You Are What You Aspire To Be

Let’s face it many of us are failing to live up to our potential. Life just gets in the way. We routinely make choices that just eat up the clock yet provide little value and, in fact, are in direct conflict with what they would like to accomplish. Things like going out for a big lunch and skipping the gym or letting dust accumulate on the book you bought but never finished. BUT it doesn’t have to be that way!

“Fulfilling your potential is a journey not a destination. You complete goals and replace them with new ones  –always striving to improve!”

Perhaps what sets apart those that enjoy more success in realizing more of their potential is they have the vision, clarity and determination to make better choices. They often pass on immediate gratification in pursuit of greater rewards. Just thinking about it without action will create frustration not progress. BUT it doesn’t have to be that way! Ask yourself the question.

“I’m inspired to do what, be what?”

Making your new goals “must do priorities” is a key. Make a plan to introduce sustainable change initiatives that you are comfortable you can transition into a new improved lifestyle. Skipping a meal versus eating healthy is an example.

Following are some suggestions and considerations to help you along.

1.    Turning Ambition into Accomplishment begins with having clarity around what success will look like. Having a clear vision of the outcome is the beacon of light needed to ensure you remain on course during your journey. What does your success look like –describe it.

2.    Having a realistic written plan as to how you will accomplish your vision is essential. Using smart goals is wise. I recommend starting at the end and reverse engineering the initiatives making sure to put first things first. A common cause of plan breakdown is committing to do too much too soon.  Your plan should incorporate the time required for the other goals / commitments as well. An hour reading each day is far more productive than four hours every two weeks or so.

3.    Maintain a “Let’s make it happen”  positive mindset / attitude. Knowing why your goal is important to you and remaining confident that the outcome is achievable is essential to building the strength to turn away from urges / distractions not supportive of you goals. Feel like you slipping call a friend or go for a walk.

4.    Making the pursuit of your goal part of your everyday life, not something you hope you’ll find the motivation and time for is a must. Whether it’s hitting the gym or reading a book, make it a priority and a must do thing. Personally I drag myself to the gym then love it.

5.    Don’t make your goals a secret. Tell those around you of your ambitions and ask for their support and assistance. They can help you with encouragement and help hold you accountable to your goal.

6.    Get the help you need. Going it alone will make you feel alone and that is the beginning of becoming overwhelmed and disillusioned. If you need a skill or support get it in place when and where you need it. Don’t let self pride keep you from asking and getting the help required.

7.    Measure and celebrate your progress. Taking time to refresh and evaluate both the progress made and the journey ahead keeps your plan active and real. Every plan will need refinement and adjustments, that’s just reality.

8.    Know when to say when. For athletes it’s stopping before incurring a serious strain or injury, and for others it’s ensuring the tank is never fully drained. Overdoing it just about guarantees a setback. Be realistic and keep aware to avoid sabotaging your initiative.

9.    It’s about the journey as well. Sacrifice is all good and well but misery will consume you. Be realistic on the price you’re willing to pay to reach your goal. Depriving yourself of the enjoyment of everyday life can make the realization of the goal an empty and distant victory.

10. Arrive at your destination with few regrets. Maintaining your values and adhering to your beliefs will ensure your integrity and self worth remains intact.

Being inspired is a wonderful thing. Harnessing and growing your abilities in pursuit of your vision is living your life with purpose and intent. It’s both exciting and rewarding and certainly well worth the price of giving up the very stuff that is holding your back.

We all have a Role to Play

Leader versus Manager Roles 

The above link will take you to a post discussing the differences between the contributions of Leaders versus Managers. To me each provide equally important value to their organizations. While a Leader may make a larger contribution to strategic visioning without the dedication and competency of managers, front line supervisors and hard-working committed front line employees execution of that vision will not be realized. Strategic vision realization is everyone’s job and smart leaders whom get out of their seats and walk the floors will learn and benefit from what they see. Credit belongs to those doing the work! Great Leaders inspire great Workers deliver!

Strategic Plan -Implementation Challenges

One of the biggest challenges that organizations face is finding the time to implement the major initiatives that were developed during the planning process. In many cases the amount of time and effort required to put the vision into practice is under estimated and beyond realistic given the demands already on your key resources. As a result critical business initiatives will go uncompleted and the gain unrealized.

“Almost anything can be accomplished given the time and resources required to implement”

In my experience organizations put 90% of the effort into strategy creation and the remaining 10% into the implementation plan. This kind of “figure it out on the fly” thinking places a huge burden on already busy key resources to find the time after the fact to develop implementation plans. Spending the time on implementation isn’t near as exciting as coming up with ideas but it is every bit as important. In practice the breakdown should be more 50 -50.

