Managers face numerous types of situations every day. Much of what we classify as “management” is actually “situation management.” Since nearly all of these situations involve other people, the complexity
Most folks will spend more time planning their vacations this year, than they will spend planning their success. Isn’t that funny? It’s true! Planning is extremely important for both businesses
Most good networkers look at networking as “planting seeds.” They understand that they are not going to harvest the crop immediately, but most likely need to “grow” the contact for
A big part of business strategy consulting is teaching organizations about the planning process. The keystones to business planning are creating a strategy, building a plan, identifying accountability and implementing
Most folks will spend more time planning their vacations this year, than they will spend planning their success. Isn’t that funny? It’s true! Planning is extremely important for both businesses and professionals. The thought of sitting down and working on a “strategic” plan seems rather daunting to most. But it doesn’t need to be.
Start small. Add just a pinch of planning to your business. Create a strategic plan for next week. It can be all on one piece of paper that you can carry around with you. Here are a few things I would include.
Big Goal: Write down your biggest goal for the week at the top of the page, in BOLD. Hopefully, this is a difficult or extremely important task that will help your success.
Habit: Write down one habit you are going to work on every day. It could be anything from drinking more water to practicing empathy.
Top 10: List the top 10 projects/tasks that you want to complete for the week. You may have more than ten, but only work on 10 at a time so your brain doesn’t get overwhelmed.
Follow-ups: Make a quick list of the folks you are going to follow-up with this week. Instead of calling them “if you get around to it” you are making it a priority to contact them.
Queue: Have a spot on your weekly tracker that you can put down items to be done in the future. You don’t want your brain spending the time to remember these tasks. Write them in your queue and move on.
You are ready! That wasn’t too bad was it? Now, here is the KEY to this activity. Send your plan to three other people. You have now COMMITTED to do the plan, instead of just wishing you will do it yourself. Accountability will increase your success substantially.
Try this weekly tracker on for size. Let me know what you think. A “pinch” of planning will pay great dividends. Don’t just hope to succeed. Plan to succeed.
Most good networkers look at networking as “planting seeds.” They understand that they are not going to harvest the crop immediately, but most likely need to “grow” the contact for some time before it produces.
My goal is to take that a step further and plant acorns. I want to grow trees instead of growing crops. Trees are strategic partners, business development members and other “connections” that you develop. You don’t need near as many trees as you need crops. Trees produce consistently once your connective root-system is in place. Plus, they will produce for you year after year.
It takes more time to develop trees. But their root systems go deep. They can withstand many types of weather. They can keep you shaded and protected. And they are in your grove so they benefit from all the other trees nearby.
There is no shortcut to spending time together. Pick a few acorns and grow them. You will find that having a small grove of connections is just as productive as having numerous fields of contacts.
Let’s grow some trees!
A big part of business strategy consulting is teaching organizations about the planning process. The keystones to business planning are creating a strategy, building a plan, identifying accountability and implementing a business relationship structure that supports the goals of the organization.
Connective Management utilizes a Strategy Management methodology on every project. Strategy Management is a planning approach that entails looking at every part of the business strategically. Often times, organizations limit their strategic efforts to strategic planning. OS believes that every part of the business needs to have a strategy assigned to it.
I created the S.O.A.R. (SOAR) model to illustrate Strategy Management. SOAR is comprised of the following:
Many business leaders believe that the business strategy and the business plan are the same thing. This is a misconception that gets many organizations in trouble. Strategic Planning addresses the goals and vision of the company, the growth parameters, the long term viability of the firm and the desired personality of the company. Where does the company want to go? How do we get there? Who do we need on board? What are we willing to do to attain these goals? A strategic plan is the complete blueprint for the company’s success.
Operations Planning addresses how a company “operationalizes” its strategy. This type of planning prioritizes the action steps that need to happen for the company to move forward. It breaks down the strategy into functional tasks, including time, resources, scope and priority. Over the life-cycle of a company, there will be many “action” plans that help shape and fulfill the strategy. There may be marketing plans, communication plans, sales plans, innovation plans, personnel development plans, etc….
An overlooked component of the planning process is accountability. The lack of accountability causes many plans to fail. Everyone from executive teams to entrepreneurs struggle with this key component of planning. Most firms do not take the time to configure the accountability of the plan. Who owns the vision? Who is responsible for the actions being completed in the plans? Who acts as a check and balance for the tasks? Who is keeping the strategy and the plan on course? Accountability is paramount for successful strategic planning.
