As a kid I learned about balance.  I once made Kool-Aid without putting any sugar in it. Add the mix to water and stir. The results were not good.  The reason is the ingredients weren’t in the proper proportion or were missing altogether.  Companies without balance between autonomy and accountability have the same problem: bad results.

So what do we do?  First, let’s define the terms.  Accountability means being held responsible for results and actions while autonomy is having self-directing freedom or being self-governed. Leaders and managers want the former and employees the latter.  Below, you will see a high-functioning team requires both.

The Results
  • Disengagement – Employees with little control over how they do their job and a lack of clarity on the expected outcome won’t be highly engaged.
  • Chaos – Giving employees complete freedom with no guidelines or expectations results in results and processes that are all over the board.
  • Micromanagement – Employees feel they are being micromanaged when there are strict results expected but they have little say on how to do their job including making decisions and suggesting improvements.
  • High-performance – Employees who have reasonable discretion on reaching meaningful, realistic goals create the sweet spot for producing high-performing team.

As you can see, it is crucial that companies balance autonomy and accountability.  First, you must create accountability for people to know the desired outcome and how they will be measured.  And you can only give autonomy to employees who demonstrate they can handle it; this makes hiring the right people important.

Start your journey to high performing teams by first determining what success looks like for the company.  Next, do the same for individual departments and team members.  Then build on that by giving feedback on slowly giving people more freedom in their roles.

If you need help with accountability and autonomy, you can CONTACT US.  Also, you can connect with us on https://www.linkedin.com/in/cmatt/.

2020 didn’t turn out like you planned.  If this year were a road trip, you would have encountered detours, closed roads, and perhaps a few unexpected scenic overlooks along the way.  You may or may not have ended up at your destination.

Does that mean that planning isn’t worthwhile?  Of course not.

A plan does not guarantee you get the result you want.  Planning helps you think through what you want to achieve, what you should do to reach those goals, and what obstacles you may run into as you execute your plan.  Planning helps you prepare.

Dwight Eisenhower said ““In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”  While most of us aren’t planning maneuvers and commanding a military like Eisenhower was, we fight our own battles – new competitors, changes in the economy or technology, and staffing issues just to name a few.  Planning helps us focus our efforts and align our teams so we can be prepared for whatever comes our way.

You have to act on your plan

But you can’t stop there.  Once you determine your plan, you have to act.  It has been said that “you can’t plow a field simply by turning it over in your mind.”  You can envision the future, but at some point you have to take action to make your plans come to fruition. You have to plan and then act on it.

Taking action and executing your plan isn’t as easy as it sounds.  It is too tempting to get distracted by what FranklinCovey calls the “whirlwind” – those daily and urgent tasks of running a business.  It can consume your time and your focus leaving no time and energy for growing the business and working toward your goals.  Executing your plan requires a conscious effort and accountability at all levels of the organization.

To make the most out of the coming year, begin planning now.  And once you finalize your plan, act on them.

OPG helps businesses create and execute their plans.  Contact us or connect with us at https://linkedin.com/in/cmatt if you need assistance.

On a Saturday morning walk, I witnessed something so common we ignore the lessons it teaches – a tennis match.

On the face of it, it was nothing extraordinary.  Three matches, three courts, and twelve players. No umpire, no coach, no scoreboard, and no announcer.  Just a regular competition between two teams.

What caught my attention was the fact that twelve players all assembled independently at an appointed time and location to begin playing.  No one directed them on the sidelines.  They called shots that were out of bounds or winners.  They all knew the score.

They had clarity.

The tennis league has rules, and the coaches had given the players instruction on how to be their best.  The game itself has rules agreed to by all.  Because of these things, the teams knew what they were supposed to do and simply set about doing it.  The objective – beating the other team while having a good time – was clear to all.  Everyone agreed on how the game, sets, and matches were scored.  Players knew what to expect from their teammates.

