one of the two sessions I facilitated: Planning for an Uncertain 2021.

These are extraordinary times we are living in right now, and traditional approaches need to be challenged. As we enter into the busiest time of the year for annual planning, I hope you will find these tips useful.

What We Learned about Remote Meetings by Planning a Virtual Conference

The feedback surveys are still rolling in, but I can say without a doubt that our first virtual conference was a success! Our amazing clients (and our generous CEO who matched contributions) raised enough money for Samaritan’s Feet to provide shoes and COVID kits for 1,200 children. We heard inspiring keynotes and gained insights from client speakers sharing stories on everything from the future of the physical office to the challenges of innovating during a crisis. We had some fun, and we learned a ton—and not just from the content.

5 Tips to Win and Retain your Core Customers (Updated for 2021)

Customer retention is a routine, where you rinse, repeat, and rise to perfection over time. In 2018, winning new customers and keeping their business is going to get more challenging now that new trends, like enhancing user experience through content and emphatic marketing, are on the rise. Therefore, if you want to win and retain core customers in the new year, you are going to have to fine tune or make adjustments to the customer programs you have already implemented. 

Here are 5 tips to help you succeed: 

Know Your Brand

The secret that many companies continue to miss when attracting customers is having a clear vision of what their brand stands for and how it is communicated in the market. You need to know what wins customers over to begin with. To do so, you have to answer the following questions: 

Master Electronics Achieves Over 100 High-Impact Growth Initiatives with Rhythm [Client Spotlight]

A better way to scale a family-owned business

How Master Electronics grew from 160 to 450 people by empowering them to make decisions without family input

Riad Nizam is the President of Master Electronics, a leading authorized distributor of electronic components. When Master Electronics became our client over six years ago, they were doing well as a company but it was hard to scale. Without a tool like Rhythm, they would start with a plan but four weeks later, lose momentum. 

In order to scale, Master Electronics had to:

  • Build a culture of trust to empower their employees to make decisions without having the family last name
  • Track their plan and stay focused on the activities that drove their growth initiatives

Rhythm Helps Drake Forecast Better to Meet Customer Deadlines [Client Spotlight]

A Better Way to Forecast Customer Growth

How a manufacturing company improved their ability to forecast when production needed to ramp up to meet customer demand

As a provider of custom-built machines that help food processing companies load frankfurters, sausages, cheese sticks and other products, Drake has to forecast when customer demand arises so they can have all of the appropriate teams and resources in place (engineering, welder, machinists, etc.) in order to meet their deadlines.

George Reed, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, shared that sales forecasts, expenses and hiring plans were historically determined once a year during their annual budgeting and forecasting process.

How to NOT Treat Your Customers

Apple just released the iPhone 12. It comes in various sizes, finishes and configurations as it enters the world of 5G. Of course I want one. I want one badly. I am such a sucker for innovative technology. I've also successfully convinced my wife that it is part of my job to use the latest technologies so that I can share my thoughts with clients. Yup, it's part of my job—and I love it.

Focus: How to Keep Your Teams from Being Consumed by Countless Distractions

For many, our current environment is more distracting than any other time in our work lives. With a pandemic raging, a U.S. election looming, and economic uncertainty lurking, there are lots of competing priorities for your employees’ time and attention. If your employees are working remotely, they may be working in uncomfortable spaces without the right equipment, navigating remote learning challenges with children, or figuring out shared schedules with partners or roommates. Even if your team is back in the office, they are likely distracted by new protocols for social distancing and mask wearing, worrying about the health and safety of themselves and their loved ones, concerned about being furloughed or a myriad of other distractions. 

Creating Synergy Between Cross Functional Teams (Updated for 2021)

One of the most important components of the Rhythm Systems, the Think-Plan-Do methodology is to implement a planning rhythm that includes the next level of management.  Taking Think-Plan-Do to operational teams creates alignment to the company plan and helps each team get focused on the next 90 days. But, how can that help teams that need to work together?  How do you get two different operational teams to work together, not only in a positive way, but in a way that produces maximum impact on results and creates synergy between teams?

Write an Inspiring 2021 Annual Plan Using a Destination Postcard (Infographic)

I bet you’re not going into Annual Planning this year thinking, “Gee, I’d really like to have a pretty slow year where our company doesn’t accomplish much.” I bet you have big dreams for the year ahead - important initiatives you want to kick off, lofty revenue goals you’re shooting for, new products you want to launch or customers or acquisitions you can’t wait to land.

How Middle Market CEOs Execute on Strategy for Success (Updated for 2021)

Most Companies Fail Due to Poor Strategic Execution

As a fan of Blue Ocean strategy, you already know how important it is to have the right strategy. But, a great strategy executed poorly produces lackluster results and missed targets. Unfortunately, most companies and top executives focus their efforts on developing a strong strategy but spend very little time converting those strategies into “execution ready” plans that clearly define the actual work team members need to do to bring the 3-5 year strategic plan as determined in your planning process to fruition.


OKR vs KPI vs MBO: What the Best Goals Types Have in Common

Businesses looking to implement goal setting best practices are often drowning in a sea of acronyms that can be hard to navigate. What’s better - MBOs or OKRs? Where do KPIs fit in? Should I have SMART goals or stretch goals or something else? There are lots of tools and frameworks and different acronyms out there, but there are some key elements of effective goal-setting that underlie all of the most effective business and performance management goals.

First, let’s clarify the terminology a little bit. I’ll give a brief explanation of what MBOs, OKRs, and KPIs are and what the pros and cons may be for each.

Balanced Scorecard KPI Examples: A Comprehensive List of KPIs

As the middle market strategy execution experts, we get asked a lot of questions about KPIs or Key Performance Indicators for firms to manage the metrics that matter. In fact, we get hundreds of thousands of yearly views on our KPI blog posts alone! Our comprehensive KPI Guide is one of the most valuable free resources that we offer to the middle market community free of charge to help companies determine the right set of KPIs for their business if they don’t have the resources to utilize our expertise and KPI dashboard software to create a balanced scorecard (BSC) of their performance.

Top 10 Business Problems CEOs are Facing Today [Infographic]

At Rhythm Systems, we specialize in helping middle market companies achieve their dreams and goals. We believe that we can make a big impact on the world by helping our clients be successful in bringing their vision to life. We do this by using our methodology, experts and tools to help clients break through barriers and remove obstacles to their success.

In order to understand those obstacles better, we collected insights from over 900 CEOs about their biggest business challenges. We wanted to know what was keeping you up at night, and we found the results fascinating.

Top 10 Business Challenges Facing Today's CEOs:


By far, the most common business challenge reported is related to growth.  CEOs worry about managing growth and growing predictably.


Next, CEOs are concerned about hiring, employee engagement, accountability, leadership and performance management.


Maintaining profitability and healthy cash flow is another very common theme from our middle market CEOs.  

Sales and Marketing

Consistently delivering sales and marketing results came up frequently as a top challenge.  How do you get the team to work cross-functionally?


Successfully executing new strategies, projects, and plans.  How do you organize and lead the change initiatives across the company?


CEOs also report that aligning business units and people is a significant struggle.  Getting on the same page is hard and staying on the same page in the fast paced business world is even harder.  You need a system to keep the team aligned.


Developing the right strategic plan for future growth and effectively facilitating an effective planning meeting were among the top concerns.


CEOs additionally reported internal communication and collaboration as significant business challenges.  This is even more challenging during the times of remote work, where communication and alignment also suffer if you don't have an operating system for your business.


Focusing on doing the right things to achieve clearly defined results.  Priorities often change with changing business conditions, but management doesn't get their teams focused on the priorities for today, causing lots of re-work.


Developing and executing the right product, customer and growth strategies is also a top of mind as a challenge for CEOs.  Many find extreme benefits in hiring a strategic planning facilitator for their expertise in getting an actionable strategy for the company and plans how to get there.

Level 5 Leadership Examples- How to be a Level 5 Leader

The Level 5 Leadership Stage is Set…

Have you ever had this "strange" feeling that you just couldn’t shake? I recently went through that. It was after a two-day Annual Planning Session with a newly formed executive team (the company had been through a major transition). It was a great two days but the reality is that as the session began, the “stage” was a bit of a mess because the executive team was fractured in their vision for the company. In spite of that, alignment and clarity of vision were created over those two days. But after the session, my reflective thinking left me feeling suspended inside. It was a strange feeling.

The strange feeling actually began to linger as the two day session ensued; it was just something I noticed but I couldn’t get my mind wrapped around what it was. It was subtle, non-obtrusive yet politely prominent. It just lingered. Upon reflective thinking after the session came the epiphany. It was the CEO. Yet, I still couldn’t pinpoint anything. So, I asked myself: What is it about this CEO that I can’t grasp? What is it? 

Preparation is Key: 21 Quotes to Inspire Your Planning Process

Over the last few months, my husband and I have been re-watching AMC’s Mad Men, a show we started a long time ago and never finished in the flood of other enticing streaming content and demands of life with two small kids. While there is plenty of workplace behavior on this show that I by no means endorse, every once in a while, Don Draper drops in with a quote that makes me think. For example, in one episode, he says to his apprentice, Peggy, who’s struggling to come up with an idea for a client, “Just think about it deeply. Then forget it. And an idea will…jump up in your face.”

It got me thinking about how critical it is to prepare well for strategic planning, especially as most of our clients are in the midst of Q4 and Annual Planning. You can’t just show up in the meeting and hope inspiration will strike, and you’ll create the perfect strategy for navigating this challenging environment filled with uncertainty. You need to put the time in to really think, prepare well and clear your head in advance. Maybe then, with the right preparation and when you least expect it, inspiration will strike.

