Current Reality, Future Reality, and Gaining Traction
Alright, it’s been a while since I’ve created a My One Thing post. As I considered this this past week, it occurred to me to write a post about creating a Vision Traction Organizer (VTO). The VTO is taken from the book Traction: Get A Grip On Your Business, by Gino Wickman.
I’ve written about the book Traction before, and highly recommend it for anyone working in the business world, both private and public, no matter the size of your business. It is a very practical and implemtable book.
Alright, so here is what the VTO for the Extended Learning Department at Linn-Benton Community College looked like in year 2.
As you can see, it begins on the left side with the department values and vision and then works all the way to the right displaying the department goals, and issues the department is facing. Hence, traction. Why?
Well, as I’ve written about before, the only way to make a vision a reality, personal or professional, is to actually tie that vision to day-to-day life in the form of smaller goals. When you have your day-to-day activities tied to the vision of who you want to be, or where you want your organization or business to be in, say, 3 years, you will develop traction.
Meaning, you will move toward and likely manifest that reality for yourself, or your team.
Now, since the department’s second year together, well, we’ve had some, let’s say, unexpected things occur, such as the pandemic. Yep, so now that we’ve been living inside of this pandemic for a full year, it was time to start to sketch out the next 3 years.
Here is what it looks like on my white board wall.
If you compare the two, you will see that the revenue goals are much lower than they were expected to be when the original VTO was created in our second year together. That, however, is the reality. And, as I’ve written about before, being clear on the current reality is necessary and needed in leadership.
We may not want to look at the current reality, we may want to instead run and hide from it, yet, it will only follow us if we do. And, in refusing to acknowledge the current reality, just as it is, the people that work in your organization or business, will be confused. Confused because they are not getting honest communication from leadership. Not helpful.
Further, when we don’t stand in and accept our current reality, we cannot create new realities. The only way to create a vision for the future, is to accept reality as it is. Just as it is now. Then work from there. Simple. Yet, this can be hard for people in new leadership roles. Trust me, I know how that feels.
However, you will find that your team, organization, or business, will be grateful when leadership stands in and actively communicates the current reality. For it gives everyone a real starting point.
Alright, that’s My One Thing for this week. The next step will be to take the “whiteboard wall VTO” and put it into a graphics design software package. Once I’ve done that, I will create another post and walk you through some of my thinking about Extended Learning’s next three years. That will be fun.
This past week I’ve been reflecting upon time management. Well, to be more specific, time management in relation to projects, tasks, and, then, after a conversation with a colleague of mine, energy.
Have you ever thought about scheduling your day by the energy you exert in relation to the projects or tasks you work on? Well, I had never really thought about my time this way either.
Or rather, I think a lot about how much energy a project or task takes, yet I have never created a system for analyzing my energy output.
Well, it’s about time, I think. Pun intended.
Before we go on further in the discussion, however, let’s first take a look at my projects and tasks in a linear format, which is the picture below.
I find it helpful to write out the projects and tasks I am responsible for.
Yet, in the linear version to the left, I am missing several pieces needed to get a grasp on the whole picture.
Meaning, how do the projects and tasks relate to the department priorities? Good question.
Let’s take a look.
Below is a mind map to assist in answering this question.
Completing the whiteboard mind map helped me see a couple of things that are not apparent when data or information is presented linearly.
Here are some of the things I learned from mapping the projects and tasks nonlinearly.
Most of my time is currently spent in meeting the department’s sustainability priority.
There are at least three commitments that aren’t connected to a department priority. They are the bubbles, or circles, that are off to the side, disconnected from the rest of the mind map.
We are working on systems in each program, yet they are different systems.
And here is a question that arose after reflecting upon this mind map overnight.
How does my time on these various projects and tasks vary as a function of energy output?
It is very common to measure out time in, well, units of time. For instance, project A takes X amount of time, whereas project B takes Y amount of time. Helpful.
Yet, what we also know about time is that, for instance, you can work on a project or task for an hour, let’s say, without exerting that much energy. While, conversely, you can spend 30-minutes on a project or task that requires much more mental, or physical, output. How do you then manage your time?
If you simply gauge or measure all projects the same way, you may, for instance, have a work day that is full of high energy outputs, and a day that has very little, which may cause a balance issue.
My suggestion? Good question.
Well, I plan to remap my projects and tasks by energy output. It might look something like this.
A rough sketch this is, however, even in this rough sketch, you can get the idea.
What this sketch does not take into account, or, rather, does not, at this time, have space for, are those projects that fall outside the department priorities.
More reflection for me.
Alright, that wraps up this entry in the reflection series on thinking about time differently.
Remember, if we simply use time as the only way we measure our output, without considering energy, for instance, we may be missing a big piece of the overall framework of how we schedule ourselves and our work.
An Exploration of 4 Years Inside A Non Credit Department at the Local Community College
As I continue to reflect upon the last 4 years in the position I hold at the College, I learn more about myself, and about being a human being on this planet.
It is funny to think that leading a team at a small community college in Albany, Oregon, would provide insights of this kind, and yet, they do. Why?
Because no matter where you lead, it’s you doing the leading, for one, and two, all contexts to some extent are the same. Yes, the challenges, people, systems, and structures, are different, yet you are there, and you are always getting to know, and developing yourself and other people. Same.
After spending time in leadership in the private sector, and now having done so in the public sector, there are several things that we will discuss in this new series that are similar; and, in some ways, mirror each other.
In this first installment in this new series, I will lay out a brief outline, if you will, of the posts to come. It will be a way to set the stage for the concepts we will discuss, unpack, and walk through together.
I’m going to frame this first entry, and the following entries, by year, which will provide us a base from which to work through the narrative to follow. Ready? Alright, here we go.
I remember well when the job description for the position I currently hold, Director of Extended Learning at Linn-Benton Community College, landed on my desk. I was working in a program at the college, which was struggling, and in threat of being eliminated. In fact, the program has been eliminated.
