Actionable Steps to Take for a Successful Year
Leaders are grappling with the same myriad of challenges they faced in 2021.
We're well into 2022 and leaders are grappling with the same myriad of challenges they faced in 2021. It doesn't look like things are going to change for a while, so it's up to us leaders to set the tone, focus on outcomes and create a positive mindset for ourselves and our teams.
But it's not always easy to know where to begin. Here are my top three actions to take to make this year better than the last.
1. Revisit your vision, purpose and mission to ensure alignment
To build a successful organization, there must be widespread alignment — every employee needs to understand where you are going as a company (vision), why you exist as a company (purpose) and how the work they do day in and day out brings value to your customers (mission). If you haven't examined these three core principles, now is the time.
At my company, we review our vision, mission and purpose every year to ensure accuracy, clarity and consistency. We communicate them frequently and survey our employees to root out misalignment. And we use them to drive decisions and behaviors.
For example, our vision is "to build an exceptional global technology company, innovating products and services that advance safety and productivity across the industries we serve." When the opportunity arose to acquire an IoT product development company based in Reno, Nevada, we jumped. A clear vision statement pointed everyone in the right direction and our employees were able to see how acquiring the company would advance us towards our vision and moved them to embrace the new team wholeheartedly.
One final case for revisiting your vision, mission and purpose: They inspire a sense of belonging among your employees. Most people want to feel part of something bigger than themselves and a clear vision, mission and purpose allow people to identify with the organization and its customers. Our brand's mission motivates our employees to show up and give their very best each day, knowing that their efforts and attitudes inspire loyalty and appreciation from their teammates and our customers.
2. Create a key initiatives commitment process
In 2022, a strong strategy is essential, and the key to a great strategy is execution. Unfortunately, many companies don't have a system that properly focuses their teams on performing work that allows for skillful execution. Many leaders either make their goal tracking system too complicated or are overwhelmed by the thought of building the system so they forgo it altogether. A simple system is all you need to get started.
Here's how we do it at my company:
- Break annual key initiatives into quarterly milestones.
- Break quarterly milestones into high-level tasks that need to be completed to meet the milestone.
- Assign an executive-level sponsor for each milestone who will be responsible for making and meeting commitments to achieve the milestone.
- Create a simple dashboard to track the commitments and milestone progress. We started by using Excel but transitioned to Asana, a project management tool that allows for easier tracking and visibility.
- Hold bi-weekly commitment meetings where each sponsor updates the team on progress and makes a commitment for the next bi-weekly meeting.
- Discuss all issues including roadblocks, constraints, mistakes, and communication breakdowns.
- Perform a quarterly review studying what went well, what didn't go well, KPI performance, and lessons learned. Adjust as necessary and start the process over.
- Celebrate wins and agree on how to recognize a job well done throughout the organization.
This process creates accountability, ensures that the right kinds of conversations are being had at the executive management level and focuses the team on outcomes. Performing this process well takes trust, commitment and open, candid dialog. But if done right, you can quickly solve problems and adjust before an initiative gets off track, ensuring better execution throughout the remainder of the year.
3. Build your team
The most important skill a leader can have is the ability to build a team. Without a strong, aligned team, you can't achieve high levels of success. I spend almost 50 percent of my time developing my team, helping them grow into exceptional leaders who can make independent decisions aligned with our strategy and key initiatives, and who can also build and grow their teams.
Here are my suggestions for building a strong team:
My team knows that alignment and team cohesion is not optional. They must work through their issues and collaborate effectively to be successful at the company. To help with alignment, we created a disciplined process for discussing and measuring team performance, surveying frequently to find out where there is misalignment and creating commitments around areas of improvement. This may seem like overkill but trust me, it's not. Alignment is key to a strong, successful team.
Hold a team-building activity
Trust is the foundation of any successful relationship and it's imperative to create a high-performing team. Each member must trust each other to show up with a positive mindset, work hard and keep it real. To build trust, every person must care about building relationships and the only way to build relationships is to get to know each other. I recommend holding quarterly team-building activities that allow each team member to open up.
At my company, we sometimes bring in outside facilitators, but the best sessions are the ones we create organically, based on what's happening in the company at the time. Recently, we read Brené Brown's book Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations and used team-building activities from the workbook provided on her website. Very simple and highly effective.
Right seat on the bus
It's not enough to have talent on your team; your employees must be in the right seat on the bus to do fantastic work. Great leaders recognize that their employees will be at their best when their talents and strengths align with their roles. It takes time to gain meaningful insights into what makes your employees tick, but doing so will help you create, tweak or change roles to help them do what they are best at every day.
Help your employees understand their strengths and weaknesses and guide them towards roles where they can be successful. Avoid over-promoting as it's not good for you, the employee or the organization. If you don't have the right people in the right seats, make changes now. Prolonging the inevitable weakens the team and the company.
There will be many challenges in the year ahead, but by taking these actions, you will set yourself up to thrive rather than merely survive as you deal with the volatility still to come.
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