Yes is Only the Beginning

bigstock-Business-people-shaking-hands-38603158I have been talking to colleagues who work in a variety of industries, different sized companies and all over the corporate ranks about the difficulty to execute projects in today’s business setting.  Even in meetings where everyone agrees to green light something, the next steps are taking weeks, months and years to execute.

We came to the conclusion that when people say “Yes”, what they really mean is “Time to start the arduous task of making this happen.”  The reasons are complex, but a simplistic view is that companies are more siloed and centralized than they want to admit.

Getting projects through the myriad of approvals, checks and balances, and legal clearance is taking longer than ever and is greatly affecting companies’ abilities to innovate, change and grow.

Take a company like mine, Halo Health, which provides patient education in waiting and exams rooms that customized to the health system or practice’s needs.  On the surface, the question is simply do we want to replace cable TV with a digital education system?  Which usually leads to a yes decision.

But in the environment we live in, from “yes” to installation becomes ten meetings, four requests for sample content, three rescheduled installation dates due to “IT” (which is never the case, so Techs don’t hate), and months of ultimately patients losing out on the ability to live healthier.

There is an overall fear of making a decision.  People are hiding behind workloads, data, and insecurity.  We as leaders need to break through this muck.  99% of the decisions that you make can be reversed, altered, or forgotten about.  Do not let “no-brainers” get bogged down because you are worried that in the above case, a patient may switch doctors because they like watching CNN.  WHAT!?  That flawed logic tells me that you need to spend more time on making sure people know your differentiation from the competition.  And hopefully a lack of patient education is not seen as a positive.

Leaders must balance flexibility and conviction.  If you believe in the project that you just turned on, take it by the horns and run it through your company, knowing that you are going to run into roadblocks and challenges.

Communicate to stakeholders on the status of the project.  If it is a low priority project, tell everyone.  They appreciate knowing where they stand.

Hold people accountable.  Projects losing steam because of bureaucracy are costing everyone millions of dollars in hard costs and thousands of hours in soft costs.

Shorten time from yes to go and you will be a corporate hero.

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The Key to Success is Knowing What Details to Attend

checklistI tend to snicker when people tell me that they have great attention to detail or that they are big picture strategists so details aren’t their thing.  Both kinds of people raise red flags to me when assembling my team.

People who are self-proclaimed detail oriented tend to look only at what is in front of them and fixate on the current issue.  Big picture people often overlook their day to day responsibilities as they try to “take the long view”.

When assembling your team, you need to identify people who know what details they need to perform their tasks while keeping their focus on both short term and long term results.   This is especially important as most companies can slice and dice data on every piece of minutiae regarding their business.  Start asking yourself:

  1. What is the goal of this piece of information? Does it help me perform my job better?  Help a corporate or customer issue?  Solve a problem?  If the answer is no, look for better data points.  Sales reports that just show units and sales are a good example of this.  You need to understand so much more before you decide what the best-selling items are like average price, gross margin, net margin, availability, etc.
  2. Is this information “repeatable”? Meaning, is this something that I need to share with my team to help them perform their job better?  A report that shows customer payment terms and trends can be a great report, especially if a customer who is complaining about their margins does not take their discount terms.  That type of report is good for anyone who touches your customers, including finance.
  3. What if I don’t know this data? Or more likely, what if I forget the data?  How will the lack of knowledge affect my team?  If it is something that is easy to look up, like a list price, then don’t commit it to memory.  If it is something that you need for a presentation like a deadline or project milestone, you better remember it.

Use the 80/20 rule when going through the details.  Remembering the 20% that drives progress is the key.  Good luck.

Maneuvering through Conflict is a Necessary Skill

 

Business People YellingI have spent a lot of time dealing with conflict resolution over the last few days, and how it affects my team, my key stakeholders, and me.  As a leader, you like to think that every situation has a cut and dry ending.  If this happens…then that. 

 

However, business and life are not that simple.  For every rule, there is a caveat.  For everything that you know to be true, there is a potential loophole.  And for every instance of conflict, there is an opportunity for you to lose your team.

 

Seldom are there absolutes when dealing with conflict.  But here are some that may help you.

 

1.       Whomever Yells First, Loses.  When managing a difficult situation, you need to keep your cool.  You need to keep your judgement clear and screaming and hollering to get your point across will not yield success.  You have ceded control to your opponent.

 

2.       Keep an Open Mind.  To understand the real issue, you need to listen to the other person’s view and try to see where they are coming from.  By getting to the root of the conflict, you can see what a fair and equitable resolution may be- even if you don’t win or agree.

 

3.       When Possible, Seek Input.  Not every situation affords you with the opportunity to get input from impartial observers.  But when it does, make sure you use those resources. When you are knee deep in the drama and stress of the situation, these people can make you take a pause and see things in a different light. Remember that input is different than gossip. 

 

4.       Scorched Earth Does No One Any Good.  If you are inevitably going to lose the conflict, destroying everyone associated with the issue does more harm than good.  You still need to lead these people, but losing their respect will cause you to be ineffective.

 

5.       Gloating is Worse.  No one likes a sore winner.  You need to handle the “win” in stride and continue to conduct yourself with class and dignity.  People watch how you act in wins and losses to decide whether to follow you.

 

Staying above the fray, taking a long view of the situation, seeking out others’ input and being a gracious winner/loser are all ways to handle conflict correctly.  If all else fails, remember Ralph Cramden’s advice- “Say pins and needles and needles and pins, it’s a happy man that grins.”  Then count to ten, you will probably already feel better.