I have a wonderful client who is working to get some managers to continue advancing toward becoming strong VP and C Level Leaders. She asked me to help her to come up with some ideas about what she can do to coach them, teach them, and lead them to become more proactive, more predictive, and more willing to report on what they expect to happen in the business in the future. My first advice for her was to get her people to predict what they expect to happen in advance, by picking some key metrics and predicting, based on past growth what might happen in the next month. Then move on to the next quarter and the next year, and so on, until they began to predict what is likely to happen in 2 years and 3 years. Here are some good concepts and ideas about how to get your managers and leaders to begin thinking about the future and making a strong attempt to predict the future so that they can take proactive steps and actions to make it turn out great for the team, and for the organization.
· Being proactive is the key to staying ahead of problems and challenges in a world that moves and changes faster every day. If you are waiting for change to happen or waiting for the growth to arrive, you’re going to be reacting to it, rather than shaping it and sculpting it ahead of time. The idea is to get ahead of change and shape it so you can manage without disruption, extra resources, and panic at the last minute. Teach this to your team.
· Make sure that you prepare your leaders so that they have a solid understanding of the current state of your business, your current strategy, and the assumptions that were included in that current strategy. Encourage them and challenge them to get outside of their comfort zone and begin using assumptions to begin preparing for the future events they expect to happen.
· Ask your team what they need, and what your organization will need to change to be more proactive and avoid reacting at the last minute to problems that come out of nowhere. By planning ahead, you can prepare in advance and handle the challenges before they become crises.
· Document procedures and processes. Get your team to do reporting proactively so you can build models as you see change and growth happening. Review your procedures, processes, and reporting on a regular cadence so that you can ensure that your team will be able to handle the unexpected by anticipating what changes might be coming before they arrive. Consider designating one or two people on the team to become the “go-to” persons that can help the team to lead change efforts proactively.
· Get into the habit of asking clarifying questions when issues come up, so the issue can be dealt with quickly and early on. Issues that don’t get discussed and diagnosed often grow and blow up in size and scope. Don’t let that happen. Address things quickly.
· Also get in the habit of leading your people to surface growth concepts and ideas in team meetings and in your one-on-one meetings with your people. Include a discovery conversation in meetings where you talk about risks and how to mitigate them proactively. Practice asking discovery questions like, “How can we continue to grow?”, “How can we accelerate our growth?”, and “What could we do differently that might stimulate growth or reduce threats and risks to our growth?”
· Set the expectation with everyone on your team that you expect them to move steadily from reacting mode to proactive mode. At the management and leadership layers of an organization, we get paid more and expectations are higher. One of our primary responsibilities is to watch the horizon and predict what’s going to happen to our piece of the business in future months, quarters, and years. A good rule of thumb is to be modeling what you expect to change and happen in your industry and to your organization 2-3 years into the future. Start with next month, then next quarter, then next year, then 2 years out, and finally 3 years out until you build confidence at each level.
· Build a culture within your team of ‘no surprises’. When everybody understands that surprises are disruptive and expensive, and are to be avoided with a good effort to become predictive and proactive, your culture will shift to greater accountability, higher performance, and more proactivity, naturally.
· Create a psychologically safe place for people to share what is worrying them or what they fear is going to slow the team down. That allows you to nip things in the bud before they become immovable obstacles. You have to let people complain and make suggestions for improvements. But, don’t let employees just complain. Tell them it’s OK to complain, but encourage them to pivot to suggesting solutions to the problems when they complain. Use the 30-second rule. Listen to them complain for 30 seconds, or 60 seconds at most, then gently ask “OK, so you seem to have good reason to worry about this. What do you want to do about it? What should we do to help you with it?” Create ownership and accountability along with a safe place to share their concerns.
· When your team is about to launch an important strategic project or a change initiative, get them to brainstorm in advance about what is likely to happen. Include a discussion of all of the things that could go well, as well as all of the things that might run off the rails and cause the project to stall or stop moving forward. Get the team to think about the risks they’re taking and to try to proactively avoid any missteps. Get your colleagues talking about who should be involved, what skills and resources are needed to lead to success, and then work with them to build a plan to prevent anything from getting in the way of your progress and success.
· Ensure that your strategy places emphasis on attracting and developing great people who will embody your culture. Communicate clearly to all in the company that a successful business must execute and deliver results consistently. Your leadership team must drive a culture of customer-centricity and winning results by coaching and developing all employee associates and partners to always be at their best. Your company must manage performance as a priority.
· Trust your employees. See your employees in terms of their future capabilities. Be clear about expectations with them. Be open and trust them to do their best and to do the right things for the right reasons. Challenge them to help you to see the future coming and to be well prepared for it. Believe the best about your employees, and when they fall short, support them and challenge them to go back to the drawing board instead of stepping in, and doing their work for them. How can they learn if you’re always fixing their mistakes? Let them fix their own mistakes.
· Planning is critical to success. Model out the expected growth you anticipate. Work closely with your employees and Managers to model out forward-looking models that anticipate assumed growth, and then encourage them to find additional models that need to be designed and built to predict the future in as many new areas as possible.
· Encourage all of your people to create action plans when they’re making decisions and addressing issues. It’s often best to plan for multiple scenarios. I recommend that you teach your people to first build a best-case scenario, for a situation that goes as well as is possible, then a worst-case scenario for any situation that goes as badly as possible. Finally, the most useful scenario is almost always the most-likely case scenario, which helps you to plan effectively for the circumstances you think are most likely to occur.
· Proactively teach and coach your Managers and Employees to think strategically by using a SWOT analysis tool quarterly or annually to evaluate Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.
Did we miss anything? What are your thoughts? What can best be done to help managers and leaders to become better predictors and orient themselves more to become forward-thinking, and begin anticipating and planning for what is likely to happen next month, next quarter, and next year?
Michael Beach is an award-winning Executive Development Coach and a Master Business Coach. Michael’s firm has coaches that work with companies all over the United States that are hard at work trying to anticipate the future and continue to grow and develop so that they can master the circumstances and continue to move forward in fast-growth mode as their businesses evolve. If you’d like more information about having Michael’s coaches working with your Leaders, contact us at Info@michaelbeachcoach.com. We’ll be happy to tell you about how we successfully help companies to prepare for a greater future every day.