I looked over the position description, talked to my wife, friends, and family, and took a walk with a colleague, who asked me this question. Are you an operations man, Jeff? Whoa. Was I?
I was very unsure, and needed to think about it. Here are some of the considerations I made previous to applying to the position, which, I think, are quite generalizable.
Reflecting upon my work and academic career.
Reflecting upon what I would bring to the position.
Doing research about the position.
Having conversations with the hiring supervisor.
Having conversations with staff in the department.
There were more, bet you get the idea. It is important when making a life change to make all of the considerations and reflections we feel necessary. What happened? Well, I ended up saying this to my then wife.
If it was meant to be, we will know by getting the offer; and, if not, then not.
Of course, you know that I got the offer, and have been in the position for almost 4 years. And, what was the first year like? Hell and heaven all rolled into one. Kinda like life.
The first year, especially the first six months, was extremely painful. One of the most painful experiences of my life. Why? Because all day every day, I was outside of my comfort zone. I was also, at this time, not treating my mind and body very kindly.
Here is what the first year looked like.
Remembering who I am.
Development outside of the college.
Breakdown to breakthrough becomes a reality.
Relationship development, with myself, and the team.
I say often when talking about that first year, that that was the year of relationships. Yes, we did other things, which I’ve written about in other posts, yet the basis for almost every action that year was developing deeper relationships with ourselves and each other. Painful in many ways, yes, and beautiful in many more.
In the second year, things started to move. Meaning, we began to move, well, almost like a team. We were getting closer, and yet, had a lot more work to do.
Here is what the second year looked like.
Process and system improvement.
People in the right positions.
Vision, mission, goals.
Metrics and measurement.
As we then moved into year 3, the team became more aligned, and we began to get traction in all areas of our business. As a matter of fact, in the fall of 2019 we were on pace to grow our service to the local communities by another 10%. Amazingly fun.
Then, as we moved from fall to winter, we continued our alignment trajectory, and, of course, you all know what happened in early 2020. Yep. A pandemic.
Here is what that looked like.
Filled classes, growth, sustainability.
Creating 5 new business models.
Initially, we were wrestling with questions, such as could we deliver completely remote classes. At that time, we did not have remote offerings, so there were no processes or systems to draw upon. Yet, we ended up taking all 5 business models completely remote, and the community response was stellar.
As we entered year 4, all 5 programs were either creating and delivering remote classes and training, or would be by the fall of 2020. And, there was a lot of work to do to continue the momentum we created earlier that year.
Here is what that looked, and well, is like.
Creating all new processes and systems.
From disruption to sustainability.
Filled classes, growth, sustainability.
Engagement, relationships, conversion, process and priorities.
Planning for the future.
10 business models?
And for next year? Well, I’ve actually been reflecting upon this question quite a bit. Someone asked me recently, what do you see for our work as we, at some point, begin to offer in-person classes again. First, I think offering in-person classes again is still in the distant future, yet I do have some thoughts.
As we move into the second-half of the 2020-21 school year, we are offering new classes and training, and filling them up with local community members.
I see a 2 to 3 year slow progression from completely remote classes and training, to what I think will be a hybrid-model of both remote and in-person classes and training in the future.
What will the percent mix be of remote and in-person classes in the future? I don’t know. I do think, however, that, unlike when the pandemic started here locally, it will not be sudden. It will take time.
And, that’s okay. There is no rush. We will meet the community needs as they change. That’s part of what we do, and what we do well.
Alright, that completes the overview of the Leading From Within series. I look forward to future posts, where I can share, in more detail, how each of these years has impacted me as a leader, and, even more importantly, as a human being.
How often have you thought about a recipe, if you will, that will lead to developing high performing teams? Well, it’s not something that I thought about often until about three years ago.
Though I spent time in leadership in my late twenties, and early thirties, I always worked within a very defined system. And, when you work within set parameters, such as a defined system, there is room for some creativity, for sure, yet not as much as when you work within an organization that has fewer systems and structure.
It is a paradox.
With systems, you get a level of comfort and reliability. With a non system, you get the opportunity to develop systems and be innovative. While the former can feel constricting, the latter unwieldy.
They both have their strengths and weaknesses.
In this installment in the leadership series, we will discuss developing and creating high performing teams in an organization with few systems and very little structure.
Are you ready? Good. Let’s go.
As I’ve written many times, and did so extensively in the second installments of this series, it is my perspective that everything in life starts with our relationships. First, with the relationship we have with ourselves, and then with everyone around us.
And, these relationships form the basis of all that happens within the contexts we create. When people on a team are in relationship with each other, they are able to transcend difficult times with more ease. The team members, and the team, are more resilient.
There are several strategies that leaders can employ to develop high-quality relationships with their teams.
Here are a few of those strategies.
Safe – one of the first things I did in my first year on our team was create one-with-one conversations with every staff member. Literally, creating a safe space where you can get to know everyone, and they can get to know you, is an important first step in any relationship. If you assume you know them, for instance, you will miss out on the subtleties of their personality and their drive as a human being. Further, as you create the one-with-one context, the safety, trust, and reciprocity that blossoms will carry over into other aspects of the team, and will become a standard way you do business. Meaning, people first.
Learn – another strategy I found beneficial in my first year was to learn each person’s job function. Learning from the staff member about their job is the best way to understand, yes, the varying aspects of their work, and also how they perform their work each day. Furthermore, learning from them, and with them, provides you with information about how the team functions. Each person on a team is one piece of a whole, so understanding how each piece functions is important to the overall health and sustainability of the team.
Listen – when you are in conversation with someone, especially in a burgeoning relationship, listening and actively taking in their story is important. In effect, it is more than listening. As a leader, there is information about people, process, and systems, that you need to hold onto. Some of this information you’ll be able to store within you, and some you’ll need to store in other ways. For instance, I have employee files where I can hold pertinent information. Holding and storing information is how we get to know people, and keep the conversations we create with them continuous.