How to Conduct a Meeting Audit to Eliminate Waste

Take a look at your calendar. If you’re like most executives, you’re booked up with meetings weeks in advance. As we all know, meetings can sometimes be a real waste of time. At Rhythm Systems, we help our clients establish the right rhythm or cadence of meetings and use best practices to ensure the time spent in meetings is valuable. We believe that our Daily Huddles, Weekly Team Meetings, Monthly Meetings, Quarterly Planning, Annual Planning, and ongoing think rhythms help your company (and each of you) work more effectively, solve problems more proactively, and make critical adjustments so you can achieve success. That being said, you probably have some meetings on your calendar that you wonder, “What’s the point?"

Do You Need a Strategy Refresh?

There is no better time than the present to work on completing your strategy. You may have wanted to nail down your work on core customer, brand promise or brand promise guarantee. You may need to review your core competencies and refresh the short list. Maybe you are getting close to reaching your Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) and need to envision a new one.

As many people continue to work virtually, it creates the perfect opportunity to set aside time and schedule a virtual planning session or two. Working virtually allows more flexibility by allowing you to break sessions into 4-hour increments, if desired, and you can schedule the work over several weeks.

Breakthrough 2020: Key Insights and Takeaways

One of the best parts of our annual Breakthrough Conference is getting our Rhythm community together to live our core values of Keep Smart, Be Appreciative, Family is a Blessing, No TDC (Thinly Disguised Contempt) and Go the Second Mile. This year’s conference looked considerably different—while we weren’t able to showcase our southern hospitality by having our guests come to Charlotte and enjoy time together in person, we did have an amazing virtual learning experience last week.

Our first virtual conference was a whirlwind of amazing content, and I’ll be thinking about some of the presentations for a long time to come! We heard from amazing speakers and learned a ton from the attendees, as well. In the spirit of our Keep Smart core value, I’m here to share some of our audience’s key takeaways.

The Psychology of Goal Setting & Why You Can't Skip Planning

Many companies are tempted to power through the end of the year and see what happens. That approach could prove catastrophic for your business. Your people need to set goals for themselves; you can’t skip the planning process and hope to end 2020 successfully. As we head into 2020, be sure to slow down and engage in a team planning process to set goals together or you risk squandering focus and engagement in addition to missing the opportunity to end a difficult year on top.

Improve Team Mental Health with Your Weekly Meeting

A recent survey from SHRM found, "Work-related concerns left more than 40 percent of employees feeling hopeless, burned out or exhausted as they grapple with lives altered by COVID-19.” The survey found that younger workers (Generation Z) and women were more likely to report symptoms of depression, and only 7% of those experiencing symptoms had reached out to a mental health professional for help. As a leader in your company, your team’s mental health should be a top concern; your company can’t emerge from this crisis strong and ready for the future without a team that’s mentally fit.

How to Keep Team Productivity High While Working from Home [VIDEO]

In March, when many teams moved to work from home for the first time, I heard a lot of questions from clients about how to know if their teams were still producing. After all these months, the results probably speak for themselves—as in, you know by now if team members have found ways to work productively outside of the office, and you hopefully have addressed performance issues with anyone who hasn't.

The questions are different now; the focus has shifted from, “How do you know if they are productive?” to “How can we keep them productive for the long haul?” As the reality sets in that many workplaces will remain at least partially remote well into next year, leaders are wondering about how to keep workers healthy, happy and productive in their new work environments over time.

3 Year Strategic Plan: How to Achieve your 3 Year Strategy

There are many views or definitions of strategy. Renowned Harvard Business School professor and strategy expert Michael Porter provided one that I like because of both its simplicity and clarity. Porter defines strategy as:
  • The creation of a unique and valuable position, involving a different set of activities.

Porter argues that tactical improvements or operational efficiencies are not strategies but that the essence of strategy is to perform a different set of activities from that of your rivals. For many businesses, regardless of size, strategy work may get completed annually but there is a disconnect between strategy and performance. There have been many books and articles written on the topic of “Execution”.  An Execution framework is critical to be certain, but outstanding execution will not rescue strategy that lacks focus or differentiation. To be successful, a company must master the three areas of Strategic Growth: Strategic Thinking, Execution Planning, and actually Doing the Work.

Team Meeting: How to Run Effective Team Meetings [Including Zoom Meetings]

Team meetings are a key component of any business. It’s important that the employees know and understand what’s going on with the company and what expectations they need to meet in order for the company to be successful.  It is one of the best ways to create a culture of continuous improvement.  Want to run a great meeting and save time each and every week?  Just follow our tips on how to run a team meeting.

How does your team react to the weekly meeting? Is it a task they dread? Do they welcome the break from their desks? Do they get frustrated because every single meeting always seems to be about the concerns of one single person? Do the meeting participants believe it is time well spent? We have found that companies that take control of their meetings get a huge return on their investment with high employee engagement.

What is the Difference Between a Primary Customer and Secondary Customer?

I have written previously about the importance of identifying your core customer because I have seen far too many companies waste their valuable time and resources selling to and serving the "wrong" customers.  They haven't taken the necessary steps to identify their most valuable customers that purchased the primary product and were highly satisfied.

Your core customer is the one who values what you offer at a price and quantity that is good for both you and the customer and will take you into the future successfully. This is the individual that uses the product, the one you look in the eyes and can put a name to and the one you can’t live without. Knowing who the core customer is will impacts sales in a positive manner.

Tactical Leadership vs. Strategic Leadership: Which Management Style Are You?

We read a lot these days about strategic leadership and tactical leadership (as we should). Leaders find themselves up against a multitude of scenarios and situations, all of which they’re supposed to magically handle in the right way with the right methods for each situation. When you study leadership, you quickly discover the massive complexity that surrounds it. So let’s take just one slice of strategic vs tactical leadership and dissect it for the purpose of your own reflective thinking about what kind of leader you tend to be and the pros/cons that surround each of these tendencies. 

The slice of leadership we’ll look at is the tactical leader vs. the strategic leader. Both are needed, but when you’re trying to lead a team (or teams) of people toward a common endpoint and/or if you’re trying to grow a company, understanding the differences between these two management styles is imperative. Without a sense of understanding around your own leadership tendencies, you can’t move the needle on much of anything let alone work towards achieving a strategic plan or objective.

Departmental Silos: The Silent Productivity Killer [New Research]

Written by Cindy Praeger and Eskinder Assefa

Departmental silos in business are organizational units that should operate as specialized components of the proverbial ‘well-oiled machine’ but, unfortunately, almost always wind up operating increasingly in isolation of the rest of the company and will often end up in turf wars.

Organizational units created to provide excellence in some functional area inevitably grow to the point that they become more or less independent of the rest of the company. That, in turn, leads to fragmentation, destroying synergy with the rest of the organization and, at the same time, wasting resources by replicating expertise and data found elsewhere in the company choking the flow of information and making most cross departmental projects failures.

COVID 19 SWOT Analysis: SWOT Analysis in a Pandemic

Many planning tools are used on an annual basis—yet, they are often overlooked in the middle of a pandemic like COVID-19. There is an opportunity, now more than ever, in your team's need for direction, a way to focus their action and a bumper rail to keep them moving forward. This will allow you to harness the energy of your team rather than sinking in the quicksand of panic.

Many executives have heard of SWOT but aren’t familiar with how to leverage it for their business plan, much less how to utilize it in a time of crisis. Every business I work with has seen affects from the pandemic—either positive or negative. Let’s look at how to utilize the SWOT approach for either effect by making it a cSWOT (Crisis SWOT). A SWOT analysis about covid 19 is key to establishing a healthy decision-making capability and communication rhythm in your company during trying times.

Strategic Planning Tips: 17 Tips to Create a Winning Strategic Plan

So, you had a great planning session with your team. Everybody left the 3-day session pumped up and ready to hit your targets for the year and move the company one step closer to achieving your Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) and other long term strategic goals. You've done the strategy work extremely well?  What could possibly go wrong?

Unfortunately, even with everyone’s good intentions, running the day-to-day business can get in the way of making progress on your annual and quarterly rocks if you are not intentional about your execution or operation planning of all of your important projects to help you achieve your vision.  These strategic planning tips should help you execute on your 3 year strategic plan while keeping track of your day to day activities.  As the experts in mid market planning facilitation we are often asked for our best strategic planning advice, so here you go!

Why are KPIs Important? How to Choose the Right Key Performance Indicators

Measuring the right Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) is vital to the health and success of your business. However, when we onboard new clients, we find that some of them are uncertain about what they should be measuring and how they can use these powerful tools.  They often ask "Why do we need KPIs?" or "Why use KPIs?" or "Why are KPIs important" as they think their way of doing things isn't broken.  Effective KPIs are important metrics to make sure that you can accomplish any business objective.

Operational KPIs: 33 Productivity KPI Examples to Measure

According to a recent article I read in Harvard Business Review, "most employees want to be productive, but the organization too often gets in their way. Our research indicates that the average company loses more than 20% of its productive capacity — more than a day each week — to what we call 'organizational drag,' the structures and processes that consume valuable time and prevent people from getting things done."  What productivity KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and metrics can we measure employee performance, employee satisfaction and employee engagement?

The article continued to say that "people have huge amounts of discretionary energy that they could devote to their work, but many are not sufficiently inspired to do so. Virtually every employee can bring more to their job, but many don’t invest the additional ingenuity and creativity that they could to improve productivity. Inspired employees bring more discretionary energy to their work every day. As a result, they are 125% more productive than an employee who is merely satisfied. Stated differently, one inspired employee can produce as much as 2.25 satisfied employees."

Wow! I was stunned by this data!  

