If you’ve been reading my LinkedIn articles over the last few months, you know by now that the M-word (micromanagement) is both demotivating and slows progress almost instantly. And you also know that coaching someone who is underperforming isn’t the same thing as micromanaging. You understand that individuals won’t embrace accountability if their decisions are regularly overruled. And you must have an accountable leadership team if you want to drive accountability throughout your organization. (And who doesn’t want that?)
One major frustration that surfaces as accountability begins to emerge is "How do I make sure everyone is doing ‘what they are supposed to’ (rather than whatever they want)?" Especially when you’re under time pressure to either grow faster or to quickly correct something that’s derailing the business. It’s so tempting in these situations to default to directive leadership - telling people what to do, and changing directions as you go. But as many studies have shown, the backlash from directive leadership works against building the elusive culture of accountability - the fervent dream of most C-levels.
Spell It Out so Everyone Understands
For the leader who wants it all -- accountability, responsibility, innovation, and high engagement, the most powerful tool you can rely on is clear and aligned goals. Whether you use OKRs, or default to the well-known SMART goals structure, clear, prioritized, and nested goals are your secret weapon. Sadly, however great your goal-setting process is, when the situation is chaotic, information is incomplete, and the world around you keeps challenging your assumptions, it’s normal to let some of your goal-setting discipline slip.
And without clear goals (including outcome measures), your people can’t possibly know they’re doing what matters most! "Why do they need to be nested?" you ask. A picture is worth a thousand words, so here’s the picture that shows you why - the "Pyramid of Clarity" (courtesy of Asana). I think it speaks for itself, but if you don’t agree, let me know!
Goals Are Good
As you reflect on this picture, think about how goals are actually set in your organization. Consider a few prompts:
- Are your superordinate goals clear, quantified and tied to your strategy? How do you confirm how well your employees understand them?
- Do you set goals that cover different time horizons (1 year, 6 months, this month)? And is it clear how the goals for this month will lead to the longer-term goals?
- How well do members of your exec team co-create goals with their groups that clearly connect to the overarching goals? What about the groups below theirs?
- How much attention do your leaders place on ensuring each individual sees how their work contributes to achieving the broader goals? Does this task fall off their plate when they are "too busy?"
- How often does your Exec team review the goal metrics and milestones? And when progress deviates from plan, how do you and your team react or respond?
The Tips You Need to Know
I know this isn’t news to you. But as a fellow named Samuel Johnson once said, "People need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed."
With that in mind, I’ll offer you a few things you may have known, but have forgotten:
- Goals promote focus. Focus leads to faster results. Don’t be a distraction to your people -- let them get their work done without helicopter managing.
- The people in your organization will never have as much context as you do. It’s your job to give them enough that they can track what’s most important.
- Agreeing up front what needs to be accomplished and by when goes a long way toward ensuring it happens in a timely manner.
- If you change priorities too often, goals will lose their importance. And people will probably start waiting for you to tell them what to do next. (Not what you want.)
- There are many processes to align around goals; people differ in their work styles and their energy flow. So don’t assume other’s progress will look like yours. Focus on results instead.
- Remember that the best bosses give people stretch assignments, coach them, help them learn from experience, and are available to support as needed. That’s how you’ll develop people faster.
The theme for the content I'm sharing in my next few posts is keeping people motivated and productive. Having clear, nested goals that everyone is aware of is a great first step. Check in next week for some myth-busting (just a little teaser).
In the meanwhile, take a look at the goals and measures your organization is currently working toward -- How many people could name these goals accurately if I asked them right now?
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