Value – relationships are grounded in reciprocity. Simply meaning there is some kind of value for each person in the relationship. Which, of course, means that when you are interacting with people on your team, the conversations you create with them need to be valuable to them. Sometimes these conversations will be personal, sometimes they will be about business. Likely, the conversations will be a mixture of both. Regardless, the conversations need to provide value.
Alright, there are a few strategies you can use to begin creating relationships with your team. Though I have much more to write about this topic, know that if you create safe spaces where you can learn about the people you work with, listen well to them while holding and storing information about how they are doing as human beings, and always ensure there is value in the conversations you create with them, you are off to a wonderful start.
As your relationships develop, you will naturally begin to look at how the team functions. What are their processes? What are the systems?
Well, as was aforementioned, when you work in an organization with few processes and structures, you get to create them all. Well, maybe not all, yet you do get to create many, and for surely recreate all of them.
Processes and Systems
What is a process? A process is simply a step-by-step rubric, or guide, of how something gets done. And, a system? A system is like the glue that holds all of the different processes together. Make sense? Good.
Now, in my first year on this job, I said something like, everything we do needs to have a process. At that time, there were large chunks of work that did not have a process. Whether you are on a team with lots of processes and systems or not, there are simple steps you can take to ensure your processes and systems are working well.
Ask questions – human beings love consistency and patterns, or habits. Meaning, that if, when, we don’t question the processes we use, we just keep using them. Not necessarily because they work, but because they are there, and have “worked” for so long. Ask questions. Ask, why we use the processes we do, and you will find out which processes need to either be upgraded, recreated, or created anew. We’ve either upgraded, recreated, or newly created every process in this entire department in the past 3.5 years. And, done it twice! The pandemic brought with it the need to upgrade, recreate and newly create processes again.
Upgrade – sometimes process upgrades will suffice. If the process is sound, and people know their roles and responsibilities inside the process, yet, there are still ways the process can be improved, a simple upgrade may be needed. When working in teams it is extremely important to have everyone that “touches” the process in the conversation when upgrading the process. It is likely that your team members will hold their work inside the process tightly. Meaning, changing the process they’ve been doing for years will be difficult, which is why asking questions is an important first step. Once you gain an understanding of what needs to change, based on collective feedback, you can set out, with the team, to make the necessary upgrades.
Recreate – sometimes a process will be so old that it will need to be recreated. Meaning, that though the process is old, there are still parts of the process that make sense for how the team functions and the goals they have, yet modifications are needed to bring the process into the current reality. On the team I work on, we did a lot of process upgrade and recreation in the first two years. Very normal.
Newly Create – when, however, a process no longer serves the current business or program model, it is time to create new processes. How do you know? One clear way to know is that the work is not moving forward. Another way to know is there is confusion on the team about the outputs and outcomes of the process. Simply meaning, that the outputs and outcomes of the process have probably changed, which will require creating a new process to satisfy the new outputs and outcomes. This past year, the team and I have created completely brand new processes for everything we do. Really. Everything. Why? Because every output and outcome has changed inside of the pandemic. Truth.
Document – one thing we did not do as a team until the second year was document all of our upgraded, recreated, and newly created processes. Super important. Documenting your processes ensures that you have held how the process functioned at a single point in time. And? It will likely change in the future. However, if you don’t have the process documented, you will not have a history to look back upon to understand the how, when, why, and where, for instance, of that process change. Further, people need a rubric of sorts to help them hold all of their work. Helpful.
Here is a quick example of a process map.
Alright, there are a few steps you can take to assess and begin to upgrade, recreate, and or create new processes on your team. Let’s discuss systems for a brief moment.
Systems are also needed and necessary on teams. Though, I will say, especially on teams that are highly innovative, maintaining one system can be challenging. The team and I are currently working on creating this system, which includes several parts.
Project Management System
Today, we use two of the three tools listed above. Yet, when they are organized in such a way, they can, and will for us in the next year, create a unified system of communication and connection. It looks like this.
In this oversimplified vision board, we can see how people, process, and systems are interconnected and correlated. When you are communicating with each other through your processes, and your processes are embedded in a system, each part of the whole is in communication and is connected. Fun.
Well, that wraps up this first installment of Part 3 of the Leadership Series. What’s next? Good question.
I have one more installment on developing teams to discuss with you, which will come in the next week or two. In that installment of Part 3 of the Leadership Series we will discuss getting into action and the resulting traction that occurs on teams when everyone is moving in the same direction.
Remember, leading teams is just like leading yourself, though, yes, more complex. However, when you create safety, learn, listen, and value each other, which starts with the leader, teams can become high functioning, creating amazing outputs and outcomes for the communities they serve. It is beautiful to see and be a part of.
Once your vision is created, then what? Regardless of whether it is a 10-year, 5-year, or 3-year vision, you will need to put plans in place that will connect the daily work to that vision. That is how your 10-year vision will become a reality.
What, then, are the first steps to ensure that your weekly, monthly, and quarterly work connects to the long-term vision?
In this article we will walk through the process we went through to connect the 10-year vision to our 90-day priorities. First, another question.
Where does a leader start when they want to ensure that everyone’s daily work on the team, or in the business or organization they belong to is contributing to the long-term goals?
Let’s take a look.
Start with the 10-year Vision and ask yourself a couple of questions.
What are the goals of the 10-year vision?
What are the metrics of the 5-year plan?
What will the current year look like?
Let’s look at each question, one at a time.
What are the goals of the 10-year vision?
Once the vision is created, it’s time to create the goals that will drive all of the work. However, before you move on to creating those goals, which will drive the objectives and priorities, ask yourself what your vision will look like in reality.
What will the revenue and service look like, what will the staffing model look like, will you add positions between now and then?
