Does anyone remember your corporate vision?

Corporate VisionAfter laboring with your leadership team to set a compelling vision for 2013, the chances are, your staff won’t even remember it only 30 days into the new year.

Don’t believe me? Take this simple test:

Ask 3 staff members about your current vision.

Be prepared for the results you will likely find.

For those that found that all three remembered the vision with clarity, you are part of a rare few. This would suggest that you already know the success was not due to a catchy, compelling headline, nor was it because you were so engaging in your delivery of the vision. Both may have been true, but were not the reason.

Most, on the other hand, fell into the broader category of the ‘forgotten vision.’ Following are a few steps to take before it’s too late and your staff forgets you even spoke about the vision. Before doing so, let’s make sure the reasons are clear for why this is often forgotten so soon after being delivered.

The Forgotten Vision

Last October, I was invited to conduct a Vision & Strategic Planning workshop at a conference in Chicago for leaders from all over the country. The preliminary surveys of the audience members showed that most had led and/or participated in vision setting exercises with an even larger number showing the vision had no measurable impact on their year-end results. Here are a few of the most common reasons cited for the vision failing to make an impact:

 From leader’s perspective:

  • Nobody remembered the vision
  • They didn’t buy into the vision

 From staff’s perspective:

  • The vision failed to connect with staff
  • The vision is an exercise leaders do

Do any of those reasons look or sound familiar to you? What is interesting is that both, in the workshop and in working with other leaders in this area, is that most believe they need help with vision casting, believing that they just needed a better story or a better way to tell the story. While I do give some guidance and attention to that part in my workshops, my primary emphasis is on vision execution.

Two Steps to a Vision Remembered

When you reflect upon the vision setting exercises you have been engaged with, you are likely to remember the sense of relief you had when you finally completed the vision. Most see this process as putting in the hard work up front whereas all that is left is to deliver the vision to the team and expect the results. I have significantly oversimplified how most actually go about this, but the truth of the matter is that people too often place inappropriate emphasis on the front end of vision casting and little to no work in executing the vision.

The truth is that the vision casting is the easiest part of the process. The harder part is in distilling the vision down into executable actions that connect directly to each team member’s behaviors. The second part is in having specific, measurable evidence of where the vision is being carried out for each staff member to call and reinforce further behaviors. Here is a closer look at these two steps.

Step 1: Connect vision to behaviors. As a leader, credibility is one of the most important attributes you have, and should not be taken lightly. When it comes to making your vision a reality, failure to work through your leadership team to connect specific behaviors to the vision not only sets the vision on a course to fail, but erodes your credibility altogether. Therefore, make the time and make the connections. I recommend each leader meets with their direct reports one-on-one to maximize impact. The task itself is not difficult, but rather the difficulty is in committing to the time investment necessary to make this step effective. Don’t bail out on this one. The stakes are too high.

Step 2: Reinforce contributing behaviors. While Step 1 is a great start towards your aligning your staff to the overall vision, assuming it meets standard vision protocol and resonates with staff members, that alone will not be enough. To keep the team on track and to change behaviors leading to a successful progression towards the vision, they will need consistent feedback and reinforcement of how their actions are contributing. Therefore, after having invested the time to connect the vision to individual behaviors, the second critical step is to reinforce behaviors daily, weekly and monthly as you see evidence of the behaviors that lead to success.

As the leader, you know the pressures you experience to get things done with fewer resources. Your staff feels these same pressures, just in differing degrees. Therefore, if you feel that you don’t have time to take these steps to carry out the vision, how likely is it that your staff will naturally commit to carrying out the vision along with their other responsibilities? They won’t! Without you taking these aforementioned steps, they will simply see the vision as an interruption to getting their regular work done. Their everyday responsibilities [as they define them] will win out every time. That is, unless you define and connect the two, then consistently reinforce those behaviors. Is your vision worth the investment?

Jeff Michaels | Repeatable SuccessJeff Michaels is a Sales & Marketing Executive that has worked with executives, leaders, & teams for 25 years to create repeatable success regardless of industry, economy or circumstance.

Leadership Lesson from X Games

Tucker HibbertTalent Alone is not Enough

January 27, 2013 marks the first time an athlete has ever achieved a six-peat…six consecutive gold medal performances…in the winter X Games. Tucker Hibbert did so in remarkable fashion in the Snowmobile Sno-Cross event Sunday afternoon. It wasn’t his talent alone that won the finals for him. The X Game analysts were quick to point out that this was one of the most experienced and capable field of champions they have ever seen.

What they did point to as the differentiator, rightfully so, was his preparation. You see, in between the semi-finals and finals, Tucker chose to spend his time walking the course to evaluate how the snow conditions had changed. He also spent time evaluating where the shadows were falling on the course along with identifying the intended lines he would take. It turns out that he was the only competitor that did so.

Assimilating all of that information resulted in his selection of starting lane (afforded to him because of his semi-final finish), which was counter-intuitive to where most others wanted to start from. By the time they all completed the first lap, Tucker was in the lead and on his game plan. More than half way through the race, conditions continued to change as the shadows continued to shift and the snow conditions on the track worsened.