Wouldn’t it be great if our businesses operated with the same clarity?  Businesses can learn from the world of sports.  Think how well your team could function if your company had the same clarity of goals, rules of engagement, and KPIs as a sports team.

If your team isn’t operating at its best, perhaps you could take a page from the sports world.  Make sure everyone knows their roles and your expectations.  Establish clear goals and measurements.  Hold people accountable.  Coach employees so they can perform better and break bad habits.

Opal Partners helps small businesses with challenges like these. If your business can learn from sports,   Contact us or connect at https://linkedin.com/in/cmatt to discuss how you can help your team excel.

An employee of one of my clients wanted to talk to me about a project he was assigned.  He had made no progress on it for over 90 days.  Something was holding him back. He opened the conversation by saying “I don’t think I can do this.”

I began asking questions.

Within a few minutes, we identified the project didn’t have a natural home with any one person or department.  It required customer communication, technical know-how, and an understanding of the company’s products and services. However, the team member assigned the project had all the skills and knowledge needed.

Something else was going on.  Actually, several things were keeping him stuck in the starting blocks.

He was busy with his daily tasks and the urgent requests that dropped in his lap.  FranklinCovey refers to this as the “whirlwind of the day-to-day.”  The Urgent was prioritized over the Important.

He had let the project languish for so long, he was tired of reporting to the leadership team that he had made no progress.  He let doubt about his ability to do the project creep into his own mind as well as the management team’s.

The longer he put the project off, the more daunting it became.

After some discussion, we came to a realization:  either he truly couldn’t do the project, or he didn’t know how to start.  I told him we wouldn’t know which case was true until he actually tried to do it.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.”

I helped him break down the project into a series of small tasks and milestones.  We identified natural checkpoints to verify he was on the right track.  Suddenly, the project didn’t seem so scary.  It wasn’t looming over him.

He had a plan.  He had someone to hold him accountable. He became excited about actually tackling the project.  He began working on it.

What’s holding you back from beginning a project or making a change you need to make?

If you’d like to talk to a fractional COO about starting new projects and accountability, contact us at CONTACT US.  You can also reach us at https://linkedin.com/in/cmatt.

 

A lack of organizational clarity may be the root of many of the issues you face.

Without organizational clarity, you have no accountability.  Team members don’t know what is expected. They don’t know how their performance will be judged. They don’t know what the standard is.

When employees aren’t clear on expectations and outcomes, they operate in the dark.  Fear rather than confidence affects their decisions.

The results are confusion and inefficiency.  Money isn’t spent wisely.  Employees don’t feel the freedom to take care of your customers.  People invest energy creating cover for themselves in the event they are questioned.  Trust is eroded.

Remove doubt and the problems it causes by providing clarity.  Your company will not operate at peak performance until you do.

The question then becomes “how do I create clarity?”

Creating organizational clarity starts with leadership.  Make sure your company vision and values are known.  Create a strategic plan, making sure there are goals and targets that everyone understands.  Every group or department should have known and published key performance indicators so they know if they are doing the right things and doing things right.  Make sure best practices and processes are documented, shared, and enforced.

Clarity doesn’t come without effort.  You may even need outside help to guide you on the journey.  But it is worth it to have a healthy business environment and engaged employees.

If you need help creating clarity in your organization, contact us.  https://opalpg.com/contact-us/

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Do you wish you had more accountability in your organization?  Business owners commonly express the need for more accountability when talking about their challenges.  I have found leaders actually mistake other issues for a lack of accountability.  Leaders build accountability over time using what I call the 4 C’s.

Clarity – Sometimes people mistake accountability for clarity.  People and teams can’t be held accountable if their goals and responsibilities aren’t clear.  You must provide clarity before you can have accountability.

Communication – Team members need to know they can have an open dialog with their manager to discuss issues and ideas.  Likewise, leaders must make themselves available to their teams on a regular basis in both group and one-on-one settings.  Lack of communication can lead to culture and accountability issues.