Once you’ve asked yourself these questions, or ones that are more important to your particular vision, start to build out what that vision will look like in reality. Here is an example, vision first, then what it will look like in reality.
Here is the vision
Here is what it will look like
Once you’ve created the 10-year vision, and also know what it will look like, you are ready to work backward. When I went through this exercise last year, I started this part of the planning session with year 5. I looked at the previously designated metrics and asked myself what they would look like in reality. For instance, what would revenue look like, and how many people would we serve.
What are the metrics of the 5-year plan?
Here is what that looked like
It is a wonderful exercise to start with the larger 10-year vision and to work backward to the 5-year plan, creating more clarity as you go. It is how you begin to connect the 10-year vision with the work you need to do today.
Once you’ve worked backward to year 5, you are ready to work backward once again to year 3, or whatever the current year is for your team, business, or organization. It is important to continue to get clearer on what the future reality will look like.
What will the current year look like?
Year 3 Department Objectives
As you continue to work backward from the 10-year vision to year 5, to the current year you are planning for, in this example, year 3, the objectives that will lead the team to that 10-year vision do become more clear. Important.
And, as these objectives become more clear, so will the priorities that will drive each person’s work. For instance, in our year 3, we had 1-year objectives, which we executed on in 90-day chunks. Meaning that we focused on moving forward our yearly objectives with 90-day priorities that would shift as needed, yet the objectives would remain the same.
Year 3 Staff Objectives
Once you get to 90-day priorities, it is time to create a coaching model that will mirror all of the aforementioned. Fully discussing this coaching model is for another article, yet I would like to share with you the simple template we created, so you can see how a 10-year vision can connect to a staff member’s daily work.
Coaching Model Template
Though you can only see a portion of the form, you can see the overall process, where the yearly objectives (on the left) are connected to the department objectives (on the left in bold), while the specific priorities and actions to move that work forward are on the right. Fun.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote the following article, One BHAG, Two BHAG, and Creating a Disruption Vision, in which we discussed the possibility of creating a disruption vision or BHAG inside of a 10-year vision. And now, the planning process we’ve walked through in this article is being recreated. The difference?
Because there is so much change right now, we have a 1-year BHAG, which lives inside of the 10-year vision, and 30-day priorities, instead of 90. I am in the process right now of re-instituting one-with-ones so that we can discuss, plan, and create our next actions one month at a time. Allowing us the pivotability, and flexibility needed.
Very well. There you have an example, with tools, on how you can connect your team, business, or organizations’ 10-year vision to the work that needs to be done daily to ensure that the 10-year vision will live in reality.
Be well, and lead well.
You can reach Jeff Flesch at email@example.com
A different kind of post today. I am interested in investigating how it is that teams continue to stay motivated, at the individual, and team level, during times of great change and innovation. Have you ever made this consideration? Yes, no? Here is how I began to consider the topic.
COVID-19 has created contexts in teams, businesses, and organizations that have required great strides in innovation. Innovation that is continuous. Every day. Making choices about how to continue to pivot your business model, to keep up the momentum, stay relevant, and remain sustainable. We’ve been inside such a context, much, I’m sure, like you have.
Then about two weeks ago, we had a team assignment connected to the department’s disruption BHAG, which I wrote about in, One BHAG, Two BHAG, and Creating a Disruption Vision . The assignment was to create our top three priorities for July. Why only July? Because, as was aforementioned, the amount, scale, and speed of change right now is so great, creating priorities for more than 30-days seems unreasonable.
During that time, one of our team members asked this question.
How do you maintain motivation inside of innovation? A wonderful question.
It is inside of this question that we will do two things.
Investigate how to continue to create motivation, inside of vast amounts of change and innovation.
Invite you to respond with your thoughts, ideas, and best practices.
We have, then, an investigation, and an invitation. Ready? Let’s go.
First, I have questions. Here are a few that will guide our investigation.
Where does individual motivation come from?
Where does the team’s motivation come from?
What does the larger institution, organization, or business have to do with individual and team motivation, and morale?
What strategies can leaders deploy to ensure that each individual team member and the team as a whole stays motivated during great change?
What is the responsibility of each individual team member when considering motivation inside of innovation?
1. Where does motivation come from?
Though many people look for motivation in things that live outside of themselves, motivation actually comes from within. You become motivated by doing things. For instance, if you want to become more organized or organized differently, you must try new things. Put a new system in place, and practice it. If it works, awesome, if not, try something new.
When we actually practice that which we want to become better at, motivation will arise inside of that practice. In this example, becoming more organized happens as we practice and learn about how to better organize ourselves.
2. Where does the team’s motivation come from?
From a psychological perspective, each individual contributes their individual motivation to the collective team. And, from a sociological perspective, the collective team motivation is an output of those individual motivations. The leader of that team must then direct both the individual and team motivation toward the vision, goals, objectives, and priorities.
However, I think it important to remember that when priorities change often inside of creating new business models and learning about new ways to do business, motivation can become precarious. Not necessarily because people are unmotivated, though that is also possible. More, I think it has something to do with just how much work it takes to continue to pivot your business. Again, and again.
3. What does the larger institution, organization, or business have to do with individual and team motivation, and morale?
For me, the answer to this question is rather simple. Whether it happens or not, may not be as simple. All people that work within an organization need to understand, have access to, and be able to connect their individual work to the larger institutional vision. Important.
When these connections can be made, there is more cohesion, and the possibility of motivation remaining higher. We must also remember, however, that there will be varying levels of motivation inside of the institution, organization, or business, dependent on how each team leads their work. There will be differences.
These differences can affect motivation and morale when people cannot see themselves inside of the vision. When creating new visions during times of great change and innovation, these visions should connect to the larger vision. Also important, people need to see themselves inside of these visions.
4. What strategies can leaders deploy to ensure that each individual team member and the team as a whole stays motivated during great change?
