I am lucky enough to have attended the 2014 Fortune Leadership Summit in Orlando with our team. I always enjoy the face time with our coaches and our clients since our team is spread out across many states, and I love learning from the keynote speakers at the event. This time was no exception! While there is always lots of information that is fun to think about at the time, I know that the audience at this event is focused on one question: What are we going to take from this Summit that we can implement in our business?
The trick is not to go home from an event like this one and get rid of all the old ways of doing things and try to get your team to do everything in a shiny new way according to your new favorite thought leader; the trick is to take practical tips that you can integrate into the existing framework of your business. It can be hard to focus on one or two key takeaways that are actionable and specific but not disruptive to your team’s productivity.
I was struck by the practical takeaways from many of the speakers that I found relevant to our Think, Plan, Do framework, and I hope they will be interesting to you, too.
• One of Verne Harnish’s main points from his opening address was that talking helps with pattern recognition more than thinking in isolation. This directly reinforces Patrick Thean’s recommendation in Chapter 1 of the book Rhythm to put think time with your team in your flight path so that you have a rhythm in place to talk about strategic ideas. If you haven’t already done so, getting on a weekly Think Rhythm with your team is a great minor major that can make a big difference in your business; just setting aside time to have breakfast or lunch once a week together to talk about what’s bouncing around in your head could lead to a major breakthrough in your strategy.
• Not sure what to think about and talk about in your Think Rhythm with your team? Here are some interesting questions that came out of the Summit that would be excellent topics for Strategic Thinking time (just be sure to follow Verne’s and Robin Sharma’s advice on the importance of singular focus below, and do not try to tackle them all at once!):
• Sally Hogshead: How are you the perfect solution to your client’s problems? How can you solve their problem better than anyone else?
• John Mullins: Which element of your business model can you disrupt to make your company stand out: revenue model, operating model, working capital model, investment model?
• Margaret Heffernan: If your basic assumptions about what’s happening in your company weren’t true, what would you expect to see? (Then, collect some data to see if there are any warning signs that you could have blind spots regarding your business.)
• Joe Pulizzi: Do you have a purpose for each marketing platform you are currently using (print, website, email campaigns, blogs, social media platforms)? Do you have a mission statement for content marketing that includes the target audience, what will be delivered, and the outcome for the audience?
• For me, a key takeaway on execution planning was the importance of a Main Thing or singular focus/vision for the quarter or year. Verne stressed that committing yourself to one thing will let you make the biggest difference, and Robin Sharma emphasized the importance of taking a minimalist approach and mastering one thing because clarity is very powerful.
• Pat Williams also offered very sage advice on the importance of communicating your vision (i.e. your strategic plan and your execution plans) to your organization. Here are some questions to consider:
• Are you communicating your vision effectively so that people can understand it?
• Are you clear, concise, and correct when you explain your execution and strategic plans to your organization?
• Do you communicate optimism, hope, motivation and inspiration, and do you communicate publicly?
DO THE WORK
• Doing the work of executing on your plans requires discipline and establishing new habits. Robin Sharma cited new research that it takes 66 days of repetition to automatize a new habit. So, decide on only one new thing each quarter to establish as a new habit for your team, put it on a dashboard, and watch it every week for the first quarter; after that, your team should practice the new habit automatically.
• Sharma also recommends spending the first 90 minutes of your day on your #1 opportunity so that your most productive time is spent on your most important work. Interestingly, Ari Meisel recommends experimenting to find your most productive times for different types of activities and blocking time to accomplish them when you’re at your best for that particular type of activity. For example, he said his best time for creative work is after 8:00 pm. Collect some data on yourself and determine when the best times are for you to tackle your most important projects.
• Similar to Patrick’s emphasis in Rhythm in Chapter 10 on self-reflection as part of a Meeting with Myself, Sharma also recommends reflection time daily to record five wins or acts of excellence and three good things that happened that day (this practice of gratitude enhances motivation).
• Meisel recommended several ways to make doing the work a less stressful proposition, but his basic framework includes these three steps:
- Optimize: Identify what the problem or process is and break it down to its most lean aspects.
- Automate: Next, find out if there is a way to automate any parts of the process to make them easier.
- Outsource: Find out if there is someone or some program that can do the work for you.
Hopefully, sharing my key takeaways with you has been helpful in some way. If there is a thought leader or an idea here that you want to learn more about, then I encourage you to pick up their book and learn more, but I caution you to remain focused and not to bite off more than you can chew!