Make a New Years Resolution: Plan & Execute
Too often I find companies that do not connect their planning function with how they execute. Don't get me wrong many of these companies know how to execute but much of it is tactical reactive execution which does not really advance the strategic direction of the business.
Many businesses go through a planning process but when asked the penetrating question "Is management compensation connected with performance to plan?" The answer ranges from"Not really!" to "We don't plan well!" Many owners have commented during the recent recession that planning has had to take a back seat to just surviving. I relate to that. It is not productive to apply precious time and energy to activities if they keep you from staying in business. However, is just surviving enough for your customers? Do they care how tough it is for you when it comes time to make strategic decisions on who they want to do business with next year. Don't be nosed out by another business offering an additional advantage to help your customer be competitive?
Planning can take on many forms. Some planning processes are very formal, elaborate and comprehensive. Others can be very spartan and crude. Both can be successful but they must possess a key ingredient - execution. You can create a plan to fulfill a vision to move your business in a strategic direction but without execution it is not worth the paper (or electrons) that it is printed on.
Where do companies fall short on the execution path? Measurement and accountability. It is imperative for any organization to have regular review cycles where measurement to plan occurs and when necessary adjustments made to modify the plan or address the short fall of key performers. This of course raises the issue of conflict management which many organizations struggle with when key performers (usually great and valued for their performance on daily tactical issues) resist the challenge of integrating the objectives of the plan into their daily activities.
Successful companies "master" the planning process to the extent that many of their planning objectives are accomplished each review cycle resulting in major shifts in what they deliver to existing or attracting new customers, This is not because they have better plans but that they have a leadership team that effectively executes to plan while meeting daily performance operating objectives as well. It is a maker commitment (led from the top of the organization), not just a halfhearted notion.
Make a New Years resolution to not only plan but to commit to the elements of execution necessary to move your business to a strategic position attractive to your customers that will retain them and be attractive to new customers.
Every CEO Must Be A Chief Listening Officer
As the new year begins a healthy reminder for your leadership practice set is "How well do you listen?"
I came across a good article on this subject titled "Every CEO Must Be A Chief Listening Officer" by John Ryan. The core focus of the article is how the CEO or upwardly mobile manager avoids getting cutoff from the rest of the organization due to too many meetings, travel, and other distractions. Consequently what might be great communication at the immediate report level is often confused and muddled further down into the organization. How do "great" CEO's counter act this problem - they develop effective listening skills for all levels of the organization
Six strategies that might improve your communication and listening skills are.
- Pay Attention. Don't get distracted when talking to someone. Put the Blackberry aside. and demonstrate that what they are saying is important. Interrupting a conversation to respond to an an e-mail, voice-mail or phone call delivers a negative impression to the person you are talking to. Wait for a time when it is convenient to check messages that will not affect your listening experience.
- Suspend judgment. Any tendency to react with criticism when someone is explaining a situation will most likely suppress important conclusions and recommendations on the part of the other party that you need to hear.
- Reflect. Periodically recap the other's points to confirm your understanding. This is a good way to help the other person to adjust how they are explaining their point if you are confused.
- Clarify. Use open ended questions that help people to expand their ideas.
- Summarize. Briefly restate the points or themes of the conversation as a way to close the loop without agreeing or disagreeing.
- Share. When the person is complete and what they were saying is clear and complete and where they stand offer your own ideas and suggestions.
The effectiveness of how we communicate is as much a function of what we say as what we hear, How we cultivate the quality of listening to others and how that significantly influences the quality of what they say to us is surprisingly important. Great companies make good decisions when both sides of a conversation are communicating clearly on what needs to be done.
How did you score on listening skills?
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