Difficult, as leaders may also be struggling with their own motivation during times of great change. Yet, there are things leaders can do for themselves, and their teams to keep motivation present for people. All the while recognizing that there will be times when people are unmotivated. That is also okay. It’s part of the human process.
What things can you do to stay motivated, and to keep the team motivated.
Create a new vision – when things are changing on such a vast scale, creating new ways to conceptualize your work is critical. If people continue to do their work just like they did before, which may not work, motivation may remain elusive.
Be flexible – flexibility goes hand in hand with adaptability. You must be flexible to adapt to changing situations, no matter how small or large they are. Be open.
Listen – understanding how each person is doing on the team is very important. And, you must listen well to really know how they are doing. You need to create individual time with people, and listen.
Provide feedback – honest and direct feedback is helpful. We all need to know that we are heading in the right direction, and when we are not, to be guided back. If you lead teams, your team can also do that for you. Important to have that reciprocal relationship.
5. What is the responsibility of each individual team member when considering motivation inside of innovation?
There is really only one thing I want to write about in this area; and that is about Communication. Communicating with each other often by telling each other how things are going, where changes or adjustments are needed, when we are feeling unmotivated, or especially motivated is extremely important. I cannot overstate this fact.
When there are communication breakdowns, people have limited sight on what is happening and understanding of what is known. And, when there are limitations on what people know, people will fill in that gap with what they believe is happening.
Typically, however, the stories that are generated to fill these gaps are incomplete. And, they are only so, because people don’t have all of the information they need.
Communication is one of the most important principles to practice at any time on a team; and now, during COVID-19, it is even more important. Staying connected, and in good communication with your team is essential to maintaining motivation inside of innovation.
Alright, there is an investigation into motivation inside of innovation. I believe that the investigation has yielded a few possible insights, so let’s capture them again here.
Motivation comes from within ourselves – motivation does not live inside of concepts or objects in the outside world.
The team’s motivation is individual and collective – team motivation comes from each individual’s contribution and the teams combined motivation, which are guided by the leader.
Motivation, vision, and morale – individuals must be able to see themselves inside of the overall vision, and visions need to be connected. Remember also, motivation will go up and down, and that is okay.
Leadership strategies – create a new vision, be flexible, listen well, and provide feedback.
Responsibility and motivation – communicate, communicate, communicate. Important.
Now for the fun part.
I am inviting each of you to contribute to this post. I would like to know from your perspective, how do you, or how do you plan to maintain motivation inside of innovation. You can use the questions that were used to guide this post, or you can use the ones that follow.
Here are some questions for you to consider?
What strategies do you use to maintain motivation for yourself and your team?
What strategies have worked well in maintaining motivation on your team?
What other strategies have you not yet tried that you plan to implement soon to increase motivation for yourself and your team?
What strategies did not work as well, and why?
What other insights do you have to share about motivation and innovation?
Okay, there we have it. An investigation and invitation in how to maintain motivation inside of innovation. Was fun.
It occurred to me that I’ve used multiple strategies the past three years to accomplish this balance, some have worked well, some not as much. What’s most important, however, is not that some didn’t work, rather, it is important that some did.
Trying new strategies is part of leadership development. Actually, it is development itself. Try something new. If it works, keep it, if not get rid of it.
Well, then, let’s take a look at 7 keys you can use to balance strategy with day-to-day operations. And, if you choose to incorporate one, great. If you already do these things, wonderful. And, if they are new to you, give one or two a try and see what happens.
7 Keys to Balancing Strategy with Day-to-Day Operations
Persistence – being persistent is an important leadership trait; as is knowing that not everything that you implement will work. It just won’t. There is nothing wrong with that, and you do not get a demerit if something doesn’t work. All that means is that you need to be persistent in your actions to find that process, or system that will work. Stick to it, and you will find it.
Prioritization – we are all inundated with multiple competing priorities. It is very important, however, to get clear on how those competing priorities should be prioritized. Very important. Otherwise, all of your priorities will have the same level of importance, and chances are many of them will not move forward.
Patience – very important to have patience with yourself. When you develop patience with yourself, you will also have more patience with the people on your team, or in your business, or organization. Trust me when I write that patience will win over force any day. Patience is sustainable, force, not so much. Be patient, and give yourself the time you need to breathe.
Determination – when one is determined, they are moving forward, and do not let obstacles stand in their way. Important for every leader everywhere. Why? Because the nature of leadership ensures that obstacles will often present themselves before us. Often. Being resolute and steadfast, while also being flexible in your approach is key. You will be challenged regularly. You will also be drawn to the day-to-day operations. Normal. Yet be steadfast, and determined to incorporate strategy into your daily workflow. It is possible.
Organization – understanding an organizational system that works for you is essential. It does not have to make sense to anyone else. Just you. Important, as people often think that their organization system must be understandable to others. Not so. You need to understand it, period. Also know that how you organize yourself will change as the business changes. It is supposed to.
Time Management – a difficult skill set to develop for me, yet one that I have made progress on in the past few years. What I’ve learned, similar to learning to organize myself, is that there is no one way to manage time effectively. Important to understand. When you understand this, you will actively seek out new ways to manage your time, until you find the system that works for you. And, time management should also change as the business changes. It must.
Vision Clarity – you must be very clear on your vision. If you are not clear, you will continue to do day-to-day tasks that are not moving you closer to achieving the goals associated with your vision. Being clear on your vision, ensures that you are moving your vision forward when you are working on the day-to-day operations. You are then always working on your strategy, even when you are working in the “weeds.”
There we go. 7 keys to creating balance between strategy and the day-to-day operations of your team, business, or organization. Are there other keys, you ask? Of course. These are simply the ones that I am most present to now.
There are many meaningful ways to balance strategy and day-to-day operations. How many there are matters less, than, as leaders, we try new things, and incorporate new strategies into our workflow often. Be open and flexible to new ideas, new ways of doing things, and new ways of being.
