As a member of your company’s executive team, you have a lot on your plate. And, particularly in middle market companies, C-suite executives have some unique challenges that other leaders may not face. According to an article in Forbes, "The best leaders today combine agility and emotional intelligence with innovative thinking and an inclusive mindset. They must be adaptable and able to pivot quickly with sudden market changes in an uncertain economic and geopolitical climate.” If this sounds a little overwhelming to you, it does to me, too. In addition to these lofty expectations, today’s execs face some concrete problems.
Rhythm Blog | Jessica Wishart
by Patrick Thean and the Rhythm Team
What people really love about coming to meetings is how unproductive they are. I don’t know about you but I eagerly check my calendar each morning hoping against hope that YES, I do have a day jam packed full of useless meetings! It’s like Christmas every day…
Most of our successful mid-market clients have no shortage of great ideas. The constraint lies with the time and resources to get it all done. It doesn’t matter how many brilliant growth strategies your team comes up with in your annual planning session if there’s nobody with the capacity to get anything else done. Focusing on only a few top priorities is difficult but critical for your success. Tempting as it is, piling new initiatives on top of an already overloaded team will have numerous negative consequences for the individuals, team and company as a whole.
Think about it - what sets your company apart? Are you poised to quickly enter emerging markets and innovate new products and services that your customers will value? What are the skills, processes, systems, and activities that will propel your company into the future?
For many companies, the idea of the monthly management meeting can feel like a burden in an already overly scheduled calendar. Why is this meeting, in the midst of so many other meetings, important?
This day or half-day meeting is your key to building the team, learning together, solving problems, working on specific issues, and reinforcing your company’s culture, initiatives and goals.
In a former job, I had a manager who called all of his direct reports together to tell us some exciting news! We were embarking on a big new project that would require everyone in the company to pitch in to make it happen. There was a lot of excitement (mostly from him), and a lot of confusion (mostly from us). Unfortunately, there wasn't a lot of follow up about what the goal was, who was going to do what, and by when. When I asked for more specifics, it was clear that nobody really owned the success of this project - nobody knew who was in charge. Not surprisingly, the project was a failure. I think we've all experienced similar things - some well-intentioned leader fails to clarify the expectations, and there's a lot of confusion, re-work, frustration, and lost productivity.
Fall is upon us. School is back in session, the leaves are beginning to turn, the air is crisp, Pumpkin Spice Lattes are back at Starbucks… and many, many Executive Teams are gathering in conference rooms for the yearly ritual of Annual Planning. In many cases they are clearing their schedules for two full days, traveling to a different location, and spending hours preparing ahead of time for this important event. Why is this such an important ritual?
CEOs are constantly being pulled in a million directions - they have shareholders, partners, investors, employees, customers, industry groups, community stakeholders and other constituents (not to mention family and personal relationships) to answer to on a daily basis. Even if you are somehow balancing all of these demands, running a successful business, and leading your team effectively, you still may not be doing everything you need to do as a CEO. According to a recent study by Harvard researchers, “It’s vital for CEOs to block off meaningful amounts of uninterrupted time alone, to give themselves space to think, reflect, and prepare.”
This idea of spending alone time “thinking” is counterintuitive to many CEOs, who may have gotten where they are today by working longer and harder than those around them. Taking time out of the rat race to think could be considered a weakness by some executive leaders. But, on the contrary, the research clearly indicates that this think time is an absolute necessity for CEOs.
We've all heard it... "Why doesn't Jane just do what I've asked her to do!?" or "How can I hold Tom accountable?" Chances are, if you lead a team, you have had similar frustrations. More often than not, the Janes and Toms of the world aren't coming to work everyday looking for ways to disappoint their bosses. Typically, they are good, hard-working, smart people or you wouldn't have hired them in the first place. So, where's the disconnect? Why are they causing you such frustration?
As a leader, it is your responsibility to create a culture where accountability can thrive. You have to build and reinforce the right conditions for your team to be able to succeed. As individuals, the Toms and Janes also have to do their part - to be willing to take responsibility for their results. But they can't do this if you don't do your part to be an accountable leader.
When I was in college, I took a course called “The Meaning of Work” and enrolled in a corresponding internship program following the course. As part of the program, I met weekly with a small group to discuss the work we were doing and reflect on its meaning. I earned a minor in “Faith and Work” as a result and gained experience in the non-profit sector and higher education through my internships. As a Millennial, I was fully indoctrinated in the belief that where I spend the majority of my waking hours should be meaningful in some way and, like many in my cohort, I entered the workforce craving something deeper than a paycheck. As they say, life happens, and my career hasn’t been what I imagined it would be as a 22-year-old college graduate (no surprise there!). But, I do still believe in the importance of finding meaningful work, the critical nature of doing work that matters, that has some purpose deeper than feeding my family and paying the bills. And the research backs me up on this, too.
Studies have found that “employees who derive meaning and significance from their work are much more likely to stay with organizations."