Coaching – Some managers and leaders struggle with having difficult conversations with team members who aren’t meeting expectations.  People can’t improve without knowing where they fall short.  It is the leader’s responsibility to identify inadequate performance or behavior early and help their team member correct it before it becomes a problem.

Consequences – Sometimes managers jump straight to applying consequences when they ask for accountability.  You have to check yourself on Clarity, Communication, and Coaching first; otherwise, you risk creating a culture of fear.  Fear is the result of people facing consequences without knowing why or being given the chance to improve.  If you have the other three C’s and have built a strong culture, positive peer pressure may address some issues organically on its own.

Accountability isn’t a system or an action.  It is a culture.  Leaders build accountability by consistently providing clarity, having meaningful communication, proactively providing coaching, and only then having consequences if the team isn’t self-correcting.

If you need help building accountability, let a fractional COO help you.  Contact us at https://opalpg.com/contact-us/ or https://www.linkedin.com/in/cmatt/.

People like to be in it, no one likes to be called out of it, and Janet Jackson even wrote a song about it.  What is it?  Control.

It’s natural to want control – to be in command of your life, your destiny, your job, your customers.  And we all realize that there are some things we simply can’t control.

To a degree, we do have some control.  We can control the activities of those in our charge at home, at work, or elsewhere.  We can determine how and when to make investments and utilize capital.  We can chart a new direction and set new goals.

But there are things we can’t control either.  People can make their own decisions that may be counter to your goals.  We can’t stop natural disasters.  Sometimes actions of others come crashing into your industry or personal life.

When it comes down to it, what we cannot control exceeds what we can control.  What does that mean for your business?

It means your strategy must focus on what you can deliver.  It can’t rely on hope or feelings or guesses.

It means you evaluate people and companies by how responsible they are with what they can control and how they respond to the things they can’t.

It means you must guard your reputation and attitude.  In the end, those are the only things in which you are in 100% control and how you and your business will be remembered.

Lee Iacocca said “in the end, all business operations can be reduced to three words: people, product, and profits.”

If you asked someone to define “operations”, what answers would you get? Probably statements ranging from “processes” to “getting stuff done” or “I’m not sure.”

Business books may define it as the tasks that produce the products or services a business sells to customers.  That’s not a bad answer, but it isn’t as succinct as Mr. Iococca and it doesn’t capture the whole of how I view operations.

For me, operation is the “collection of all activities required to keep the business running.”  That’s not entirely different from the general business definition above, but don’t stop there.

Operations has a purpose: to extract value from the resources of the organization.

Putting it all together, operations is the collection of activities that businesses perform to get the most of out their raw materials, processes, people, and capital in order to provide goods and services.

If that is correct, operations should focus on efficiently using the highest and best purpose of all resources while eliminating waste, ineffectiveness, low performing resources, and low value products.  Conversely, if operations are efficient, every person, every role, every tool, and every process have value to the organization.  And wouldn’t that be a great place for your business to be?

If you need help from a fractional COO to focus on improving your operations, contact us.  https://opalpg.com/contact-us/

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It is not unusual for business owners to tell me they want more accountability in their organizations.  My first question for them is usually something like “what’s keeping you from holding people accountable?”

 

I know it is easier said than done.  Driving accountability can be more difficult for some people than others.  People are afraid that holding the line on performance and values may be uncomfortable or even make them unlikable.

 

Actually, I think the opposite is true.  A culture where expected results and behaviors are known and followed is freeing.  It removes ambiguity and doubt.  It makes conversations easier.

 

If your company struggles with accountability, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I tend to avoid difficult conversations about performance and behaviors?
  • Have I set clear goals for the company?
  • Does each team or individual have specific KPIs?
  • Do the metrics we track move us toward our goals?
  • Is there dissonance between our words and our actions?

 

Once you’ve addressed any of the challenges above, you still have work to do.  Driving accountability is part of building culture.  It is not a “one and done” activity.  It takes commitment, dedication, and follow-through from leaders to make accountability a part of a company’s DNA.