Monthly Meeting Agenda Template [Updated]

One of the many things I get to do in my role here at Rhythm Systems is work with our CEO Patrick Thean to coordinate and run our monthly management team meetings. This monthly meeting is a key component for our leadership team’s success; it gets us all aligned, it reinforces and enhances our company culture, it engages and re-focuses our leaders, and it is a great way for us to learn together each month.

Strategic Planning: Examples of What to Start, Stop and Keep Doing for 2021

It may seem daunting to tackle your Strategic Annual Planning session for 2021. With so much uncertainty due to the ongoing pandemic, economic crisis, and upcoming election, it may be tempting for some company leaders to postpone planning. The temptation is understandable; nobody wants to waste time crafting a detailed annual plan that will have to be scrapped in Q1, which happened to many of us in 2020.

Done! How to Close Out a Quarter

As we wrap up Q3 and move on to Q4, I’ve had a lot of conversations with clients and my team about the best practices for closing out a quarter. Typically, we focus a lot of time and energy on planning for a new quarter…but what about closing out the one that’s finishing?

In order to get better at planning and execution, it’s a critical step to pause and reflect on the goals you set out to accomplish at the beginning of the quarter. How’d you do? Was your plan too ambitious? Not bold enough? What adjustments would you make if you had it to do again?

Communication and Empathy Are Key to Leading Mid-Crisis

I have two small children sleeping quietly (for once) as I write this a little before 6 am. While the COVID-19 crisis has been hard for everyone—especially those who have been sick or lost loved ones or livelihoods—I know firsthand just how challenging it has been for working parents with small children. In the early days, when preschool and daycare were closed, I was trying to distract them with a movie long enough to get through a Zoom call or two and that would inevitably lead to a game of “push mama’s buttons,” both figuratively and literally, in which I’d have to hold the computer above my head so they didn’t hang up the Zoom.

5 Simple Ways To Nurture Leadership Skills In Your Growing Team

2020 has been a disastrous year in general, and the business world has certainly suffered major losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic: lockdown protocols (though entirely warranted) saw many businesses close their offices and mothball their operations due to their inability to cope. But things haven’t been so bleak for everyone. Some companies have continued to grow, being able and willing to roll with the unusual circumstances, and are currently thriving.

Perhaps you’re in that fortunate position. While others struggled to adapt to remote working and shifts in supply and demand, you weathered the storm and remained on an upward trajectory — and due to that success, your team is still growing. Most likely it’s expanding even faster now that there are so many more talented professionals looking for work.

Strategic Software Features that Make CEOs' Jobs Easier

As a CEO, you have specific challenges from a leadership perspective. You have to keep your team connected to your overall strategy, make sure they get the resources they need to be successful and drive focus & accountability at every level—this is no small task, for sure! CEOs who use Rhythm have some incredible resources right at their fingertips to help them do just that.

How CEOs Can Avoid High-Cost Mistakes in Annual Planning

We are coming into that time of year where a lot of companies are gearing up or doing their annual planning to prepare for next year. In preparation for that, we are presenting a webinar in conjunction with the Association for Corporate Growth, ACG, to highlight some of the mistakes companies make and three very important lessons that can help you avoid those mistakes and the failure that accompanies them. Did you know that on average, only 50-60% of companies actually hit their annual performance targets?  The stats are not very good, and even worse if you have just participated in a merger or acquisition. Team members involved in a merger or acquisition want to know two primary things: where is the company going, and what do you need me to do today?

A Players: Attracting, Engaging and Keeping Topgrading A Players

If you read our blog often, you know that we are fans of Topgrading, and we frequently talk about hiring and developing A Players. In a previous post, I gave an example of one of our clients who did an audit of all of their employees and created a KPI for “% of A Players.” If you aren’t familiar with Topgrading, you might be wondering about this term - “A Players.” What does it mean?

Big Hairy Audacious Goals: Classic BHAG Examples (Still Relevant in 2021)

I recently re-read the classic HBR article entitled "Building Your Company's Vision" by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras, and I was struck by the great examples they gave to illustrate different types of Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAGs). If you are asking yourself "What is a BHAG?" or struggling to come up with an audacious goal for the first time, these examples will help you get started as it is a powerful tool to align your company around a single mission statement. These may also be helpful if you are working with your team to reset after accomplishing your 10-25 year visionary goal. Don't let your team fall into the trap of complacency after reaching the finish line of one BHAG (pronounced bee hag); celebrate your success, and then reset. Having a long term, a visionary goal is a habit of successful companies that becomes the unifying focal point of effort that aligns your team and gets everyone excited is the only way your company will continue to grow with purpose and increase team spirit.

Download a free BHAG guide to help you create and align your company around a  single strategic vision

How CEOs Prepare for an Effective Quarterly Planning Session

Excited. Ready. Anxious. Eager. Let’s go!

Worried. Tired. Stressed. Done. Overwhelmed.

At the end of a meeting, we usually recommend closing with an exercise where everyone in the room shares one word on how they are feeling leaving the meeting. When you get to the end of your next Quarterly Planning Session, you don’t want to hear the second set of closing remarks. You want the team to leave feeling energized and ready to take on the next 90 days. Successfully achieving your strategy may hinge on it.

OKR Spreadsheet: Why You Should Upgrade Your OKR Game

I’ve just finished reading John Doerr’s book, Measure What Matters: OKRs - The Simple Idea that Drives 10x Growth, and it is full of really practical goal-setting tips and great stories from real companies like Intel, Google, and even a few smaller companies. What struck me throughout the book, though, is that the companies in many of these stories rely on spreadsheets, documents saved in company intranets, or even Post-it Notes hung up in their offices (and in one story, by the toilet) for communicating the goals. Using a spreadsheet or paper-based process for OKRs is like parking your Ferrari on a busy street under a tree on garbage day. Why would you risk ruining something so beautiful as a well-written goal with poor communication and accountability?

Daily Huddle Meeting Template and Examples from Real Companies Just Like Yours

What is a huddle meeting?  The daily huddle meeting has been common practice for many companies for ages. No matter your industry (manufacturing, healthcare, technology, etc.) or size, a daily team huddle can be a good idea to increase alignment, communication, and productivity for your teams. According to an article in Inc magazine, huddles "keep companies focused on the same strategic goals, ensure timely answers to pressing questions, and enforce team accountability because everyone knows what everyone else is up to."  The face to face time every 24 hours keeps team members aligned and on task.

Quarterly Rocks: The Difference Between KPIs and Quarterly Rocks

What's the difference between KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and Quarterly Rocks? This can be a very confusing question, especially for companies who are new to using the Rockefeller Habits or Rhythm's Think Plan Do as a methodology to grow their company and drive their execution. It can be confusing at first as there are some similarities between the two. Both use clear success criteria to measure results or desired behavior, and quarterly rocks (often called priorities or projects) can often influence the success of the KPIs and metrics you are monitoring.

The CEO's Business Strategy Execution Gap... And How To Close It

Written by Cindy Praeger and Eskinder Assefa

A fairly significant body of research now clearly shows that the reason why a number of mid-to-large companies face is not that their strategies were not sound, but because they were unable to create a culture of strategy execution to perform well on those otherwise sound strategies.  Successful teams bridge the strategy to execution gap through Intelligent Work.  

Strategic Growth Planning: How to Create Your 3 Year Strategic Growth Plans Wisely

In a recent Annual Planning session, one of our clients asked us to help them review and renew their Winning Moves, the 3 year strategic growth initiatives to help you double you revenue.  They wanted to make sure that their growth strategies were still powerful enough to drive growth over the next 3 years. We highly recommend reviewing your Winning Move strategies every year.

During good times, it is easy to neglect working on your Winning Moves. Then when growth begins to slow, we realize that we are already late to the game at developing new revenue growth moves. If you want consistent year over year growth, you must review and renew your 3 year strategic growth plan in a regular rhythm to continue to test assumptions and make adjustments to your plan.

It is best to only have a few Winning Moves. Otherwise, the team might be spread too thin as resources get allocated across too many initiatives, causing teams to inadvertently compete for some of the same resources. Competition for internal resources often causes negative stress and reduces team productivity, even to the extent of building silos.

I’d like to share our Winning Move Strategic Planning Process so that you can have an objective way to discuss, debate and agree on the best 2 or 3 ideas for growth.   In order to sustain long-term growth rates, you need to be continually working on these business plans.  Growth rates will continue to rise organically and your team culture will transform into one that is continually looking for the next the next source of revenue growth.  

Strategy vs Execution: Don't Confuse Strategic Thinking and Strategy Execution Plans

It is easy to confuse your strategy and your 3 year strategic plan. I have seen somany leaders tell me that they have a great strategy.   Yet, when asked specifically what their strategy is, they have difficulty sharing the key strategic initiatives they are going to make - and when.  Strategy and strategic moves should not be as complicated as we sometimes make it.  This is the very reason that there is a strategy or execution debate.  You must do both well to succeed, and you need the right rhythm to get it done. 

Why You Need a Facilitator to Drive Your Virtual Strategic Planning Process [Infographic]

Many unknowable things can happen between now and the beginning of 2021. One thing we do know is that when next year hits, you will need to hit the ground running on your company’s strategic plan. Whether you are in a position to capitalize on new opportunities or looking to survive cuts and turn the ship around, this could not be a more critical time for your business. Your planning process for 2021 may be the most important one you ever undertake.

Create a Virtual Plan for Grief during COVID-19

This Saturday, my aunt will be buried. She's the last of my dad's generation for my family. She passed due to complications of cancer, and my grief is further complicated by COVID-19. I had to make the gut-wrenching decision to not attend the funeral in Stephenville, TX. I have great memories of that little town, but I wonder if I’ll ever return. We all need a virtual plan for our varying experiences with grief during this time.