Teams, businesses, and organizations change often. And, with change comes the need to be open to changing as the need changes. A must.
If you’ve tried the keys outlined in this post, awesome. If you’ve not tried them all, try a new one, try two. If you already do them all, wonderful, you’re ahead.
If you’re not sure how to incorporate these keys into your workflow, here are a couple of quick suggestions before I close.
Persistence – continue to try new things. Get your best ideas out, and invite others to collaborate. Your ideas + their ideas =.even better ideas. Continue to persist, you will find the process, system, or vision you are looking for.
Prioritization – how do you prioritize your work? Know that however you prioritize your work today, there are a million other ways to prioritize. If what you are doing is not working, try something new. Remember, as the team, business or organization iterates, the way you prioritize yourself will also have to iterate.
Patience – a big one. Though being persistent and determined are very important. Being patient is equally important. Give yourself the time to breath and think. A must. Schedule the time into your calendar. Make time, and let your team know this is your time to just be. Go for a walk, or just sit. Doesn’t matter. What matters is doing it daily. For a time, I had a recurring appointment on my calendar for myself. It read, breathing. And, I did just that.
Determination – yep, important. Things will happen and “go wrong.” It is the nature of leadership, especially when leading innovative teams, businesses, or organizations. Stay the course. Remember, that “failure” is part and parcel of the creative process. You cannot have breakthroughs without breakdowns. They go together.
Organization – similar to prioritization, trying new organizational strategies is important, and needed. Example – when I started my current job, I organized myself in an “old school” way. File folders, and lots of paper. Then I went completely digital, then back to files, and folders. Now, a combination. Again, what matters is continuing to try new things. When something’s not working, do it differently. You may be surprised how that will open up more thinking space for you.
Time Management – phew, time management is so important today. I am much better at it today; yet I would say the first two years on the job, I really struggled in this area. How did I begin to improve? Continually trying new things; and, asking for help. The department administrative assistant, to this day, goes through my calendar with me, and asks this question – why do you have this meeting? Hm. And, if the meeting on my calendar is not connected to the vision, I cancel it.
Vision Clarity – yep. Once you’ve become skilled in the aforementioned areas, you will have more time to work on strategy. And, once you are clear on your vision, the aforementioned keys will also become easier. Why? Because the clearer you are on the vision, the more you understand the work you really need to be doing. You begin to see other work you’ve been doing in a new light. And, you will begin to let that other work go. If the daily work is not connecting to the vision, let it go.
Alright, we’ve discussed 7 keys to balancing strategy and day-to-day operations; and, we’ve also looked at a few ways you can incorporate these keys into your workflow.
Remember, the most important thing about creating balance in your work, is to always be present to the reality that trying, and doing things in new ways is necessary and needed.
When you are unsure of what to try next, try something new, stand back and see what happens. If it works well, keep it. If not, let it go; and, then, try something else. Whatever you do, keep moving. Be and lead well.
I termed the BHAG that, at the time was just being created and not yet delivered, a disruption BHAG. And, seeing as the team I work with will get that BHAG Monday morning, I thought writing this piece made good sense. Plus, I made a promise. So, let’s go.
Here are 3 keys to creating a disruption BHAG.
Key #1: Let go of yesterday
To create a disruption BHAG, you must be open to creating from where you stand right now, at this moment. Meaning, you must be willing to let go of what you’ve done up to this point in your team, business, or organization. ALL of it. Especially those things that have worked well. They will not work the same in the future. Let them go.
Letting pieces of a business model, or a process or system go is not easy. Especially when they have worked well. However, you must be willing to let them go. Why? Because if you do not, you will not be able to visualize and put into practice new business models, processes, and systems. And, they are needed.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us were forced to let go of things we were doing, whether they worked well or not. And, now I am inviting you to not only let go of those things, but to also create new ways of working with your team, running your business, or developing your organization. A must.
We create about 300 classes and training opportunities per quarter. They are all in-person. When COVID-19 began to take hold locally, we had to pivot, AND, let go of all the things we had done previously that had worked well for us. Difficult. However, that is the only way to envision a new future. Otherwise, you are always tethered to what was. And, in what was, or the past, there is no future to create. You are simply reproducing yesterday.
Reality check. We went from 300 in-person classes and training opportunties to about 50. Yet, those 50 offerings paved the way for 73 the next quarter, which is now paving the way to our goal of 150 this fall. Movement.
That was the first step in creating the possibility of getting to a disruption vision. Letting go. What was next?
Key #2: Create processes and systems to support the new work
Once you’ve let go of how your team, business, or organization was doing business, you will now begin to create a new business model, and inside of this new business model, you will need new processes and systems to support it.
First – get clear on the need, and the new components of the business model.
Second – create those new components, move them forward.
Third – get clear on the processes and systems needed to support the new business model.
Fourth – solidify those processes, systematize them, and document them.
It is important to not get stuck in creating processes or systems until you have developed the business model. Why? Because if you get stuck in thinking about developing a process without understanding the need, and the associated business offering, you will not move forward. The process and systematization will come through creating the new model.
Don’t forget to document the new processes and systems. Very important. Why? Because these are now a part of your business model, and may always be. I know for all of the new business components we’ve added to our business model, they will stay, and will continue to be offered. Let’s look at another example.
Once we created the remote, online, and remote classes, we began to ask the process and system question. And, as was aforementioned, some of these new processes and systems organically developed along the way.
For instance, in developing these new classes, and pivoting our business model 180 degrees, we knew that communicating with the local community was imperative. We filled this need by creating a communication process, and a system, which was also documented to ensure we were regularly communicating with all of our clients, students, and partners. Important.
Key #3: Create the Disruption BHAG
Once you’ve let go of the way you were doing business, and have created new ways to do business, which include new processes and systems that are documented, you are ready to create the new BHAG. How?
