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 of their performance.
You’re a couple of months into your 2019 annual plans - the honeymoon phase. Your annual plan still looks good, you’re excited to see it as often as possible, can’t stop talking about it, probably taking annoying selfies with your plan. I get it - it’s pretty exciting. You are bound to learn throughout the year things you didn’t know about your plan when you first fell in love. Perhaps the way it's executed isn’t the way you would do it, or others aren’t excited about it and it’s bringing you down - making you second guess.
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.
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.
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?
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:
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 meeting."
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?”
“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?"
Building team accountability requires that we understand a few dynamics because it’s more complicated than we might recognize. It goes above and 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.
You can make an argument that your company’s annual planning meeting is the most important thing you do all year. 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.
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 32.6%, 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