Did you get everything done last quarter that you expected to? Did your company?
Or did you look back, as so many did, and wonder where your time had gone?
Maybe you had a revenue target and some ideas for reaching it, but most of them ran out of steam and were forgotten. Or worse, you got everything done you had hoped to, but at the end of the quarter realized it made no difference to your bottom line and to the company’s growth.
These are all too common issues we hear from clients looking to elevate their planning and execution.
If your team has struggled to achieve your goals, four key practices can improve your chances of success:
- Create focus before each quarter
- Communicate more efficiently during the quarter
- Align your team in advance to be working towards a few major goals, and
- Distribute responsibility throughout your organization
Let’s take a look at how each of these strategies creates focus on the work that drives your team’s success.
The Russians have a saying: “If you chase two hares, you won’t catch either.”
Its origins may date all the way back to medieval times and tells you what humans have known for centuries: that to get things done, you need focus.
You may have heard the story of Charles Schwab who, in 1918, hired productivity consultant Ivy Lee to make his steel company more efficient. Lee’s simple advice rings truer than ever in today’s 24/7, always-online world of distractions and opportunities: make a list of the most important things you have to do, put the number one thing at the top, and focus on that one.
The word ‘priority,’ after all, literally means ‘before everything else,’ and was originally only used in the singular.
Finding the Number One Thing your company needs to do to grow over the next quarter can be difficult, but the benefits are clear: create focus on what moves your business forward and avoid distractions. When anyone is faced with a choice of what to do with their time, simply prioritize work on the Number One Thing.
Nutritionists know that not all food fills you up the same way. If you’ve ever wondered why you feel hungry five minutes after scoffing down a burger and fries, it’s because they lacked the nutrients you needed to satiate you.
This might remind you of your company’s meeting structure. When it comes to meetings, quality definitely matters more than quantity.
There are between 25 and 50 million meetings held in the USA every day…and you may feel like you’re in most of them. Meetings can eat into your productivity, especially when they are announced at the last minute and you are scrambling to prepare for them. They cost companies literally billions of dollars in employee time.
Avoid empty calorie meetings by creating a regular meeting rhythm, a consistent agenda, and participants who prepare in advance.
Productivity suffers when you repeat the same information to several different people at different times, or run from one team member to another to get the facts you need to move forward. A regular, high information meeting rhythm allows one-to-many communication and eliminates these time sucks.
Furthermore, having regular meetings to check in on your company priorities ensures they are constantly discussed: no more looking back at the end of the quarter and wondering why you got everything accomplished except what you were supposed to.
Set Clear Expectations
Sometimes it’s the simplest things which can make the biggest impact. Do you know, for example, how many working days there are in the upcoming quarter? How many hours? Do you take those numbers into consideration when setting your company and individual goals for the upcoming period?
To paraphrase the famous Bill Gates saying, most people overestimate what they can do in two years, and that is almost certainly true for shorter periods of time too. This can lead to too many people trying to do too many things in too little time, with the expected results (or lack of them).
Instead, each person should establish the two or three goals most aligned with the company’s aims for the period. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush after all – or, as the culinary-minded Italians put it, ‘Better an egg today than a hen tomorrow.’
Goals should also be SMART, especially the Achievable and Time-Bound elements of that acronym.
If you’re a CEO who finds themselves taking on every role and task in your business, having an organization where too many people are trying to do too much may sound like a dream. Take the advice of Fred Rogers (aka Mr Rogers to his millions of watchers) who once said:
“We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility.”
He was referring to social responsibility, but the same holds true for business. Harnessing the people power at your disposal will allow everyone to get more done and ensure you’re not leaving work hours on the table. Priorities should be evenly distributed and aligned behind the company’s major long-term goals. Organize your team to make sure the right people are in the right positions, and the right things are getting done.
The end of a quarter is a great time to look back at what you and your team have accomplished. With adequate preparation, you can ensure that it will be a celebration rather than an autopsy.
Choosing your company’s Number One Thing creates focus around a single target, and regular meetings ensure you don’t waste time achieving it. Aligning your team around a few achievable goals will help move the company towards that target while freeing up leadership to lead.