Lap 9, Tucker was jolted by hitting a rough patch in his originally chosen line. He adjusted his line to his plan B approach by the time he reached that same rough section on lap 10 and continued to put distance between himself and the second place competitor. Six laps later, he had finished the race creating a phenomenal 13 seconds of distance between his next closest competitor.

The Mark of Effective Leadership is Reflected in Their Preparation

Tucker prepared in a way that his competitors failed to do. In fact, all things being equal, each of the competitors had the opportunity to win with similar experience, equipment and conditions. Yet, it came down to Tucker’s preparation that enabled him to respond asymmetrically to an otherwise, equal playing field. Tucker clearly had an advantage over his competition. An advantage also available to each of his competitors, but they declined, instead relying upon their own experience to see them through.

For leaders, you can certainly attest to the pressure to perform while leading your team to do the same. With the level of responsibilities a leader typically carries, the tendency can be to approach business as just another day. merely showing up and reacting to whatever the next day has in store. This is certainly no way to lead, and definitely not a recipe for intentional, predictable and repeatable success.

So how can you tell if you have fallen into this trap? Ask yourself these questions:

  • What do today’s actions reflect about your preparation to lead your team to success?
  • Specifically, what have you done today to ensure your team’s success?
  • Does your to-do list focus more on tasks than it does in leading your team to success?

If these questions have exposed some vulnerabilities in your daily approach, you are not alone. Be encouraged as you have taken the first step to acknowledge complacency. Complacency threatens all of us if we don’t intentionally disrupt our own status quo. Here are three steps to help you prepare differently, much like Tucker had done for his record performance. After all, wouldn’t we all like to succeed in intentional, predictable, repeatable ways as Tucker did?

3 Ways Effective Leaders Prepare Differently

  • Intentionality. Evaluating ever-changing conditions in the business environment requires being prepared for anything. This includes anticipating problems before they happen, and even planning how you will respond to the unanticipated. To have this ability, the leader will need to take intentional steps and set aside time to address these areas. Action: Schedule this into your calendar to address consistently and frequently. This needs to become an habitual routine.
  • Predictability. After you begin intentionally looking for ways to be better prepared, you will begin to see patterns. These patterns often come in the forms of team member behavior that leads to lesser performance, complacent reactions of competitors, or even economic rhythms that you can predict and address now that you see them. Action: Practice predicting outcomes privately. Start developing this capability and pay attention to predictions and what surprised you along the way before you go public.
  • Repeatability. When you have devoted the time to be intentional, others begin to notice your seemingly innate ability to predict outcomes and that you are well-prepared, you will find that repeatable successes happen with much greater frequency. This makes you an invaluable asset and resource to your team and your organization. Action: Look for ways to repeat your success without relying on repeating the same exact actions. Life usually doesn’t work that way. But for the effective leader that knows how to succeed repeatedly, do as Babe Ruth did and call your shots before they happen. Then make good on it by developing your intentionality and predictability muscles.

The most meaningful things in life take time to develop. Effective leadership is one of those meaningful areas worthy of pursuing. But it’s up to you. What will you choose? What will you do differently today, that will make a noticeable difference in what you and your teams do tomorrow?

Jeff Michaels | Repeatable SuccessJeff Michaels is a Sales & Marketing Executive that has worked with executives, leaders, & teams for 25 years to create repeatable success regardless of industry, economy or circumstance.

Do You Have the Right Decision Strategy?

Decision StrategyAs a business professional who has dedicated my career to identifying the behaviors that create intentional, repeatable results…or what I call Succeeding on Purpose, there is one area I see commonly connected with poor business results. That is in the area of decision strategy.

More specifically, this refers to the tendency of professionals to make decisions based upon current, unexpected results they encounter. On the other hand, those that consistently create intentional, repeatable successes expect occasional ‘losses’ and remain committed to their time-tested strategies and processes to guide their decision-making when a loss occurs.

Reams of materials have been written correlating successful companies with excellent decision-making processes, so no need to add to the contributions of legends like Jim Collins and Ram Charan. My aim is to provoke thinking around your own decision strategies and test how well they are working for you.

In Tony Hsieh’s book, Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose, he discusses how at one point he took up the game of poker and studied it intently to learn how to master the principles. Following is an excerpt from his learning experience:

“One of the most interesting things about playing poker was learning the discipline of not confusing the right decision with the individual outcome of any single hand, but that’s what a lot of poker players do. If they win a hand, they assume they made a right bet, and if they lose a hand, they often assume they made the wrong bet.”

One of the key points Tony drives at is that adjusting the bet based on an individual hand is a losing strategy because it is reactive. That type of short-term thinking often compromises longer-term results. Rather, it is better to be disciplined in making the right decision where the odds of winning are more favorable in the long run.

What does your decision strategy look like?

The principles that Tony articulated in his book are excellent, but as you may have perceived, if you don’t have the right decision strategy, then remaining disciplined to the wrong strategy and process can commit you to failure. That said, it is important to note that simply reacting to results is most typically the approach with the ‘poorest odds of winning.’

