We’re two months into a new year.
How’s your team doing so far?
If there is one period that creates more business disappointments than any other, this is it. The first 60 days of the year.
As the leader of your company, you’re likely exceptional at creating a vision for the future. You know how to put together actionable plans. Perhaps you even have a spectacular idea that is poised to rock your industry. I’m betting you spent some time over the holidays thinking about what you learned over the past year. You’ve likely drafted a road map for the next few months. There are new projects you want the team to undertake… bad habits and poor performance of the past you plan to crush.
This is the year of big change and you have the plan to make it happen.
Two months in, and with your hand on the tiller, are things changing course as you hoped?
It’s about this time that new year’s resolutions and annual business plans start to get fuzzy. The enthusiasm that was palpable on January 1st starts to wane and bad habits continue to thrive.
But your plan… what happened to all those ideas, projects, and changes that you shared just a few weeks ago?
Many companies just like yours are heading for a year filled with disappointing results. You too may already be off track. And there is one reason… your team isn’t mocking you yet.
Really, who likes being mocked? Sometimes leadership warrants a bit of humor at your expense. It’s all in good fun and can lead to some serious business benefits.
Let the mocking begin
Communication is a funny thing. As hard as we try, we rarely do it well. And we’re often not aware that our efforts fall short. It’s one area where we struggle to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes.
Let’s say that you stand up in front of your team in early January and share your well thought out plan. You talk through each part. You provide insight into how you’ve decided what that company needs to do next. Afterwards you stay as long as needed to answer the handful of questions posed by the team. You ask if everyone understands. You create opportunities for debate.
Now, let’s put ourselves into the head of someone in your audience. “Hmmm. I’m not sure what he meant by that. I wonder if this will affect Jordan’s job. I think the CEO has new glasses. Damn, I forgot to leave a cheque for the house cleaner this morning. What did he just say about changes in marketing? That’s a stupid idea. I wonder why Greg isn’t here today. Did the kids remember to pack their homework this morning? Did he just say $15 million or $50 million? He sounds a bit frustrated with finance…” And on it goes.
How much of your presentation did the team catch? Research findings vary but it’s fair to say that they didn’t get it all and that more than 50% of your message is forgotten within a week. How do the missing and forgotten parts get filled in? Through assumptions, interpretation, and gossip.
The reality is that you formed your plan after weeks of thinking. You based the plan on a pile of facts and a long list of conversations. And the team has not fully absorbed what you shared in your condensed presentation.
The answer to this challenge seems simple—communicate more!
Chances are that any communication you’ve done with your team is falling short by a factor of 10. How will you know when you’ve communicated enough? When your team starts to mock you, to make fun of you. They finish your sentences. They make jabs about how many times you’ve repeated the same message. It’s then that you know you’ve arrived.
10 steps to mockery
As you start thinking through how to communicate more with your team, variety is key. Each of us takes in information differently. Some members of your team will benefit most from hearing you speak. Others will prefer to engage in dialogue. Another group will do best by reading about plans. And yet another group will understand your thinking by working through activities.
Before you start communicating, what’s your message? What are the 3-5 things that you want everyone to know? What are the values that should shape each of their decisions? What’s your vision for the future? What’s the common purpose you are all working toward? Stick to the basics — short, simple, direct.
Here are 10 different ways to engage your team and get their buy-in.
Kick Off Meeting
No one likes being the last to know. A kick-off-the-year-right meeting ensures that everyone hears the plan directly from you. They all get the same information at the same time. They learn both the what and the why. Your answers to team questions reach everyone. They see your body language. They hear your tone.
You may have a small group of trusted influencers who you need onside. They may have been part of the plan creation. If not, take time to get their buy-in first and deal with any pushback. This will be the group who will bring your message to life once the meeting is over.
Forgot to kick off the year this way? It’s never too late to have this meeting.
Your next stop is team meetings. This allows you to re-iterate the plan through a lens that is meaningful to each team. Questions that might not be appropriate in a larger audience are likely to come out. Start these meetings by asking the team what they took away from the bigger meeting. See if they heard what you were hoping they would hear. Seek their feedback and let them know that every question is welcomed and valued. It’s through the asking of questions that you will learn where that team’s at.
Start every one-on-one meeting with the same questions. What are the bits and bites you want people to remember? Can your CFO rhyme off the company values? Can your head of marketing tell you the five company objectives? Does your EA understand your vision? If your meeting is 30+ minutes, have your counterpart answer a question or two about the plan. If they can’t do it, don’t get upset, be grateful. It’s one more opportunity to get someone aligned. Do the same in group meetings too.
Email or blog
Some members of your team won’t absorb everything you say. They need to read it, maybe several times. Do a quick mental check… how many times have you written to your team this year about the plan? Did you remind them of what the plan is? Have you provided enough detail about why you put the plan into action in the first place? Let the team know that you are still focused on the same things. Provide examples of how you are seeing the plan come to life.
Make the plan visible
Are your values on the wall? There’s a reason that the most successful companies have this stuff posted everywhere. Come up with creative ways to make the plan visual and available to your team. Embed it in your documents and email templates. Bake it into your communication tools. Make it your avatar. Track results on a big whiteboard that everyone can see.
If you are the only one communicating the message it’s going to be a struggle to get it to stick. Why? First, you can’t be everywhere and talking to everyone each day. You need champions to help you. Second, you need the plan to be part of the organization’s DNA. That’s not going to happen if you are the only one pushing the message out. Call on board members or leaders within your company. Even your newest employees can help you.
How did you come up with the plan? You likely read a ton. You had influential conversations with smart and experienced people. You worked through the numbers. You considered a multitude of options. Can you recreate some of these experiences for your team? Have them read a book that shaped your thinking and then talk with them about it. Ask one of the people who shaped your thinking to speak with the team. Have the group work through some math. Take them on the same journey.
If you want to turn up the “mock me” dial, start asking people on the fly to respond to questions. What are our values? What’s our revenue target for the quarter? How many new customers do we need to add this year? How many have we added so far? The purpose is not to make people feel uncomfortable if they don’t know the answer. It creates an opportunity for you to coach and inform your team. Have fun with it and make sure your team has fun too. If your team starts avoiding you fearing your impromptu questions, reread the last sentence. It’s gotta be fun!
Food and drink has a way of supporting conversation. Invite small groups of people to join you for breakfast, lunch, dinner or drinks to talk about the plan. Check in casually to see where people don’t understand or support the plan. Get curious. Invite debate. Encourage the group to challenge the plan. It’s through the pushback that you’ll learn where things might go off the rails.
Search out the doubters
Keep your antenna up for doubters among the group. When you find them, get curious. Invite them to meet with you one-on-one. Hear them out. Understand why they have doubts. Have you not done a good enough job communicating your what and why? Does this person have a good reason to be a doubter? Can they doubt and follow you anyway? Or is it time for them to find another organization where they can get on-board?
Where does your mock-o-meter stand?If you don’t yet have a strong sense of alignment from your team, it’s time to get to work. Walk the halls, pick up the phone, get a sense of where people are at. Success lies in repetition, repetition, and more repetition.
Have you been successful in getting your message out? Do you have some tips to contribute to this discussion? Are you being mocked yet? Leave a message below and share your story.