Here are some best practices for your consideration:

  1. Spend the appropriate time on developing a realistic implementation plan defining the who, what, and when details using SMART objectives format. In reality the plan is a series of projects and should be run like projects.
  2. Prioritize and synchronize business initiatives. I recommend using a reverse engineering process to plan out the appropriate order that the initiatives should be addressed. Creating a roadmap and breaking the initiatives into 90 day time buckets will help keep the plan active and on schedule. Formal reviews maintain accountability and plan status. Every organization is different so the speed of change should fit with the circumstances of your business.
  3. Take a hard look at the time and resources required. If you need a skill or technology to accomplish an objective that you either don’t have or is not available plan how this roadblock will be overcome before commiting.
  4. Consider dedicating a resource to managing the overall plan. Having someone with the responsibility to oversee the plan will ensure focus and any issue or obstacles get immediate attention and resolution.
  5. Identify time spent on lesser priority projects than can be reallocated to the more urgent business requirements. Every plan should have a STOP list.
  6. Your plan should have as an objective on improving operational efficiency and error reduction. This is an ongoing initiative that deserves continuous focus.

In the diagram below I have identified the four ways time is spent in organizations.Planning is time spent developing policies and practices. Execution is performing those policies and practices. Fire Fighting is time spent correcting errors that have occurred because policies and practices were either not performed correctly or are not defined. Crisis is time spent by managerial level resources to fix major customer impacting or costly operational errors.

Decision Making Awareness: Red Light / Green Light

 

Scenario One

You walk up to an intersection and the light is green. You have the right away. As you walk across the intersection a fast-moving car runs the red light and kills you!

Scenario Two

You walk up to an intersection and the light is red. You do not have the right away but you risk it. As you walk across the intersection a fast-moving car drives through the intersection on his green light and kills you!

Result

The result is the same you’re dead. And so it goes with decision-making, following the basic rules is seldom sufficient. In my experience, whether making the decision based on generally accepted principles or taking the risk and breaking the rules, both, can get you in trouble if you don’t see the blind spot. In the scenarios above neither considered the oncoming car, perhaps the most important variable. We made the assumption the car driver was playing by the same (our) rules.

Blind Spot

Avoiding the “blind spot” thinking trap means looking at all the variables and applying judgement. For instance, in the above scenario was the driver of the oncoming car acting appropriately? Was the vehicle slowing down? Was there any acknowledgement by the driver showing awareness that someone was crossing the intersection? This is basic commonsense, which often, isn’t so common after all.

Reliability and Awareness

The best definition of reliability is “understanding all the causes of reliability and mitigating them”. In decision-making this means understanding all the factors and considerations and remaining in a state of readiness.  Key assumptions or expectations need to be continuously monitored and updated based on results to date.

Real World Thinking –Airline Policy Example

As we have learned from the recent events occurring in the airline industry, operating by standard policy can be disastrous. In these events, the passengers, in some cases, were not playing by the assumed rules and while the airlines though they were in the right they were clearly proven wrong in the court of public opinion. Did the airlines plan for dealing with uncooperative passengers? If they did and I believe they do, did the actions taken in line with their policy? Obviously this policy needs refinement.

Agility and Adaptability Decision Making Guidelines

Following are five guidelines I recommend to ensure your decision-making is “Real World Ready”.

1.      Policies are guidelines that show a path / process to the desired results, they are not the unbreakable rules of engagement.

2.      Leadership must be aware of potential conflicts of interest of key stakeholders, and have mitigation protocols in place to allow for appropriate discretion to be taken.

3.      All decisions (guidelines) have four components: 1)The goal or outcome to be achieved, 2) Defined Strategy / Tactics to be used, 3) Deployment of the Process, 4) and an Active Feedback Loop. A formal process must exist where evaluation of the success of the decision / guideline / policy can be evaluated and lessons learned incorporated. I can guarantee you this was not the first time the airlines were made aware of the issues and concerns of the passengers to the existing policies. And to be fair the airline industry is certainly not alone here.

4.      Empowerment of the employees to allow for agility and adaptability to on the ground events. This means allowing the employees to make the final decision where discretion is required.

5.      Active communication loops to ensure awareness and process reliability can be assured. Successful organizations have to be ready and flexible to changing environments and factors, Remember what worked yesterday may not work today.

So the next time you make a decision to walk across that traffic intersection, red light or green, remember the yellow light and execute the caution and awareness needed to ensure you can remain agile and adaptable enough to reach the other side

Dazed and Confused

It is not uncommon to find employees in a dazed and confused state. My observation is employees are, in some cases, under served by their manager. They lack both the clarity and support to perform their jobs successfully. Shocking is the fact many organizations turn a blind eye to under performing managers and assign blame for failure to the lowest level. So the above slides is my attempt to right the wrong.