How Rhythm Can Help with OKRs [VIDEO]

In 2020, it’s hard to have confidence in your ability to achieve your goals. We survey our contacts regularly on how confident they feel about successfully completing their goals, and with all the looming uncertainty around the external factors impacting success (namely, the global pandemic and economic crisis), confidence scores have taken a hit since March. This is understandable considering the state of the world.

Don’t Let COVID-19 Disrupt Your Strategy and Execution Planning Cadence!

Most companies we work with are still operating in a virtual or semi-virtual world, and fortunately, employees are adapting well. It is amazing what technology can allow us to do these days. Can you imagine working virtually twenty years ago? As an unforeseen benefit, companies are taking a fresh look at their businesses to evaluate how they can take advantage of this trend to structure the business more efficiently from the standpoint of both employees and companies. I think the landscape of how we work will forever be changed—and in a good way.

BHAG Exercise: How to Have the Right Discussions to Get to Your BHAG

Ever feel stuck working on your BHAG? Like you just can’t get the right words? You know that your BHAG is supposed to be measurable but also inspire the team; you know it should speak to the heart as well as the head. Maybe you’ve read our blogs or our BHAG Guide or checked out some of Jim Collins’ resources. If you are still feeling stuck, we have a tool that can help you have the right discussions to get to your BHAG.

Before you get in too deep to this discussion with your team, it is important to clarify for yourself and for them what the process of determining your BHAG is… and isn’t. This is an exercise to pick the right mountain to climb, not to create a perfect statement. Coming up with your BHAG is about going on the mission, not writing a mission statement; in other words, it is not a wordsmithing exercise. Your goal is to come up with your goal, not to write a beautiful sentence for your wall or website.

Download a free BHAG guide to help you create and align your company around a  single strategic vision

Help Us Inspire Hope in the Midst of COVID-19

Like most other companies, we’ve made the decision to pivot our in-person conference to a virtual event. As we were planning for this new reality, we went back and forth over whether to make the event free or to charge for a portion of it. This was uncharted territory for our team, who have never put on a virtual event longer than a webinar. We knew we still wanted to keep the best elements of our in-person event - to provide a place for our Rhythm family to come together, to share ideas, to get real work done and to learn from each other while enjoying ourselves.

Ultimately, we decided to use the event to do the most good we can at this difficult time—to help our clients, friends and our community. We decided that instead of charging a registration fee for the virtual Breakthrough Conference, we’d make it optional for attendees to donate to our charity partner, Samaritan’s Feet. On top of that, Patrick Thean, our CEO, has decided to personally match all donations up to $12,500.

The Anatomy of a Great Quarterly Plan (Infographic)

Your Quarterly Planning session is arguably the most important day or two out of your next 90 days. You need to emerge from that session with a plan that will define the results you'll get this quarter, shape what your teams will be talking about every week in their Weekly Staff Meetings, and ultimately determine whether or not you'll hit those annual goals that are aligned to achieve your Company's long term strategy. This plan has to be great! No pressure, right?

7 Keys to Mastering the Rockefeller Habits One Page Strategic Plan (OPSP)

I was in Jakarta speaking at Taipan 2013. We had the strongest showing at Taipan ever with 220 people! CEOs with their teams worked hard on their business. I had a wonderful time. EO Indonesia and EO Malaysia were such wonderful hosts, making the event very memorable. My one day session on Rockefeller Habits (Scaling Up) and the One-Page Strategic Plan template was adjusted for two different types of teams in the audience: teams being introduced for the first time to this framework and experienced teams who wanted to take it further.

10 Questions to Determine if Your Team Needs a Virtual Planning Session

I facilitate a lot of strategy and execution planning sessions throughout the year. The majority of the time, I do this on-site with a client at a hotel or at their facility. Meeting face-to-face is great if logistics, timing, cost and the environment support it. However, there are times when everything does not align for that to happen, and it is more effective for the team to meet virtually. Current environmental conditions have created one of those times. Keeping people safe and healthy has never been more important.

Leadership Meetings: Align Your Team and Engage Employees Monthly with this Agenda

For many companies, the idea of the monthly meeting can feel like a burden in an already overly scheduled calendar. Why is this leadership meeting, in the midst of so many other meetings, important?

This monthly leadership meeting with employees is your key to building the team, learning together, solving problems, working on specific issues, and reinforcing your company’s culture, initiatives and goals. 

Leveraging Your Core Competencies to Create a Competitive Advantage with Examples

I have helped many companies identify and leverage their core competencies through the years, and doing this can really make a difference in the products or services you provide to your customer. Core competence is a concept introduced by C.K. Prahalad, professor at the University of Michigan, and Gary Hamel, management expert and founder of Strategos. They define it as “a harmonized combination of multiple resources and skills that distinguish a firm in the marketplace.”

Organizational Alignment: 3 Step Organizational Alignment Playbook

Verne Harnish notes in his book Mastering the Rockefeller Habits that the difference between organizational vision and organizational alignment as drivers toward success is a whopping 99%. He demonstrates that vision = 1%, while team alignment = 99% yet few organizations put as much effort into creating organizational alignment as they do creating their vision statements, BHAG, 3 year strategic plan and more.  The truth is aligning your organization around your strategic plan enables your team to execute against its goals and scale up the company. 

Think about the power of that assertion for a moment. Why is it that organizational alignment (or organisational alignment) is exponentially more important to success than vision?  The importance of organizational alignment, can't be understated - but how do you achieve it?  How can I increase the level of organizational alignment in my company culture?  What type of work structure allows you to achieve increasingly better business performance?  You need to get into a Rhythm of 3 Year Strategic Planning, Annual Planning, Quarterly Execution Planning, and Weekly Team Meetings.  Teams work more effectively when they know what their role in the company plan is, so make sure that you communicate that effectively and often

Developing New Leaders: Leadership Development Tips for New Leader Training

How an employee moves through the ranks and advances in a company usually starts with them developing new leadersbeing an exceptional entry-level employee. The manager recognizes the talent, the perseverance, the alignment to core values, and develops that employee towards a promotion. This employee continues to dazzle — they hit all of their KPIs and grow revenue by leaps and bounds. They reach their targets each quarter. They’ve earned a promotion to Senior Employee as part of their career development.

Coaching Accountability: How to Improve Accountability by Coaching Your Team

Many leaders find personal accountability comes naturally - often, it is a muscle they have strengthened  significantly through years of practice. Being personally accountable is likely part of the skill set that propelled them to the point in their career where they became leaders. Being reliable, achieving predictable results, communicating expectations and results effectively, accepting responsibility for their actions, etc. are all things that got them where they are. But once you become a leader, personal accountability won’t cut it anymore. Now, you also have to cultivate an accountability culture in your team with accountability coaching.

Effective Leadership Development [Infographic]

Leadership development is a growing concern for middle market companies. Growing your leaders is a challenge - whether you are succession planning, thinking about the future of your executive team as your company grows, or struggling to fill mid-level management positions within your company. Right now, employers are looking at the largest number of job openings ever - currently there are more open jobs than unemployed people to fill them. Plus, middle market companies face unique challenges in recruiting and retaining talent. Growing leaders from within your company may never have been more important than it is now.

Company Alignment: The CEO's Roadmap to Corporate Alignment

Alignment can be elusive for even the smallest start-up companies, never mind mid-market companies that have multiple divisions, departments, or business units, different locations, new acquisitions, or remote employees. The more successful you are in growing your company, the more complex your organization becomes, and the more challenging it is to communicate effectively and attain alignment. And, as the CEO, aligning your company to succeed starts with you. You need to have a company alignment strategy so that all levels of the organization know what is expected of them.  According to an article in Harvard Business Review by Oxford University’s Jonathan Trevor and Barry Varcoe, "Large, diversified, and geographically dispersed enterprises, in whichever sectors they compete, require the greatest amount of strategic effort by their leadership to be aligned.”

What do I mean by alignment? An article in IndustryWeek quotes Fred Smith, Chairman of Federal Express, as saying “Alignment is the essence of management,” and goes on to say that “Alignment reflects an active ownership on the part of team members, not simply the absence of disagreement… Alignment is an agreement on the goals of the organization and on the process of allocating resources to achieve these goals.” The HBR article I mentioned earlier describes alignment in this way: winning through a tightly managed enterprise value chain that connects an enterprise’s purpose (what we do and why we do it) to its business strategy (what we are trying to win at to fulfill our purpose), organizational capability (what we need to be good at to win), resource architecture (what makes us good), and, finally, management systems (what delivers the winning performance we need). 

Plan Your Personal Quarter to Deliver Predictable Results

We talk a lot about plans - annual plans, quarterly plans, team plans, project plans. But what’s your plan for the next 90 days? What are you doing? How will you deliver predictable results with your individual plan?

We all know that Rhythm strategic management software is about focus, alignment, and accountability. While most of the consulting I do is with teams, I love it when I get the opportunity to work with someone one-on-one. They are usually struggling with one question: How do I gain personal focus while still supporting my team’s plan?

Here are some great ways to center yourself, prioritize your own personal 13-week race, and set yourself up to deliver predictable results.

Personal Accountability Exercises - How Does Your Team Stack Up?

Quite a few years back, a good friend of mine introduced me to John Miller and his book “QBQThe Question Behind the Question.”  I had the opportunity to hear John speak and have referred to his book off and on through the years.  John has built a complete program on this concept and has helped companies exercise more accountability throughout their organizations.  Since we work with our clients at Rhythm Systems to get focused, aligned and accountable, I thought it was worth looking back through the book to see if there were some nuggets of wisdom to share. 