3 simple steps
Brainstorm – or, as I’ve termed this in other posts and videos, get your ideas out. It seems very simple when reading, I know, yet, I also know that it is not that easy for everyone. Especially when we are inundated with day-to-day operations. Yet, creating time to think is a needed and necessary strategy for every leader.
Connect them to the larger BHAG – once your ideas are out, see which ones connect naturally to your team, business, or organizations BHAG. Then play with those ideas, and ask yourself a few questions:
Where are we going?
Why are we going there; and,
How are we going to get there?
When you can answer these questions about the larger BHAG, and can see how your new ideas fit into that BHAG, you are almost ready to create the disruption BHAG. Yet before you do, I invite you to reflect.
Reflect and contemplate – let the ideas sit for a little while. And, continue to reflect and contemplate until you are clear on the disruption BHAG. Once you are clear, write it down.
Once you have the disruption BHAG written down, I suggest letting it sit for a little while. I let the one I created recently sit for a couple of weeks. I continued to play with the language and the concepts, and am clearer on the BHAG for doing so. And, the clearer you are, the clearer your team, business, or organization will be.
Now that you have your new disruption BHAG ready-to-go, it is time to invite the team, business, or organization that you work with to this new vision. You can do this in many different ways. Yet, I do recommend connecting deeply with the people you work with about this new BHAG. They must see themselves inside this new vision, and you are the one to show them this possibility.
Alright, we are still in the midst of COVID-19, and the team is still remote. How do I invite them to this new BHAG vision? Hm. Not sure? I wasn’t either. Until I had a conversation with a colleague. They said, “you should do a video.” Wait, what? I’ve never done a video before. Uh, oh.
Well, that is exactly what I did. Cut to many takes later, and hours worth of time spent learning how to upload a video correctly – use YouTube, please, very easy, will save you time – and I have a 6-minute video. Phew. Was awesome.
The email, video, and worksheet will go out Monday morning. I am super excited.
I believe that people are moved by their hearts. You must pull them from there to create anything that will last; and, because I was not able to create the BHAG with them, the video, I do believe, is the next best thing. Looking forward to Monday.
Remember, you can create an additional BHAG inside of the one you currently have. Actually, I think this is the best time to create a new BHAG. A disruption BHAG. Having a new BHAG will create a context that is specific to this next year. As we all know, all teams, businesses, and organizations will be different this next year. Why?
Because, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve all changed. And, it is inside of this change that you can create new momentum for your team, business, or organization. And, you can do this by connecting with people in a new way through a disruption BHAG, which can live inside of the longer-term BHAG already in existence.
I recently wrote 3 Steps and 9 Keys to Creating Safety on a Team in 5 Minutes, and today, I’m going to focus on creating movement. Have you ever felt stuck? Like you and your team, business, or organization are not moving, have not, maybe, moved in some time. Instead, you find that each day seems the same. A reproduction of the previous? Happens to us all.
Let’s take a look at 3 steps you can take to get moving again.
Step 1: Create Time
We are all inundated with email, all day long. In the first year in my current position, I checked email often; and, there were times when I was more focused on keeping my email in check than doing my actual job. However, email is not the job; it is a tool, nothing more.
3 suggestions for creating time by managing email
Check periodically – morning, afternoon, and before close of business. Set this time aside. Add it to your calendar if needed. However, when you are not in your “check email time”, leave it alone.
Prioritize the need – sounds funny, yet prioritizing your email is very important. Often, I get emails that I might not respond to for several days. Why? It’s not needed. Not every email needs a response right away, and some never need a response.
Organize as needed – in the past three years, I’ve reorganized my email countless times. As the business changes, your calendar will change, and so should how you organize your email. Reorganizing your email so that it mirrors the current iteration of your team, business, or organization will save you the time of searching endlessly for emails to follow up on.
Step 2: Create Balance
I’ve found that finding time to work on the business (strategic thinking), instead of in the business (the weeds) is one of the hardest skills to develop. Why? Because we live in a reactive society, and work within reactive organizations.
Though you are working very hard, if you continue to work hard mostly on day-to-day operations, you will not spend the time needed on creating future plans, goals, and objectives. You will stay stuck. You must create the time to strategically think about the direction of your team, business, or organization.
3 strategies for balancing the weeds and strategic thinking
Manage time – I’ve used multiple different time management systems in the past three years; and, what I’ve come to realize is that continuing to change how you organize yourself is okay, even needed. If the way you are organizing yourself today is not working, let it go, and try something new.
Delegate – I’m one of those people who likes to do everything, and I have a hard time asking for help. Yet, letting your team assist you is necessary and needed. Delegating work is always essential, and is even more essential to ensure you have the time you need to create strategy.
Slow down – I love to be in action. Simple. Yet, there are times when you need to slow down. Let some of the day-to-day operations wait, so you can just sit and think about your team, business, or organization’s trajectory; and, what you want to create as its next step.
Step 3: Create Strategy
Once you’ve created more time, and have more balance, you can now effectively work on the business. Very important.
3 strategies for creating strategy and gaining traction
Get your ideas out – often we think about what we want to create, yet we are so busy doing other things, that we don’t get these ideas out; and, when our ideas stay within us, we cannot use them. Write them down, put them on a whiteboard, put them in a document. It matters less how you get them out, than it does that you do so, and have the time to reflect upon them.
Invite considerations – collaborative teams and organizations talk about strategy. If you are on that kind of team, or in that kind of business or organization, invite people to consider your ideas. What do they think? Incorporate the best ideas into your ideas. If you work on a team, or in a business or organization that does not collaborate, invite people to consider your ideas anyway. Create collaboration.
Create an action plan – once your ideas are out, you’ve invited feedback, and have had time to reflect, it’s time to create an action plan. I always work backwards. Meaning, if you are creating a strategy for next year, work those goals backward to each quarter, month, and week, and create objectives that align with the yearly goals.