It is critical to understand the organizations people, partnerships, culture and communication structure. There should be a deliberate relationship plan that identifying the right people for the right tasks. Relationship Planning is needed to bring a strategic plan to life. It is also needed to keep the effectiveness of the operational plan intact and to support the accountability assignments. Good planning always should take into account the people affected.
A strategy without a plan is a wish. A plan without accountability is a piece of paper. And without having a relationships plan in place, the entire planning process is usually a waste of time. The SOAR methodology I’ve created brings a holistic strategic approach to the planning process. Combining all four critical planning elements with a deliberate and intentional group of decision makers allows Connective Management to stand apart from other consulting companies.
Strategy Management SOAR Model © Copyright 2011 Brad Closson
Managers spend quite a bit of their time communicating. Much of their day is spent having conversations with their own team members, co-workers, peer managers, upper management, customers, vendors and friends. When much of their success comes from their ability to communicate effectively, it makes sense that they utilize a multitude of communication tactics. One of the strategic devices that a manager can employ is the pause. That’s right! The pause.
It’s interesting how powerful a pause can be. We spend so much of our time trying to think of things to say that we overlook the act of not saying anything at all. A pause can be used to give you time to think. It can stop an aggressive confrontation in its tracks, cause the speaker to re-state his/her request, or add needed weight to a statement.
It’s easy to practice your pause. You can do it almost anywhere, with anyone, in nearly every situation. Try this. If someone has started an interaction in an aggressive tone, either on the phone or in person, a pause, without showing any emotion, will often cause the other person to re-think his words, and the majority of the time, even cause him to re-state his declaration.
Speechwriters use the pause often to emphasize an important point. You as the manager can do this as well. If you are making an important statement in a meeting, use an extended pause after your assertion. Let it sink in. Let everyone know that this is critical.
A pause will also give you some time to think about what you are doing. The old “ten-second” rule, where you are giving your mind time to comprehend what was said and time to decide how you want to respond, is actually a pause in action.
Pausing can also be a critical component of active listening. Good listeners soak in what is being said. They are not just waiting for an opening to talk again. The pause, used often, gives you extra time to process, comprehend, empathize and truly listen. Inserting pauses can be a complimentary action to your listening competence.
A pause can be used to show interest, and when you add a nod with a pause, it shows you are understanding what is being explained and gives the approval for the other person to continue talking.
“Active” pauses are when you are using the pause to get a response. With an active pause you keep eye contact, utilizing other non-verbal actions to show that you are waiting for them to “try again” or that you mean business.
An “in-active” pause is when you look away. You are pondering. You are thinking about what you want to say or showing that what you have just heard is important, and you want to consider it further.
If we sit and think about it, all of us can come up with examples of using the pause. Good times to use it. Times that you already use it naturally. We have sounds or words we use to introduce a pause. “OK?” “Uh….huh.” “Hmmmm” We have actions that we use in conjunction with our pauses. Sitting back in your chair. Standing up in a meeting. Putting our hand on our chin. Looking away from the speaker. Closing our eyes.
There is not anything new about the pause. It’s always been there. But learning to use it as a communication tool can turn a little bit of silence into an art-form.
Recently, I was talking with a company about becoming their “outsourced” operations manager. Many firms need to have an Operations Manager (OM) in place to provide the foundation and structure to grow. Outsourcing this key role allows businesses of all sizes to profit.
The president of the company asked about my philosophy of operations consulting. I explained that I use a specific consulting methodology that I created while training other consultants and managers. It is a step-by-step path to consistent results. I produced a visual tool, with the aid of Mike Leamon, my consulting partner with Connective Management, to help explain it. It’s called OCEAN.
Objectivity is a crucial element to consulting. This critical skill should be the first “tool” that a consultant utilizes. Every project should start, and end with objectivity. This skill is really the most valuable asset a consultant can offer their client.
The next stage in this methodology is for the consultant to be creative. They must think outside the box. Utilize brainstorming tools and imaginative activities. Bring innovation to the table. Clients need to have fresh ideas and energy assigned to their issues.
It is essential for good consultants to be truly empathetic. It should be their goal to identify with the situation at hand and work diligently to comprehend the stresses and complexities of each client’s unique position. When a consultant already has a solution, before they walk into your office, they have forsaken empathy. How do you know how to answer a question, if you don’t truly understand the question?