4 Types of BHAGs: Which BHAG Model is Right for You?

Suppose you and your team have been in a Think Rhythm to determine what Jim Collin and Jerry Porras call your Hedgehog concept - the intersection of what you are passionate about, what you are best in the world at and what drives your financial engine.  Defining your hedgehog and BHAG (pronounced bee hag) gives you a powerful mechanism to help you strategically plan for growth.

Specifically, the hedgehog concept is the intersection of these three questions:

  • What are you deeply passionate about?
  • What can you be the best at in the world?
  • What drives your economic engine?

Now comes the easy part, right? Simply take that information, determine where these three questions intersect and craft a long-term goal that drives on that intersection - your BHAG or Big Hairy Audacious Goal. Are you having writer’s block?

Don’t Get Stuck on Your Job Scorecard (Template)

One of the priorities for our Consulting and Client Services team here at Rhythm Systems this quarter was to nail down Job Scorecards (or Employee Scorecards) for each team member.  Some of us had Job Scorecards when we were hired (some of us have been around longer than the tool!), but as our company has grown and changed, so have the roles we are all filling.  Additionally, we are looking to hire for new roles on our team that we have yet to clearly define, so it was necessary for us to revisit this tool this quarter.  Read this post if you are confused on job scorecard vs job description and when to use the right tool.

OKR Examples for Manufacturing: Quarterly Planning Best Practices

In any industrial company, there are business goals to hit, KPIs to measure and OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) to complete. In manufacturing companies, the business goals and KPIs carry a different weight because of the raw material costs, labor costs, supply chain issues, and other factors involved in getting your product to market. Strategic planning has a special role in manufacturing so you know where your business is starting from and what end goal you want to achieve. Quarterly planning is key in accomplishing those targets.

Building Accountability into Your Culture: Does Your Team Have an Accountability Problem? [Download]

Most clients I’ve worked with say they understand the key role accountability plays in making a company operate more efficiently (and therefore more effectively). They see the relevance of team accountability and its place in the bigger scheme of things. And the research backs up what they think. Performance cultures have higher levels of personal accountability and as a result, they also have higher levels of overall company performance, employees feel a higher level of commitment to their jobs, and employee morale is higher (U.S. Office of Personnel Management).

As leaders focus on defining their core business strategies, as they work to clarify the company’s longer-term vision, as they encourage innovative thinking and more, they dream of empowering their people to do the work that needs to be done to accomplish the company’s overall strategic intent. 

Revenue Growth Strategy: 9 Steps to Create a New Revenue Growth Plan

Working with middle market CEOs, we are often asked "What is revenue growth strategy?"  Driving revenue is the number 1 concern for most CEOs.  Many leaders romanticize about striking it big overnight with a brilliant business idea. We've all seen that moment in movies where inspiration strikes in the middle of the night, and some innovative new product or idea launches a company to greatness.  In reality, you can't wait around for lightning to strike to keep your company growing. As Patrick Thean shares in his book Rhythm, growth strategies "do not come from eureka moments. They are developed over time..."

Even if you're not trying to be the next Apple, companies in today's competitive landscape have to be disciplined about anticipating what's next and how to generate revenue in the future. If you aren't thinking about your next 3 year strategic plan with growth ideas and actively working on it in your Annual Planning sessions, you're already behind. If you want a continuous supply of revenue-generating strategies, you need to spend time thinking strategically, and you need a process for creating and implementing your strategies to grow revenue.

Mastering the Rockefeller Habits: What you Must do to Increase the Value of your Growing Firm

By now, most of us are familiar with Verne Harnish’s book, Mastering the Rockefeller Habits: What You Must Do To Increase the Value of Your Growing Firm.  And, synonymous with the book is the Rockefeller Habits One Page Strategic Plan.  There are so many great concepts and solid theory captured in this material, all boiled down to simple, actionable steps that each of us can apply in our businesses.  But it’s all so good, you may be wondering where in the world to start Mastering the Rockefeller Habits.  

Creating a Culture of Continuous Improvement

Innovation comes in all shapes and sizes - some big improvements for your business can be born from small, incremental changes that empower employees to make daily continuous improvement. It can be tempting to think of innovation as that mountain-top revelation or the lighting bolt idea. While glamorous, this vision of breakthrough improvements is misleading—most innovation comes from incremental improvement on ideas over time with continual process improvement . Cultivating a culture where every person is empowered to improve the processes, systems and tools they use to get work done can make a tremendous impact.

Team Accountability Begins with a Personal Accountability Model

I love what I do for a living. I meet the most incredible people who are building amazing companies. Most recently, I was sharing this observation with a client CEO and he responded with, “Well, if I could only do it without people!” I had to laugh.

The “problem with people” is pervasive. After all, a single human being is complex. Multiply that by a lot of human beings (aka, your employees), and you can have one huge complicated hairball of an organization. So how do you get to this thing called, “High Performance?” Indeed, the Path of Progress toward high performance is a journey. Let’s focus, though, on how to begin the journey of accountability in the workplace to drive team performance and help you achieve your goals.

Topgrading: 10 Expert Tips for Topgrading Interview Questions

Topgrading is a methodology of recruiting, interviewing, selecting and retaining top talent developed by Brad Smart and Geoff Smart designed to increase your likelihood of hiring and retaining A players. We’ve been recommending this method to Rhythm clients for many years.  We even use it ourselves, so we know firsthand the power of Topgrading. You can find a lot of great (and free) resources on their website.  When used in conjunction with Job Scorecards, an enhanced version of job descriptions, you can better attract and retain the A-Players you need to hit your growth goals.

KPI Targets: Know the Difference Between Key Priorities, KPIs and Targets

The most common pitfall I see in companies who are new to Rhythm and the Rockefeller Habits is thinking that setting targets for their KPIs is the same thing as having a plan.  A complete plan includes KPIs, Company Priorities, Personal Priorities, and Red/Yellow/Green success criteria for all.  A KPI target is simply the goal that you are trying to achieve, it is a metric.  What is your team going to do in order to hit the KPI?  Those are your key priorities, or quarterly rocks that will help you improve your business to meet the KPI targets.

Delegation in Leadership: How to Effectively Delegate as a Leader

Managing the daily, weekly, and monthly workload is a challenge for team members and leaders alike, but in very different ways. Teams have their KPIs and know what tasks they need to complete in order to achieve those goals. Team leaders and managers have the added tasks around team goals, team KPIs, other issues and other team projects that round out their to-do lists. The difference is that leaders have people to delegate to on their team that can complete the task.  The challenge for any leadership style is finding the right person for job, and it doesn't always have to be you.

How to Fix a Meeting in 4 Easy Steps [Agenda and Video]

Weekly staff meetings are often a huge waste of time and money. Too often, they are just boring status updates that could have been better solved by sending out an email. People have gotten into a rut and just don’t think that there is anything they can do to fix their meetings and they have given up hope. You can change your weekly staff meetings quickly and easily following the four simple steps outlined below. Putting in the effort is well worth the reward of being able to solve problems each and every week in a fun environment that you actually look forward to attending. Just imagine how much better your company’s results would be if every department solved one of its biggest challenges each and every week!

At Rhythm Systems, we have been fixing weekly staff meetings for more than a decade with our unique methodology and patented strategy execution software to focus your most important resources on the most important projects. It isn’t all that difficult once you have a clear execution-ready quarterly plan in place. Once you have you have a clear quarterly plan, aligned with your annual plan, you have the basis for your weekly meeting agenda. If you aren’t connecting your strategic planning with your execution, of which your weekly staff meeting is the cornerstone, you aren’t having the right discussions to move your strategy forward to achieve your BHAG.

There are 11 million meetings in the United States alone every work day. Up to 50% of the time in those meetings is wasted, and that’s probably a conservative estimate, and costs about $37 billion per year in lost productivity in the United States alone. The real question is how much this is costing you and your organization by not fixing your weekly staff meeting?

Huddles: The Benefits of a Daily Huddle Meeting (Even Virtual)

So, how’s your Daily Huddle meeting going? Over time, it’s easy for this habit to begin feeling a little stale, and you might even start wondering if anyone would miss it if you killed it. They would! And they probably don’t even realize it (so don’t bother polling the team to ask). Instead, be the leader and huddle on!  Sometimes the benefits of Daily Huddles are so subtle they go uncelebrated, but the truth is, the habit of huddling daily with your team might be the most valuable 10 minutes of your day. The next time you feel like it’s an inconvenient interruption or someone tells you they’re too busy to huddle, keep these benefits of the morning huddle in mind.

SMART Goal Setting Theory: To Create SMART Goals, Start With “Why”

Leadership 101 tells us that it’s important to set clear and specific goals for ourselves and for our teams in order to achieve business goals and objectives. In other words, all of our business goals should be “SMART” (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely.) In order to craft a good smart goal, you need to take a couple of steps back and look at the whole picture - why are you doing this? The best SMART goals always start with “why.” Are you taking an educated guess at what you think a good goal is going to be that will equate to business success? Are you confident enough in defending that guess to someone else? If you fully understand the “why” behind the project, it is much easier for you to define your time-based goals. Goal setting theory clearly states that the better you write your SMART goals, the better your team will perform.

Getting Your Remote Team's Mojo Back During a Lockdown

With the pandemic disrupting expectations for projects and revenue goals for many this year, it's no surprise that a major focus for this and last quarter has been (not so) simply whatever it takes to survive. This survival focus may be manifesting as changes to your business model; keeping heads down—and all hands on deck—on sales and retention; and making unexpected cuts to budgets and personnel.

