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“What took you so long?”

It was the worst feedback I ever received in my career.  And it came from someone I managed, not my manager.

I had failed to act.  I failed to lead.  I didn’t make the tough decision.  I thought I was being nice.  I thought I was getting results by keeping someone on the payroll who was good at what they did.

I knew they had a bad attitude and could be caustic in their interactions with others.  I knew that I, as the manager, sometimes had to be cautious when discussing an issue with them.  I saw others had the same issue with this person.

After an especially unpleasant episode, I finally made the decision that this person no longer belonged on the team.  They didn’t match the values the company was built on.  I let them go.

Within minutes after the decision became known, another team member asked “what took you so long?”  Others echoed the same sentiment.  They were telling me they agreed with the decision, but in reality, they were teaching me a lesson.  Until that moment, I had failed to lead.

Leadership isn’t easy.  You have to make tough decisions for the right reasons.

In this case, I put the values of the organization at risk.  Businesses can state their values, but if they aren’t exhibited, they don’t mean anything.  People will see through them and view it as hypocrisy.  It is a cultural disconnect.  The real values of any company are the ones they actually exhibit and tolerate, not the ones they state on their website.

What tough decisions are you failing to make right now?  Do you have employees who don’t belong on the team?  Do you have people in the wrong seat?  Do you need to change what you are doing or how it’s done?  What will you look back on one day and wish you had taken action?

If you need help sorting through tough decisions, contact us at https://opalpg.com/contact-us/ or at http://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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The Brady Bunch sang “when it’s time to change, then it’s time to change, from who you are into what you’re gonna be.”

How is your business going to change AFTER the COVID-19 crisis and things begin to look a little more normal?

You’ve been forced to learn, adapt, and change with some level of success or failure to face the current reality. We are all waiting to get back to normal.

But normal is going to look a little different. Customer and team member expectations will change. New products and services will be born and old ones will fade away.  We may have new rules and regulations.  What worked before may not be sufficient or desirable tomorrow.

The question becomes “How will you make your company better based on your experience during the crisis?”  You need to begin thinking about how you re-envision your company’s future, what your business version 2.0 looks like.

If you aren’t thinking about this yet, you should be. You will have to answer this sooner than you think.

We are here to help.  Contact us at https://www.linkedin.com/in/cmatt/ or http://opalpg.com/contact-us/

The coronavirus and its effects on our communities are evident all around us.  We are awash in information and misinformation, given opinions that run from wildly pessimistic to optimistic, and left confused and not knowing who or what to believe.

We don’t have to be led by fear and uncertainty.  We can remember that God is in control even though we don’t see it, don’t understand it, don’t like it, and don’t want to deal with it.

Paul told Timothy “But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.”

This is what we must do today, whatever our ministry, calling, role, or occupation.  I encourage Christian business leaders around the country to pray for our nation.

Pray for the physical, financial, emotional, and spiritual well-being for our families, friends, and neighbors.

Pray that God grants our government, medical, media, business, and community leaders wisdom to make the best decisions possible for their areas of influence and responsibility.

Pray that we re-evaluate how we do business and education, remember what is important, and invest our time and efforts into what really matters so we come out of this stronger and better than before.

Pray that businesses and jobs are protected, that families renew their bonds, and that we turn back to God.

God is not a God of confusion.  This is a time where Christians can be salt and light to a world that needs it.  Take care of others.  Don’t panic.  Be prudent but not fearful.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.  – John 16:33

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 http://opalpg.com/contact-us/ or https://www.linkedin.com/in/cmatt/.

It’s true- you have influence.  People notice your actions and your words.

If you are a leader – at work, at home, in the community – in any capacity, people do pay attention to what you do and what you say.  Every interaction or observation can leave a lasting impression.

It’s up to you to decide if the impression left will be positive or negative.

I was reminded of the impact individuals have on those around them several times recently on both a personal and professional level.  It can be frightening and humbling.

Frightening when you realize that you don’t always live up to your own expectations much less the example you want to be for others.

Humbling to realize that no matter your circumstances, you have an impact.

It can also be energizing. As a leader in your company and your neighborhood, you have the potential to quietly make a tremendous impact – often without saying a word.

Are you living up to your stated values and beliefs?  Does every interaction make a deposit or withdrawal from someone’s emotional bank account?  Are you living life as a servant leader putting others first?  Does your presence inspire your team?

If you can answer “yes” to all the questions above, you are a leader no matter what your role.  You have influence.

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.

Today I read an article that called HR the department responsible “for policing personnel actions and culture.” That struck me as odd.

Corporate culture shouldn’t be policed. Leaders model and nurture it; employees create it.

Culture is the environment and personality of a company. It is the result of thousands of interactions a day between employees in every group at every level.

If the actual culture doesn’t match the stated company culture or values, there is a disconnect that causes confusion – or worse – mistrust.  It is fine to aspire to a desired culture as long as you realize 1) the difference, and 2) that you aren’t there yet.  Mismatch between the stated and actual culture fools no one.

If no one takes ownership for building and managing culture, culture still happens by default.

HR may do things to encourage culture, but a single department can’t force a culture.  HR’s roles are to advise the leadership on issues of culture and to ensure rules and laws relating to personnel are applied correctly.

Some may argue there isn’t much difference between policing and building a culture.  I believe there is huge gulf between the two in terms of approach and attitude.  Do you want to work for a company where culture is policed or one where culture is intentionally created?

Contact us at https://opalpg.com/contact-us/  or http://linkedin.com/in/cmatt if you struggle with building corporate culture.

It’s a safe bet that if you do a quick internet search on business priorities that increasing topline revenue, improving sales performance, and increasing company value will show up in the top results.  Growth matters.

To misquote Gordon Gekko:  growth is good.

Growth tells us you are meeting a need in the market and customers see value in what you do. Growth gives your team more opportunities and expands your horizons. Investors are happy. If you ever watch ABC’s Shark Tank, you know that history and forecasts of growth are major areas of concern.

But it’s not all rosy. You must be prepared for growth and have realistic expectations.

Growing your company may require capital or decreased profitability while you invest in the future.

Your team may need to find newer, better ways to accomplish their tasks to be more efficient and maintain profitability. What got you here may not support you at the next level.

The company may outgrow the capacity and capabilities of its employees. This is especially true of leaders as the company moves from an idea to a company to a professionally-managed firm.

Strong leaders can navigate these obstacles by taking a long-term approach and making tough decisions at the right time.  You must be prepared to protect the business.

However, there are two challenges of growth that can be devastating if you aren’t intentional about protecting them:  maintaining culture and customer satisfaction.

Customer satisfaction is obvious. You won’t stay in business if your level of service drops. Customers have other choices.  Can you maintain your current level of satisfaction while adding more customers?

Culture, however, is easy to ignore if you aren’t intentional. Rapid growth may mean rapid expansion of your team. Hiring strategies must include finding new team members who embrace your values.  Leaders must work harder to model, foster, and communicate values as the team gets larger.  “Culture eats strategy.”

Growth is vital, but exceeding your ability to absorb growth is dangerous.