Are we nearly there yet?
Nearly all of us have had the same shared experience of kids getting bored on a long car journey and in an exasperated tone of voice asking, “are we nearly there yet?” Perhaps some of us can remember saying it ourselves from the backseat many moons ago – I know I can.
A quick poll of colleagues with young children revealed they’re not taught how to tell the time at school anymore and that many 8 and 9 years olds haven’t mastered it – something I find quite staggering but also wonderful in equal measure, (what it must feel like not to be ruled by the clock?).
However, pondering this, I came to the realisation that a lack of awareness of time/distance covered/journey remaining isn’t confined to children, indeed many adults are similarly afflicted and it’s on the increase.
Only a tiny percentage of businesses are either in start up or exit modes – the vast majority are somewhere in the middle and often that’s a long time that can feel like forever. Many people come to work and it’s broadly the same thing every day – perhaps a few variations but mostly along similar lines. Add these two together and you have an environment that can very easily become stale and boring – much like a car journey that feels like it’ll never end.
It’s a big part of the leader’s job to address the issue of people becoming complacent and disinterested that’s almost inevitable if nothing is done about it. My experience is that the best leaders do the following:
- They get really clear about the destination – where the business is heading to and communicate it constantly in a clear and compelling way.
- They make sure that it’s a journey worthwhile for all involved – they answer the WIIFM question (what’s in it for me?).
- They constantly update people on the progress made and create milestones to allow for a regular sense of achievement.
Right now, in these uncertain times, I observe too many businesses not adhering to this methodology. The leaders are so busy trying to deal with all the issues, that they don’t make time for their teams to tell them just how far they’ve travelled and how well they’re doing. This is a big mistake – the team needs to know now, perhaps more than ever before, that the long drawn out awkward middle phase between start up and exit is on track, that the destination will be reached and that they’re making a valuable contribution to getting there.
There’s three more things you can do:
- Break the journey into chunks or chapters. Talk about where you’ll be in 12 months rather than in 3-10 years.
- Create projects that inject the “start-up” feeling back into the business.
- Have an end of week update that highlights everything achieved (with no mention of what’s still to come, save that for the start of the new week).
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