Slide one is about awareness of the gap between the expected versus the actual performance to the job description. If we know what is required why would we accept something less? Getting the facts out in the open is the start. Implementing an improvement initiative works best when clear facts are used versus generalizations or opinions.

Slide two is a five point approach to ensuring the employee gets the definition, support, training, timely feedback and their purpose / role in the organization’s success defined.

Slide three is the three questions used to ensure the employee gets clear goals and the outcomes expected. If the employee can answer these questions both they and their manager are aligned. The employee has clarity as does the manager as to the level of understanding and capabilities of their employee. The manager has insight as to where the employee is and can contribute /support the employee’s success. This is a real-time saver with a huge payback. Not only does the initial kickoff have clarity the foundation is laid for ongoing discussions.

Slide four is the measurement model. It’s a sliding scale as to where the employee is in their ability to perform their job as defined in the job description. The theory is for the organization to attain optimal results responsibilities not achieved by the employee must be performed by the manager. Realistically much of the result goes unrealized as the manager can’t completely do the employee’s job, although they try. This tools measures both the employee and the managers ability to performance , as well as, facilitating a reconciliation back to the job definition.

The goal here is to continually grow the employee’s ability and confidence to perform their job or complete the project and provide insight as to the effectiveness / abilities of the manager. When I find a struggling employee I then look at the manager and if they are ineffective then their manager and so on. In short, the buck stops at level where the issue is owned and acted on.

Finally what is the so what why should you care. The benefits list is long and meaningful. Everything from higher employee engagement, lower costs, higher profits, happier customers to reduced turn over and so much more. What we are talking about is high quality bi-directional conversation around how the resources of business work together to achieve the best possible outcome. As Stephen Covey states, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Clearly so much is sacrificed through ineffective communications, We have so much to gain by ensuring clarity and understanding!

Why Strategic Plans Don’t Succeed –Execution Readiness

“There Are None So Blind As Those Who Will Not See”

Having been involved with the Strategic Planning process for most of my career I can quickly tell if an organization has a solid chance at making their new business initiatives successful. So how can I tell?

While there are many elements and factors that align to enable organizations to successfully implement business initiatives I look at 3 keys readiness indicators which I feel are strong indicators of the organization’s commitment to new initiatives.

1.    Have the organizations leaders made the ongoing effort to successfully communicate previous strategy initiatives to their organizations? The test is asking random employees to explain the organization’s strategy and their role in it.

2.    What is the organizations record at implementing strategy? Can they explain what has worked and what didn’t in the past? How are weaknesses and strengths captured and analyzed? How are they being addressed?

3.    What level of operation effectiveness is the organization currently achieving? I look for signs of the operation’s capability to successfully execute business processes. What is the organizations tolerance to under achievement?

Failure to realize and address previous and current shortcoming is a major concern.  “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” The SWOT tool should address this, if, used appropriately. So why doesn’t it? The answer is people adjust to their reality.

Here’s an example.

Recently, I accepted a request to facilitate a 2 day strategy session for a new client. At the first coffee break I observed several members of the leadership team were discussing the poor performance of one of their departments and specifically, the performance of a disgruntled and underperforming middle manager. As the break ended so did the discussion.

Before allowing the meeting to progress I engaged the entire leadership team with the following observation. I said that I had observed a conversation about a situation where customer impacting underperformance was occurring, yet no one took ownership and no actions were discussed or assigned. Apparently this individual had been a problem for years and the leadership team chose to accept this as “the way it was and would be going forward.” This organization’s lacked the tenacity to take on tough challenges. They were going through the process, but, they clearly lacked the resolve. I disengaged with this client.

Moving forward into the Strategic Planning and the subsequent Execution Process without addressing the organization’s blind spots is a serious oversight. Organizations that fail to acknowledge and address these blind spots indicate an unwillingness to follow through on commitments. They are attempting to build on a poor foundation.

I recommend using a process I call Curb Vision. Curb Vision is the process of looking at your organization from the outside in, taking away any rationalizations / history and looking solely at the facts. The goal of Curb Vision is to strip away any biases and reveal the true reality of the current business situation.

A Curb Vision assessment is an invaluable tool to capture incidents of organization’s blindness and bring them forward for resolution. This exercise signals that the organization is serious about their business and willing to take the required actions to resolve the obstructions and issues needed to move the business forward.

One solution is to bring in an experienced consultant to facilitate. It is money well spent to ensure you get a handle on the challenges and capabilities that you’ll need to address to move forward. Having “outside” eyes look at your business does provide an unbiased view.

Ensuring the unfinished business become the first business in the new plan significantly improves the organizations readiness to move forward.  If it happened in the past what’s going to change to prevent it in the future?