While this focus is absolutely warranted, it's easy to let company culture fall into the "nice to have" bucket rather than the "need to have" one. During a client's recent Q3 planning session, most of the day's discussion was around priorities that would drive the company's bottom line after a very difficult Q2.

Scaling Up Your Business with Rockefeller Habits 2.0 With These 16 Questions

It’s summer. Bright blue skies, puffy cotton candy-like clouds, and colorful flowers abound in gardens everywhere. This description is also a metaphor for the mindset and optimism of entrepreneurs. And in that mindset, like an approaching hurricane for your garden, lies danger not yet encountered. In fact, even serial entrepreneurs make minor mistakes that wreak hurricane-like havoc on their carefully planted business. You need a contingency plan for health and safety prior to a hurricane, and you need a contingency plan for when things go wrong, or you’ll never be able to be successful scaling up your business.

The approach of detailed business contingency planning is one for growing an established business. I won’t address that in this blog as the pattern I’ve seen is that so few entrepreneurs and their business make it to the established, growing stage. I’ve seen many get stuck at $15-50mm in revenue while struggling to break past their growth barriers. My advice here is targeted to those companies. If your business is larger, let this be a reminder of the contingency basics. And, if you have a larger business that doesn’t have contingency planning in place, let this be a warning.

Adaptive Leadership Theory: Adaptive Leadership Framework

As leadership guru Jim Collins tells us, organizations go from good to great when personalities step aside and let purpose become the focus. Essentially, great organizations are purpose-driven versus leader-driven.

So how can you be an adaptive leader in your organization, and still stay purpose driven? First you must understand these adaptive points:

  • Adaptive leaders create change incrementally.
  • Learning can be painful, so you should anticipate and counteract reluctance.
  • You must continuously connect change to the core values of the organization.

So what can you do to embrace adaptive leadership?

Rockefeller Habits Scaling Up Your Business Execution

When companies are small, it’s not such a challenge to get things done. Maybe you have a meeting (where the whole company attends), you come up with an idea, and you go out there and do it. Everyone was there from the beginning, everyone understands the plan, and everyone does their part to get it done. That’s not to say there aren’t challenges with execution for small companies, but typically, if small companies do a good job hiring the right people, figuring out their strategy, and ensuring there is enough cash to run the business, then execution is something that can easily be managed. However, as your company grows and the people who come up with the ideas and plans are no longer the ones who are actually doing all the work, successfully executing the plan gets much more difficult.

How to Prepare for Virtual Strategic Planning

Since most of our consultants haven’t traveled to see a client since March, we’ve successfully transitioned their planning sessions from in-person to virtual meetings. Having a great virtual planning session requires a little more advanced preparation. However, the extra effort is worth it - our clients have been raving about the additional focus they are able to achieve in the virtual environment. With the right preparation, your next virtual planning session could be your best strategic planning session ever.

Use KPIs and OKRs for Data-Driven Discussions in Your Weekly Team Meeting

In working with hundreds of mid-market CEOs as a consultant at Rhythm Systems, I often get asked about KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and OKRs (Objectives and Key Results). As a data nerd, I love having these discussions and helping our clients rank the top in their industry. Often, I find they are really asking, “How can I fix my weekly staff meeting to have a data-driven discussion that helps me exceed my goals?” It doesn’t really matter what KPIs and OKRs you are measuring if you don’t use them to drive the right discussions each and every week to make the adjustments in real time as needed.

Core Customer: 3 Steps to Identify and Define Your Core Customers

Philip Kotler implores us to do a better job of understanding “who” our valuable customers are and then to deeply please them, rather than trying to please everyone.  It is much better to serve your Core Customer completely and fully, than to try to be everything to everyone.  It will create a core market that you can please and creates a loyal fan base.  The core customer value to your business is immense, so the better you understand them the better the return on your investment.

Every company should have a brand promise that it makes to its customers. The promise should differentiate you in your market and support the sales process by making it easier to close deals. The first step in developing your brand promise is to identify and define your core customer. The better job you do with this step, the more effective your brand promise is going to be and the more likely your prospects are to purchase a product.  This is needed for business to business and business to consumer companies.

Virtual Planning Lessons: Keep Your Company Out of COVID-19 Trouble

According to FEMA, only 60% of small businesses reopen after a disaster. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) continues this timeline with the finding that in the two years following a disaster, over 90% of businesses fail. Only 10% of small businesses have the right flexibility, focus, and accountability to make it two years past a disaster. A lesson from virtual planning can help you be among that 10%.

When I talk with leaders regarding disasters, it’s easy for them to think of earthquakes (we don’t live in that part of the country), floods (we aren't in a flood zone), and fires (there’s no history here). Occasionally they think of things that they deem unlikely—like terrorism, war and pandemics like COVID-19. Rarely does a leader think about other incidents—like burst pipes, roof leaks, discovery of black mold, ransomware, computer hacks, etc.—as something catastrophic to their business. Yet any of these disasters may cause business failure.

Are You Struggling to Move Your Strategy Forward?

Over the last several months, we’ve seen our clients innovate in amazing ways to survive and thrive during the COVID-19 crisis. We have had clients shift their manufacturing facilities to make masks and medical gowns, we’ve had clients begin delivering in-person services via digital technology almost overnight and we've seen clients find ways to sell existing products to new markets. Our own team embarked on a series of two-week sprints to focus on innovating new service models to better serve our clients’ evolving needs in these changing times.

It seems counter-intuitive on some level to innovate in a crisis; when you are in “survival mode,” it can be really hard to think of new ideas—but as they say, "necessity is the mother of invention." In a crisis, you may be willing to try things you previously thought were crazy, or you may be forced to see a problem or opportunity from a totally new perspective. In an ideal world, you’d have an “idea bench” full of ideas to jump-start your process such as new products, services or markets you’ve thought about but never focused on pursuing; partnerships you can leverage in creative ways; big ideas that can set you apart from your competition that you can get done with a short period of intense focus.

Annual Planning: It's a Process, Not an Event

A CEO has many responsibilities, and among the top is ensuring the company has a sound plan and budget going into each new year. Seasoned CEOs have likely developed a trusted method for getting this done. Sometimes it’s as simple as estimating organic growth by applying a reasonable percentage to this year’s numbers and maybe adding additional revenue for a new product or channel. There might be a review of the current year’s spending by department to estimate the new year’s needs—adding a little here and cutting a little there—and, of course, there will be an Annual Planning Meeting that brings the management team together to have strategic discussions, gain alignment and hash out the details. As with anything, it’s easy to fall into the trap of doing things the same way year after year, especially if it’s been working for you.

Online Training Best Practices: 5 Tips

As head of training at Rhythm Systems, I’ve had a busy year creating all the training content to accompany our latest software release - Rhythm 4.0. We’ve got two great online learning platforms for clients, Rhythm Certification and Rhythm University. As part of updating our content to bring the latest and greatest information to our clients, I also did some research about online learning in general. For those of us used to the more traditional classroom learning environment, shifting into the online learning landscape requires a bit of a paradigm shift.

Personal Path of Progress: The Secret to Reach Your Full Potential

I have made it a priority to be a lifelong learner which aligns well with one of our company’s core values of “Keep Smart.” As an employee, it is your personal responsibility to continue to grow and gain new knowledge, skills and expertise. Just like a business, if you are not growing, you are in decline or becoming irrelevant.

Quarterly Rocks Examples: Using Quarterly Rocks to Align Your Company and Crush Goals

It is that time again. I am working with my clients to help create quarterly execution plans with their top quarterly rocks so they can accomplish the goals they set out to achieve. Working with one of my newer clients recently, I noticed we spent a lot of time covering how Company, Group, and Personal Priorities work together to significantly increase their chance of success. I realized that a few of our long-standing customers may have some of the same questions but didn’t want to ask. I thought I would take some time to help clarify how each of these pieces works together in your execution-ready quarterly plan.  This blog includes quarterly rock examples for you to use as a template to create your own priorities for the next 90 days.  Business owners set a 1 year plan with their team, work with team leaders to set processes for day to day operations.

Leadership Team Alignment: How to Keep the Executive Team Aligned

If you have ever downloaded any tools or other resources on our site, you know that we usually ask you about your Biggest Business Challenge in our forms. In response to your feedback, we are featuring a blog series on your biggest business challenges! This post is a response to the challenge “aligning senior team around clear goals."

How much can your leadership team really take on this quarter and accomplish well?

We have all heard the saying, “Less is More.” I try to exercise this concept in my personal life when it comes to toys, although my wife would tell you I am more successful some years than others. I do like the acid test of “will it make my family’s or my life better” when contemplating a new purchase. 

Virtual Alignment for Your Team in a Work from Home World

Getting and staying aligned with your team is a challenge even when you are all in the same office. When everyone is remote or working from home, how do you know you are all still rowing in the same direction and working on the right projects? How can you be sure you are aligned to achieve the most important goals to help your company survive, recover, and thrive in a crisis?

With all the distractions in the current environment—from the seemingly endless stream of bad news to constant interruptions from kids and pets—it can feel more challenging to align your team around common goals than ever. That said, if you don’t have all of your best people working hard on the right things, your company’s future could be at risk. The stakes are high, and you need a way to be sure everyone is contributing their best efforts (whatever that looks like) to the right things.

Align Company: Why CEOs Find it Hard to Align Teams When Scaling their Companies

Blog written by Guest Blogger, Eskinder Assefa

One of the toughest challenges CEOs face is finding effective ways to align teams and keep them aligned as their company grows. High-growth companies must have teams that are continuously aligned and work cohesively on what matters most.

