Perhaps it’s a result of having a significant time out of the business (I recently enjoyed a month motorcycling around New Zealand – achieving long standing goal), but recently I am asking myself awkward questions.
One of the most difficult questions I asked me was: “Are you really spending enough quality time with everybody in your business?”
As the business grows, it’s easy to tell yourself that your job is to spend time with the Directors and Managers in the business and you can find yourself slowly becoming more and more detached from the majority of the great people you employ.
Those people can feel disconnected as the business grows – even if they understand that demands on your time are increasing. If we are not careful, they may feel that you no longer have time for them or want to spend time with them. Doing a culture audit recently taught me that our staff engagement was very good but it wasn’t brilliant and I absolutely want “Brilliant”.
Once upon a time a tribal chief would spend every evening with his tribe around the fire – hearing the stories from the day, evaluating the intelligence and making plans as well as celebrating successes and sharing stories of bravery and dreams of the future.
Our businesses are our tribes today. We work together to make a living and build a future together yet we spend almost no time at all “Around the camp fire”.
According to Vistage – a leading CEO mentoring and support organisation – 66% of company Directors don’t fully understand their own company’s strategy1.
That’s a shocking state of affairs. It also presents an opportunity for those who want to create a competitive advantage. How powerful would it be, I wondered, if every single person – not just the company Directors – understood our company strategy?
What about if each of them felt they had been listened to in its formation? What if they each felt that they really understood and owned that strategy?
I wondered then, “What would happen if we could get everybody on the same page – the understanding of our goals and challenges – and harness the ideas they all had?” and “How well do the challenges that we understand and anticipate today as Managers line up with the challenges that the rest of those people think we face?”
To this end I arranged to have lunch with every single one of my team that isn’t a company Director or Manager (I spend time with those guys all the time). I split the small lunch groups so that I had one from each team on the lunch so that we could achieve balance when discussing issues. It took just over a week and I allowed up to two hours out of each day.
The purpose of this lunch was to take time out to explain to them what the business goals were and what we perceived the challenges to be in achieving these goals. A strategy is about creating policies that address the challenges we will face and turning those policies into specific, co-ordinated actions, I explained. I wanted to make sure that I had their input and fully understood the business challenges they thought we faced.
Before we started I asked these guys how they would score their understanding of our business goals and the challenges out of 10. After the lunch, I repeated the question and I also asked, “If you were the MD today, which challenges would you focus your time and effort on and why?”
Was it time well spent? Almost all scores had increased after the lunch – in fact the average increase in scores went from 70% before the lunch to 89% afterwards. A worthwhile uplift I feel and I also have a list of the ideas my team have given me to incorporate back into the overall strategy document.
Each lunch group said they would be keen to repeat the process in 6 months and to understand the consolidated view of our challenges and the policies and plans we put in place to address them.
Now the Intergage strategy group – made up of Managers and Directors – has a chance to better understand the issues and challenges we face from the ground up in pursuit of our goals. The accurate diagnosis of our challenges is key to creating the business strategy we need to thrive. The proof of the pudding is in creating the co-ordinated action plans that will address these challenges.
Our track record in achieving our business goals is very good to date. I hope that our chances of doing so in future just increased significantly. One thing is for sure; a small number of lunches that gave us our time around the camp fire together have already improved understanding among the team of our goals and our challenges. That has to be a good thing.
Now, let’s see if we can get to 100% understanding of our business strategy throughout the whole team. In a world where only 66% of company Directors understand the business strategy, how exciting would it be to work for an Intergage where every single person has input, understands and feels ownership of the business strategy?
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