Not convinced? Consider it from this perspective – Imagine starting an exercise program. You know there are a myriad of exercises that can bring results, but you need to stick to the program in order to see results. If you simply use a mirror, which represents current circumstances and results, as the primary feedback of your results, you will likely react in the wrong ways based on what you see. That is simply because the mirror does not reflect the long-term results of what you are working towards. It merely reflects your present reality, and for many, they don’t like their present day reality. So they react to do something differently, thus disrupting any momentum that may have started to build.

How do I know if I have the right decision strategy?

As a basic litmus test to know if you have the right strategy, ask yourself this question…When I see things getting off track, how do I respond?

If your first response is to review your strategy for misalignment or derailment, that is an excellent sign. On the other hand, if you more typically find yourself reacting to circumstances or unexpected results (e.g., Missed a monthly sales goal,  weak marketing campaign response rate, etc.), without orienting to your strategy to calibrate what you are seeing in your present reality, you may respond prematurely and even inappropriately.

For example, I recently saw an organization struggling to recover from sales declines in one of its areas by switching strategies to start offering aggressive discounts to bolster sales for the current month. The results? Cannibalization of future customers. Sales from future months were borrowed for the current month’s performance result. My understanding is that the organization has yet to recover from the short-term decisions made many months earlier.

How do you respond when unexpected results occur in your business? Are you betting based on winning or losing the individual hand, or are you betting on the process that delivers success in the long-term?

Jeff Michaels | Repeatable SuccessJeff Michaels is a Sales & Marketing Executive that has worked with executives, leaders, & teams for 25 years to create repeatable success regardless of industry, economy or circumstance.

Time Management: 15 Minutes Can Make or Break Your Day

15 Minutes a DayDo you ever find that you spend a good amount of time coming up with fantastic goals, that meet all the criteria of a S.M.A.R.T. goal and if achieved, would make a significant difference, but somehow you fail to give it the attention necessary each week and month to actually achieve it? If the answer is yes, it is a more common response than you might think.

I too, struggle now and then with this, and whenever I catch myself feeling “too busy to devote time to my goals,” I know where the problem is and what to do next. You may have systems that you use with success when this occurs and if so, great! However, if you are finding less success in your process, consider the following system. This is a system and practice I came up with based on some long-standing and timeless principles to address issues I was experiencing.

The process is what I call The First 15. The concept references the ‘first 15’ minutes of everyday that I dedicate to planning the most important things I can accomplish within a week’s time frame. While there are simply three primary steps to the plan, it is the last action I take that makes all the difference in my process. The process is as follows:

Step 1: Weekly Goals –I identify the top 2-3 goals that I should be focused on that are tied directly into and support my longer-term goals. I write these front and center at the top of the page.

Step 2: Daily Actions – This is important in making sure that the actions I will take Monday through Friday are not merely things-to-do, but are the most important things that will accomplish my weekly, monthly and longer-term goals.

Step 3: Schedule Actions – After having identified my weekly goals and the daily actions to achieve my weekly goal, I use my planning time each day to make sure I know specifically what time slot I will be working on these daily actions. I use a 1-page template that includes the following components:

  • Longer-term goals (1-3 years)  – These are written at the top of the page so that I am always orienting to those
  • Goals for the week - I identify specific actions to take this week to move closer to my longer term goals
  • Daily Tasks – Next is a 5 column table (M-F) that lists the specific actions I need to take to meet my daily tasks; I write the specific day I will do the task and the time I will do it using my Outlook calendar
  • Weekly Calendar – The last element on my 1-page goal planner is a screenshot of my Outlook calendar. I do this after planning when I have time for each daily task, then I schedule time for the task in Outlook with a reminder

By planning in advance specifically what is most important, what actions I need to take to accomplish the goals and when I will actually get this done, I find that my odds go from wishful thinking to success. At the core though, is my commitment and discipline in following the process.

Important to remember is, whether using this process, or any other, the process itself is less often the issue. More common is not having a process and self-discipline to follow your own process. Typically at the heart of these matters is a personal discipline to slow down and evaluate what has been done and how effective, or often times, how ineffective the actions taken were in producing results.

More common is the pursuit of activity to feel that we are actively pursuing the results we seek, which takes the form of sporadic bursts of activities for short periods. These activities result in feeling increased pressure for the goals you are not achieving and the rest of your responsibilities that seemingly take the back seat while you are busy “trying to accomplish your goals.” The result is ending up overwhelmed and exhausted.

Sound familiar? If so, consider evaluating your process and level of discipline in consistently following your process. You are likely to find the answers in this area.

One note of caution is that as you start any new process that is foreign to your daily/weekly routine, it is inevitably going to feel a bit onerous out of the gate. It will require focus and discipline to stick with the process and reorienting yourself to why you committed to taking more control of your success. The answer for why you are doing this, of course, is to establish a long-term structure for how to accomplish goals consistently. After all, a lot is at stake when you consider the consequence of repeatedly missing goals. What approach will you choose?

Jeff Michaels | Repeatable SuccessJeff Michaels is a Sales & Marketing Executive that has worked with executives, leaders, & teams for 25 years to create repeatable success regardless of industry, economy or circumstance.