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.
As you approach planning for another quarter, take a moment to check in on your 3-5 Year Strategy or what he calls Winning Moves. These are specific strategies that have the potential to double your revenue over the next 3-5 years. Many companies lose focus and momentum on these by only discussing them once a year during Annual Planning. Don't be one of them.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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:
History is the ultimate reality TV show; it's getting a first-hand view of people's bad decisions, conflicts, trials, and successes. We can learn a lot from these stories. They teach us that ‘this time’ is never really different—at least not any more than Hallmark movies are different. Sure, you can insert new actors and actresses, change the location, etc. The story is typically the same, though.
In the same way, ‘this time’ for us is a slightly more evolved version of all the leaders and businesses who came before us. We’re susceptible to the same mistakes, so while your people are adapting to the temporary pandemic, there is danger of rapid declines in productivity, customer service, morale and more. The longer this goes on, the greater chance for decline. It’s your responsibility as a leader to drive team morale, maintain productivity and win while your team works from home.