With your new action plan, you can begin to create the traction you’ve been looking for. Remember, you are not alone. Most teams and organizations are in the same place. They feel stuck. That you are aware of it, is the first step. Now you can mobilize the steps outlined here, and create movement for your team, business, or organization.
Also remember, that sometimes your team, business, or organization may have to move “backward” to once again move “forward.” I’m not a fan of labeling movement, because all movement is important and needed.
For instance, COVID-19 has created a “backward” momentum for teams, businesses, and organizations all across the globe. Now what matters most? Not being concerned about moving backward. Instead, create from where you are, and you will move forward.
Alright, phew, what a busy couple of weeks. So much change. As I continue to prepare for the merger of my two websites, I am going to continue to post new material to this site, which was originally created for servantleadershipcoaching.com.
I am excited about the merger, and about reformatting this website. 🙂
Hopefully, you will enjoy these new additions! Here then is:
Creating a Big Hairy Audacious Goal: The Creation of the BHAG
What in the world is a BHAG, and why does it matter? A BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) is a way to get out of the weeds, and create a distinction between working in the business and working on the business. Creating a BHAG is also a way to take all of the smaller goals you have and connect them to a higher level mega-goal – the BHAG. Not sure if a BHAG is for you? That’s okay. I invite you to read the following list before making a choice.
Do any of these sound like a day you’ve experienced recently?
Working in the business more often than working on the business – this is an important distinction, and means that you are working on the day-to-day operations of the business more than you are the long-range planning and vision for the business.
Reacting to the daily business needs, more often than working purposefully, and wondering if those reactions are in any way connected to the vision of the business.
Spending more time at a computer screen than a whiteboard.
Feel like you are going in multiple directions all at the same time, while wondering if these multiple directions are connected to each other, and your other long-term goals.
You have multiple competing goals, and are unsure how to connect them.
You are unsure how to connect your metrics to the day-to-day business operations,AND, your long-term goals.
If you experienced any of the above, then creating a BHAG is for you. Where did the term BHAG come from? Here is an excerpt from Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies by James Collins and Jerry Porras.
Boeing Corporation is an excellent example of how highly Visionary companies often use bold missions – or what we prefer to call BHAGs (pronounced bee-hag, short for “Big Hairy Audacious Goals”)– as a particularly powerful mechanism to stimulate progress.
One of the coolest things about creating a BHAG, outside of the progress that lives inside of that creative experience, is that you can create them for your personal and professional lives.
Let’s look at the creation of a BHAG through a real life example – mine.
After 6 months in my current position, Director of Extended Learning at Linn-Benton Community College, in Albany, Oregon, I was wondering exactly what I had committed to. Has that happened to you before? It happens to all of us.
Anyway, I was working hard, very hard. And, most of that work was focused on working inthe business, not on the business. As I’ve mentioned earlier in this post, and in other posts, if all you do is work in the business, you will simply get the same result you got the day before – the same thing, everyday. Why? Because you are doing the same tasks everyday. Simple. It’s not that you don’t desire to grow, and do more, however, you are effectively stuck in yesterday.
However, if you can shift to working both in the business, and on the business, watch out.
After over a year of working in the business, I went to a strategic thinking training, led by Terri Houde, which was where I first experienced the BHAG. I believe we were first asked to work through some of our goals, to identify them, and write them out. Then we were asked to go out on a ledge, and create a goal that was at the limits of what is possible – the BHAG.
Here is the one I created.
Becoming the State recognized leader in noncredit education
Creating a BHAG is a life changing experience, because in one moment you create in language a goal that is so big, it is visionary. And, what do we know about working inside of a vision, rather than working outside of a vision?
“Having a vision provides a sense of purpose and direction for the business. Your vision will help you define your short and long-term goals, and guide the decisions you make along the way. A leader has the vision and conviction that a dream can be achieved…” ~ Ralph Lauren
Okay. I’ve created a BHAG, now what? Don’t know. I didn’t either. Here, however, is what happened.
Once the BHAG was created, it was time to inform the staff about the vision. I created a very simple presentation, which I delivered at a team building training at the end of 2018. Why is standing before your team and delivering a vision needed and necessary? It is important, so they can see you, AND themselves inside of the vision. When we can see ourselves as part of a vision, we are going to act in accordance with that vision.
In fact, I told the team often then that the BHAG came through me, however, it was a part of everyone of them. I can see each of them in the vision.
I should also mention that when the vision was created, we were also implementing Traction, which is a way to systematize your business operations (Wickman, 2012). The timing was perfect, because we were able to make connections to the 10-year vision (BHAG). We then created the following.
5-year priorities and goals
3-year priorities and goals
Yearly goals and priorities
Quarterly goals and priorities
Weekly and monthly next actions
All of which were connected to the 10-year BHAG!
Working inside of a vision the past two years has been a wonderful learning experience. We’ve achieved some of the goals we’ve set out to accomplish, and have many more to achieve. However, we are all pointed in the same direction, focusing on the same things, and have a shared language around a vision that was created from a one-day training experience where a BHAG was created.
Now we find ourselves in a very new situation – COVID-19. Well, in the next post, we will discuss what you do when your BHAG is severely disrupted. Can you guess? Yes, no?
You create another BHAG!
Yep, that’s right. You can have a BHAG that lives inside of another BHAG. I’d share that one with you, however, it is very new, and the team hasn’t even seen it yet. Next time, promise.
Remember, when you are interested in taking your business, organization, team, self, to the next level, create a BHAG. Then work backwards and connect that vision to this year, quarter, month, week, and day. Then you’ll know that every action you take is moving you closer to your ultimate vision, mega-goal, or BHAG!
Collins, James C., and Jerry I. Porras. Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies. New York: HarperBusiness, 1997.
Wickman, Gino. Traction Get a Grip on Your Business. Publisher: New York : BenBella Books, Inc., 2012. URL.
You can reach Jeff Flesch at firstname.lastname@example.org and Terri Houde at email@example.com.