Do You Feel Like You’re Herding Cats?
There are four months left this year to deliver all of those annual goals that you laid out back in January or February for your organization or your team. Are you making strong progress toward getting them all accomplished? Are you and the team struggling? Do you feel like you’re herding cats? Are you beginning to lose faith that victory will be yours?
Do not give up hope, there is still time to turn the corner and regain control and get the team super-charged and focused on delivering the goals if you ACT NOW!
Simple: The temptation to over-complicate goals and plans to achieve them, must be avoided at all costs. If you’ve already done so, and it’s slowing you and the team down, fix it! Simple goals, with clear outcomes, and clear plans for getting there, are easier to describe and measure. Overly complex or complicated goals and action plans often don’t yield results. Get back to the team with a simplification effort and ensure that every member of the team understands the objective and their role in delivering the results by the timeline required. Trust me, complex and complicated goals and plans won’t help get the results you need.
Time: Break goals down into timeframes to allow your team to categorize them as short-term, mid-term, and long-term goals. Being able to focus on the timeframe in an appropriate way reduces the possibility that you will become discouraged and prone to give up prematurely on a project that might take months to accomplish. Stick with it, and celebrate success at milestones along the way, and be ready to give some encouragement when the team finds it tough near the end of the project.
Don’t Micromanage: Once you’ve set your goals with the team, don’t give in to the temptation to micromanage the team to their goal. There is absolutely no call to fuss and get in the way of the team maturing and developing as they work. Don’t steal the thunder of the team by taking the spotlight. Let THEM bask in the limelight and enjoy the credit for their achievement, and make the celebration about THEIR growth and achievements. Set the goals well, plan for the path to the achievement, communicate the goals and timeline to the team, track their progress and throw a heck of a celebration with rewards and recognition aplenty, when they deliver the required results!
Allow For Growth: Most of us need to get out of our comfort zone and into the uncomfortable zone to achieve the kinds of things that create lasting value. This goes for your team too; they need to be challenged and encouraged as they build their new muscles on a task that they’ve never tried before. When they’ve mastered it, those achievements will be the ones that they are most proud of. Let them know that you know this is a struggle but that you BELIEVE in them and that you are confident in their ultimate success! Tap into the element of significant challenge as a motivator, and use it to excite and focus the team around the victory that lies just ahead. Get them thinking about the party you’re planning to celebrate the accomplishment, and how cool THAT will be.
Inspire and Lead: When you’re setting team goals in a business setting, recognize that your teammates will expect to be inspired to achieve goals and to be recognized for delivering results. Find creative ways to inspire the team to make the team goals THEIR own. Get them to prioritize team goals ahead of their own personal business goals, and to recognize the value in contributing to the team’s success! When your team delivers the behavior you were looking for, and achieves the goal, reward their success and celebrate their accomplishment. Sincere praise in a public celebration is tremendously powerful.
Motivation: Consider motivation carefully when you’re setting up your goals and your rewards for their achievement. Not every member of the team is as motivated by extrinsic motivations (money, acclaim, fame, bonuses, stock options) any more than every member of the team is motivated solely by intrinsic motivations (beliefs, values, community contribution, doing good, personal growth, relationships). Most of us will react most favorably to a mix of motivating factors as we commit to objectives and goals. Get to know what motivates each member of the team, and devise a motivation strategy that is equal parts scientific and artistic to gain best results.
Alignment: Ensure that all business goals align up and down the value chain. Individual goals should never work against team or department goals. Company goals should be recognized as primary in priority and secondary goals like team, department or project goals must be recognized as secondary by the team. Individual objectives for and individual contributor should always roll up to the project, department, team, and company goals in a non-conflicting and congruent manner.
Reasonable: This may seem like heresy, but occasionally the wisest move you can make is to reset expectations, timelines, or to lower the goals. When you’re pursuing goals, you are not operating in a vacuum. Environmental considerations will often change between January 1st and the 31st of December. One of the most courageous leaders I ever worked for realized in 2009 that our well-conceived revenue and profit growth goals had been made ridiculous by the Great Recession. It took tremendous courage for him to advocate a lowering of the bar to the Board of Directors in the middle of that year. When the goals were revised to allow the team to recalibrate and recommit to something achievable it sent shock waves through the organization, positive shock waves that lead to the team delivering tremendous results by year’s end. There is no value in whipping the team to deliver 25% revenue growth in a year when that number is not attainable due to a Global business slowdown. Better to reset expectations for modest revenue increases or a modest business reduction than to lose the confidence of the team by forcing them to chase impossible objectives. It takes incredible courage to admit that a goal that was attainable six months ago is now a needless distraction. Don’t be too proud to recalibrate for success if events change the circumstances.
Leading a team to achieve their goals is a challenging prospect to say the very least. It’s probably far easier to control your own behavior regarding goals than it is to inspire and motivate a team to mobilize and pursue challenging objectives. Achieving goals, especially particularly challenging goals is never easy. The process is challenging, and you will need to help the team by injecting and summoning mental toughness at critical junctures, to allow the team to taste victory. Anticipate that, and help the team to expect it as well. Get them to see the challenges coming and encourage them to embrace the struggles! A team cannot collectively remain safe in their comfort zones if you wish to achieve and deliver ambitious results! Coach the team to get increasingly comfortable with dealing with being uncomfortable as they expand their intellectual and behavioral capabilities. That is a natural piece of the puzzle of personal and team growth, and it is best to anticipate it and to be ready to address it positively when the challenges invariably arrive.
If your team is struggling to get to the objectives that you laid out for them at the beginning of the year, get back to work and get the team refocused and recommitted to the goals that are still attainable. Ask for and regain commitment to the goals, and make course corrections in your action plans as necessary to allow the team to regain their momentum. There’s no need to feel like you’re herding cats; you can regain your grip and rededicate the team to the cause and lead them to victory. Enjoy the journey, and let me know how you make out…