Misalignment is Practically the Norm

When Rebecca Homkes, strategy expert and teaching fellow at London Business School, and MIT Sloan School senior lecturer Don Sull set out to study how strategy plays out in more than 400 companies, they got a surprise. The research team started off by asking more than 11,000 senior managers what was supposed to be an easy question: What are your company’s top three to five priorities?

Leadership KPI Examples for Accountable Team Leaders

As a team leader, you own the key results for your team, meaning that you will probably have a handful of KPIs on your list (2-3) that are the main metrics for your team’s success. For example, if you lead a sales team, you will probably have some key metrics around revenue and the number of deals closed. Your team members would have their individual KPIs that roll up, but you likely own the total number for the team. For a product leader, you might have metrics around NPS scores or product adoption that you own, finance team leaders will have financial KPIs to measure performance for the employee effectiveness of their team, and so on in other cross-functional departments.

Focus and Alignment: 4 Questions to Ask Your Team

If you want your team to be focused and aligned on the right projects, you need to connect your strategy to execution.

Successful companies have too much to do. New opportunities come about, and it is hard to say "No." But strategy is more about saying "No" to the wrong things than saying "Yes" to everything. Most entrepreneurs are not wired to say "No." We are wired to find a way to say "Yes" and get more opportunities into our companies. If that sounds like you, then you don’t have the danger of dying from starvation. But, you do have the risk of dying from over-eating from the buffet of opportunity!

Communicating a Merger to Employees: 4 Ways to Tell Your Team About a Merger or Acquisition

An acquaintance of mine has recently undergone a merger at her corporation. As a mid-level employee, she knew it was coming; her company had announced a few months ago, but she hadn't heard any specific details other than it was going to happen.

When the time came for the companies to merge, there was confusion, misalignment, and miscommunication. Unfortunately when merging companies, often preparing employees for coming change has been left off the agenda or is an afterthought.  Trust me that it is just as important, if not more so, to make the teams are prepared for the merger as it is to worry about day to day operations. The long term success of the merged company depends on the communication strategy to communicate with employees.

Why an Execution System Can Drive Your Strategy and Get You Results

I have been helping companies develop their strategies for growth and profitability for over twenty years. As with many consultants, I started helping companies plan in a very traditional manner by developing 3-inch thick plans that would make any coffee table or bookshelf proud. I am being a bit sarcastic, and I know sarcasm is not a true form of humor, but bear with me for a moment as I make my case. It is not that the work we did together did not produce valuable plans with real substance. Actually, part of the problem was that there was too much substance in most cases, so the plans became overwhelming and extremely difficult to execute. I would come back quarterly, or in some cases annually, and as we began to the review the plans, I would hear comments like, “Oh yes, now I remember talking about that in planning.” Laughs would emerge around the room, but the truth of it is that it was not really that funny, considering the lost opportunity and lack of results.

Do You Know if Your Boss is Happy with Your Work?

Many people wonder and worry about whether or not they are doing a good job and if their boss is happy with their work. It is one of the consistent emotional challenges employees face in the workplace, and sadly, most people don't know what to do about it.

One way this challenge has been dealt with is by having the dreaded annual or quarterly performance review. That's the day when you go and find the document (if you had one) from your last review and hope that you were able to improve your work performance from last time you had a formal discussion with your boss. This is usually a lose-lose scenario. You dread these meetings because they feel so formal and awkward. Your boss dreads these meetings because they have to try to figure out something smart, insightful and helpful to say to you to make them look and feel like they are being a good boss. Once it's over, all breathe a sigh of relief and are glad they don't have to do that again for another 3 months—or even a year.

A Better Way to Implement Your Rockefeller Habits 2.0 One-Page Strategic Plan

Planning Sessions are exciting - the possibilities are endless, the team is optimistic and ready to conquer the world! You spend countless hours discussing, debating and agreeing on your Core Values & Purpose, BHAG, Brand Promise, Key Initiatives and Quarterly Rocks. Decisions are made. Targets are set. Your One-Page Strategic Plan is beautiful! The work gets put into a Word doc and filed away for everyone to access. "Let's really do it this year," everyone says...

Team Planning: How to do Team Planning for Team Focus & Alignment

It’s time to slow down and develop a world-class team execution plan for next year. When we don’t slow down to plan our execution, our teams don't end up being focused on the right things, leading to mistakes and rework, and ultimately smacking our profit with a 2-by-4! How strong is your execution this year?  I get asked every year how to do team planning, and I am sharing some of my insider tips with you.

I ask these questions to check if you had a good and strong plan this year:

  • Does your team know what the company is supposed to achieve this year?
  • If your team does know what the company is focused on, do they know their roles in making that happen every quarter?
  • Do they have clear success metrics so they can tell if they are on track or not?

Strategies for Effective Listening in Four Easy Steps

One of the things I have to do as a business consultant is to be a great listener. This is a key leadership and communication skill for anyone. Sometimes effective listening can be a challenge because, like most people, I can fall into the trap of thinking about my response and how I would like to help the individual with whom I am communicating. One of my pet peeves has always been that many people begin developing their response as soon as the other person starts speaking rather than truly listening to the message spoken to them. As I was going through some information this weekend, I came across a great one-page paper on four steps to effective listening, a key tenet of developing accountable leaders and teams. Permission was given to use the information as freely as possible and so I am sharing the main points with you.

How Your Attachment Style Shows Up at Work: The 4 Attachment Styles

90,000 hours—that’s how long an average person spends at work over the course of a lifetime, according to a study cited in Business Insider. 90,000 hours! And that may be on the conservative side; a more recent study I saw said we spend 13 years and 2 months of our lives at work. That’s over 115,000 hours. Most likely, the only activity you’ll spend more time on in your lifetime is sleeping (or trying to sleep).

The Best Change Management Books to Get You Ready for Organizational Change

"Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts." -Arnold Bennett

Whether you or an external force initiated the changes that are about to take place, preparation is essential for you and your organization. Change management tools can be the catalyst for immense success or supreme failure.

Early on in the process, develop a think rhythm about the future adjustments, the impacts of change management, and an employee focus.  Change management is much harder than project management or business processes, as you are dealing with human beings that have feelings that they bring to the workplace.  This list of the best change management books will get you ready for the better and brighter future.

Your Priority Areas for the Next Quarter: How to Choose the Right Priorities (Examples)

A new quarter is starting. It is time to discuss, prioritize and choose your top priorities for the new quarter. How do you do this? How do you decide what are the best ideas and priorities to execute? Prioritizing is not about ranking from 1 to 10 and doing them all (or failing to do the last few). Rather prioritizing is about gaining focus. To achieve focus, you need a few big things to focus on, not a list of 10 things to try and get to. As Yoda in Star Wars said, “Try not. Do... or do not. There is no try.” Trying to work on all 10 things does not give you focus. Saying “No” to items 4 through 10 frees up your brain to focus on your top 3 priorities.

So what are the right two to three things? In chapter 2 of my book, Rhythm, I discuss how to use an objective and simple way to sort through ideas and choose the right ideas to build winning strategies on. It is an objective framework to discuss subjective ideas and to keep our discussions and decisions from becoming too emotional. Your best ideas are the ones that will give you the strongest revenue growth for the least investment of resources. I use a simple framework with two questions to rate each idea:

  • What is the impact on your revenue growth over the next three to five years? Rate it from 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest impact.
  • How easy is it for your team to execute on this idea? By “easy” I mean can it be implemented with current resources? Will it require little additional capital? Is it synergistic with other projects? Rate it from 1 to 10. The more difficult or expensive it is to develop and execute, the lower the rating. This means 1 is the least easy, and 10 is the easiest.

Kill Distractions and Reach Your Destination

This past Fall, my family and I took a week’s vacation in Kennebunkport, Maine. We have been there several times in the past, but this was the first year we decided to take a sailing tour with Captain Rich on the Schooner Eleanor. It was a gorgeous, sunny and early September day as we sailed through the channel and out into the Atlantic for a couple of hours up and down the rocky coastline. As the captain steered back towards port, it became obvious that he was waiting for something rather than making a direct turn back into the narrow waterway between the rocky outcroppings where the ocean and river met. When asked about the pause, he quickly responded that while the way may look calm and easy, there were incredibly strong waters just under the surface that could make the way back to port treacherous for the inexperienced. Many of us on the boat were distracted by dinner plans, being a few extra minutes late for happy hour and getting back to the hotel. While we possessed a desire to accomplish what we were certain was important, and we were sure that we knew the destination, we were missing one key ingredient. After twenty plus years of sailing, Captain Rich had a keenly developed a sense of what was necessary to make it back safely to shore that evening—discipline.

Effective Goal Setting 101: How to Write Effective Goals [Infographic]

Successful SMART goal (priority) setting is an essential skill for both personal and professional success. If you aren’t setting goals, you’re likely not making progress. However, research by the University of Scranton found that 92% of people who set New Year's resolutions never achieve them.

Business goals don't fare much better; 67% of great strategies fail due to poor execution. Writing an effective goal will increase your chances of successfully achieving that goal, or quarterly rock. Fortunately, goal-setting is a skill that you can learn and improve. Setting goals and priorities is essential to running a great company so it is worth the time and effort to improve this skill.

Here are 6 Easy Steps to Writing Effective Goals and Priorities:

Employee Recognition Ideas, Pitfalls and KPIs with Measurable Criteria

According to Gallup, “in their search for new ideas and approaches, organizations could be overlooking one of the most easily executed strategies: employee recognition.” In today’s competitive labor market, don’t leave anything on the table when it comes to engaging and retaining your top talent. Taking a little time to intentionally map out your employee recognition systems can improve retention, increase productivity and boost morale—and best of all, it doesn’t have to be expensive to be effective.

Problem Solving Meeting Agenda: 4 Simple Steps to Conduct a Problem Solving Session

I hear time and time again from people that their meetings are a complete waste of time. In fact, they can often be a huge productivity killer. When I dig deeper, I can easily find out why. They typically don’t accomplish anything - the team gets together, but they don’t work on solving the problems facing the company. Team members often update the status of their pet projects, highlighting their accomplishments and glossing over the challenges. Many people get the feeling of Groundhog Day as they talk about the same topics time after time and never make any progress on the real, pressing issues facing the company. However, they don’t get the comedic genius of the great Bill Murray to keep them entertained during their problem solving meeting. It doesn’t have to be that way. There is a better way to run weekly meetings to get real work done in their team meeting.  It starts by framing them as a problem solving meeting so that your meeting has a purpose.

Making Plan Adjustments: The What, When & How to Make Adjustments

How do you know when it’s time to make an adjustment? You’ve got your quarterly plan, and it just doesn’t seem to be going, well, according to plan. Sometimes, knowing when to make an adjustment is tricky. So - when is it time for a new game plan and when do you stay the course, nose to the grindstone, and just get it done?

What are Adjustments?

To be clear, when we talk about making adjustments, we don’t mean adjusting the goal - what we mean is adjusting the execution plan to achieve the goal for the quarter.

Rockefeller Habits One-Page Strategic Plan: Strategies for Growth

I was facilitating a Rockefeller Habits mid-year planning session. As part of their regular Think Rhythm, the executive team was working on developing Winning Moves to ensure continued growth for the next 3 years. These Winning Moves would be top line revenue generating strategies to drive revenue growth over the next 3 years. Every company needs a couple of Winning Moves to drive growth. Two to 3 would be best to focus the company. You don't want too many, otherwise the team will not be able to focus as resources get allocated across too many projects, causing teams to inadvertently compete for some of the same resources. Competition for resources can cause negative stress and reduce team effectiveness.

Have You Defined Your Company Core Purpose Statement? CPS Examples

Peter Drucker stated that ”the best and most dedicated people are ultimately volunteers, for they have the opportunity to do something else with their lives.

One of the best articles I have read on Core Purpose is Jim Collins and Jerry Porras article titled “Building Your Company’s Vision.”  The authors explain that a well-developed vision consists of two parts, core ideology and an envisioned future.  The core ideology consists of two components, Core Values and Core Purpose.  The envisioned future has two elements, The Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) and a vivid description of what it will look like when you achieve your BHAG.  The former should never change, while the latter may, once you have accomplished your long term 10-20 year goal.  These should be your guiding purpose to go above and beyond the status quo.  As we hear more and more companies becoming purpose driven organizations to attract and keep A-Talent having a well defined Core Purpose is the first step in the process.

Work From Home Expert Tips: 23 Tips for Remote Work

As the COVID-19 news unfolds and more people are staying in (check out www.cdc.gov/covid-19 for the latest accurate information), some of us could be spending more time at home than we had planned this spring. While I am lucky enough to have the kind of job that I can do from home, I’ve never figured out how to do it well. On the odd snow day or sick day that I’ve attempted over the years, I’ve always felt that working from home is far less productive and more tiring than being in the office where it’s easier to focus.

The 5Cs of Communication: How to Use Them in Crisis Communication

If you are like me, your inbox is full of COVID-19 response letters from every vendor, doctor, airline, restaurant or business of any kind you’ve interacted with. These external communications serve their purpose, but not nearly as essential as your internal response.

No matter what business you are in, if you are the CEO or an executive leader, you're thinking about how your business is responding to (and being affected by) COVID-19. Your people are worried; everyone is worried. At the very least, your job is to lead them through this anxious and uncertain time, and it's also to prepare for the worst, just in case.  This is why we always recommend using the 5c's of communication framework to ensure that everyone has all of the information that they need.

Priority ZERO: Make COVID-19 Part of Your Survive, Recover and Thrive Mentality

We all know we need to be prepared for the worst—while striving for the best—when it comes to the effects of COVID-19, and the market has proven that leaders who remain calm and focused are better able to steer their team through turbulence and uncertainty. However, my experience is that many leaders and leadership teams do not know how to do this.

I'm being asked by CEOs worldwide, "What few things must I focus on now?" Even when leadership appears calm like a duck on the surface, many leaders today are paddling like mad underwater with only a finite few that have clear direction.

7 Signs Your Remote Team's Health is Suffering

For many managers, leading a remote team is something new. After a few months, you’ve probably worked out many of the technical issues and settled into a rhythm of remote work. As many companies go back to the office, some team members may remain remote due to childcare issues, caring for family members, pre-existing medical conditions that increase their risk, or myriad other reasons. Some companies may continue remote working for the foreseeable future. As you navigate shifting team dynamics, how do you know if your team health is as strong as it should be?

In a Remote Work Report released by HubSpot in 2019, lack of social connection (29%) and communicating with co-workers (29%) were the two biggest challenges faced by remote workers. If you can’t see your co-workers and interact with them in the office, how do you know your team is experiencing these problems?

On-Time Delivery KPIs: Goals, Culture, and Habits to Improve On-Time Delivery Manufacturing

I previously wrote a blog titled 21 Production KPI Examples to Improve Manufacturing Performance, and many people were interested in learning more about how to measure and improve on-time delivery, one of the specific KPIs I mentioned. I am often asked how to improve on time delivery in manufacturing companies.  The on time delivery KPI time as one of their most important Key Performance Indicators as it is directly related to customer satisfaction and repeat orders.  So, let’s dig a little deeper into effective ideas to improve on time delivery.

How Does Effective Communication Affect Collaboration in Organizational Accountability?

Sometimes, you just have to slow down to speed up.

Communication Leads to Better Connectivity and Team Accountability

Communication is a very powerful thing, yet we talk about it so lightly. We toss the word ‘communication’ around as if it’s a catch-all for…everything. Yet, it is communication that aids us in the confirmation of the truth in certain scenarios and it is communication that provides clarity, definition, and intention to our words. The challenge with communication is that everyone’s communication truth can be taxing. Determining how to communicate to bring out individual truths (yours and your team’s) can be a powerful tool in developing higher levels of accountability and can lead to better connectivity throughout your organization. Knowing the people you’ll be speaking to and having an awareness around individual communication preferences is the most effective way to align individual and corporate truths.

How the Best Remote Teams Fight Zoom Fatigue

According to CNBC, since the onset of COVID-19, Zoom use has surged to over 300 million daily participants. Microsoft Teams has more than 75 million daily active users. and Rhythm client Connex International's business has dramatically expanded as they help companies connect, collaborate, and expand their business. Other video conferencing platforms have surged as well. For many people, all of the in-person interactions—team meetings, project work, strategic planning sessions, one-on-ones, daily huddles, coffee breaks, happy hours, and even personal social gatherings—have been replaced by video conferencing.

While many teams are heading back to the office, increased usage of video conferencing platforms in the workplace is likely here to stay. As different people cope with their health risks, childcare and eldercare challenges, and the need for more flexibility to work from home, remote work will likely only increase as we move forward from here.

7 Essential Skills for the Future

A little peek behind the proverbial curtain for you: I have a digital notebook (I use Evernote) where I capture blog ideas as they come to me. I periodically review that list to see what topic ideas I may be able to research and write out as a full post. I had an idea in January to write about the need to invest in workplace training to help upskill team members for the future of work.

I wrote the following draft of a first sentence: "Maybe 2020 isn’t quite the future we imagined.” Looking back on that now, I can confidently say most of us never predicted a global pandemic, economic upheaval, and social unrest—and we are only through the first half of the year.

Critical Number: The MVP Metric of Your KPIs

In my initial blog “How to Create KPIs that Drive Your Company's Success,” we  focused on the most common form of metric, Key Performance Indicators or KPIs.  A future blog post will talk about targets and how to set them to drive your desired results.  Today, my post will focus on Critical Numbers, a special set of measurements that help your company drive towards one of its top goals.  An easy way to think of Critical Numbers is to think of them as “most valuable” or  MVP KPIs, the most important metrics for your company to track right now.  These MVP metrics are essential to the success of your business.

What Typical Performance Reviews Miss

Let’s imagine you are going into your quarterly performance review, armed with all the great results you’ve achieved over the last 90 days. You’ve tackled a few big projects and collect the data to show your results. You’ve rated yourself on the skills and competencies listed in your job description, and you’ve even identified a few areas for growth, since you know that’s going to be part of the conversation, too.

What a lot of HR systems that track performance reviews fail to connect the dots on is how your individual performance or projects or results impact the company’s business performance. At the end of the day, if you are wonderful and working so hard and getting great results, but your efforts and energy don’t move the company forward on its key results, then how valuable are your contributions?

How the Balanced Scorecard Keeps You Balanced

The Balanced Scorecard, originally developed by Dr. Robert Kaplan of Harvard University and Dr. David Norton, can keep your company balanced. They used this scorecard as a framework for measuring organizational performance through a balanced set of performance measures (as opposed to Wall Street’s need for short-term financial performance). Kaplan and Norton’s approach added non-financial measures to the standard financial measure of the time to more accurately focus on a company’s long-term success.

Here’s how they described the innovation of the Balanced Scorecard in chapter one of their book, page 7:

Employee Engagement: 6 Ways to Keep Employees Engaged

Financial rewards are just the beginning of what keeps employees active in their job role. Another, more overlooked factor, is job satisfaction. Just like you want to be a part of the company and commit to the success of it, so too do the workers. But, you are also the main character in the story who can either band these individuals together or break them apart through engagement or lack thereof.

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