Sadly, this is where many consultants begin. They skip being objective, slide past being creative and totally ignore any signs of empathy. These consultants go straight for the science. They jump to their tools and technology. Being analytical is very important. Having templates and assessments can assist all consultants. Our main analytical tool is called S.O.A.R. But before we dive into the “fixing,” we need to understand the issue, (empathy) be open to every type of solution, (creativity) and have the ability to look at the situation from a fresh perspective, (Objective).
This final step in my consulting process is a favorite. A navigator does not steer the ship or fly the plane. Their job is to support the pilot, ensure the correct route and be available to plot a new course when issues arise. Some consultants bring in a solution and drop it in the lap of the client. Our goal is to co-create a strategic plan and help guide the organization to success.
Every consultant, coach, advisor, or expert has their own style and their own process. It’s a great practice to ask incoming specialists to explain their methodology. It will help you match the right consultant to your culture, your business philosophy and your company mission. Our process at Connective Management is OCEAN.
This week, while working on a transformational client engagement, my partner Mike and I were fueled by an inspiring quote from Theodore Roosevelt. This amazing paragraph was an excerpt from the speech “Citizenship In A Republic” delivered n Paris in 1910.
A well-respected leader stopped right in the middle of a whiteboard planning session and had us pull up the passage on our computer. It was one of those special “moments” in your career that something hits you with an incredible force. We wanted to share it.
The Man in the Arena
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
Theodore Roosevelt, 1910
We now have another fantastic way to name our War Rooms…. The Arena. In fact, it inspired the name of our next war room: “The Change Management Arena.” We will post the quote on the wall and it will guide the development of authentic gritty high-involvement methods needed for the intense multi-year project.
Mike and I have found that a big part of growing, both personally and professionally comes from the never-ending quest for more effective leadership. Collaborative inspiration from leaders you admire and respect fuels and inspires collective aligned growth. Or as some people call it … culture.
Isn’t it amazing how small firewood bundles of words and ideas can stoke the Connective Management fires!
Read the whole speech at: http://www.theodore-roosevelt.com/trsorbonnespeech.html
My partner Mike and I spend most of our day, every day, working on organizational growth. We have chosen a profession that allows us to be “in the mix” nearly all of the time and pioneer new routes to age-old problems. We navigate endless tracks of business processes and organizational strategies. It’s a world requiring constant adjustment and we’ve become addicted to it.
One of the most simple and powerful practices we use every day is the Meeting Prebrief & Debrief. Planning and reflecting drives continuous improvement and activates Deming’s“Plan, Do, Check and Adjust”guidance.
The “Prebrief” is simply an alignment session with your primary partners before a meeting. This huddle, allows the whole team get on the same page.
The “Debrief” takes place right after the meeting while it’s fresh in your mind. The Debreif allows you to learn from the session and voice any concerns or idea.
The practice seems so simple, yet is a powerful communication method that can reinforce the value of every gathering. Take it from a couple of lads who spend most of their business lives in meetings, it’s a great practice with very little extra effort.
We have developed an exciting and innovative new format for visual planning. The Personal Story Board (PSB). The Personal Story Board is a small science board that provides a backdrop for individuals creating a plan, mapping out a process, brainstorming a problem (aka drafting a storyline). Yes, you go to an arts and crafts store and buy one of those little (or big) boards that kids use for their science projects.
This spring, we worked with a group of students in the Communication Department of Texas State University to plan out their job search. What? Wrestle smart phone texting out of their hands and use post-its to lay out a career plan? It worked! The PSB was a perfect tool for helping the students lay out their goals, needs, resources and actions to enable their career.
The format for this engaging visual landscape is quite simple. We started with a white foam science board and had the students lay out their Desired Outcomes. We placed these on the bottom right corner of the board. Their “desired outcomes” is a list of what they want and need from their career. Next we moved to left side of the board and had them lay out the facts. In all of Connective Management’s visual planning domains, from huge organizations to students seeking a job, closing the gaps between the hard facts and the desired outcomes represents the hard work and the “journey” to be facilitated.
Information gathered included:
We then moved to the middle of the board and did some exercises (a.k.a. the visual planning engine), while posting the outcomes.
Finally, we moved to the far right panel. Here we listed the “actions.” This takes the information from the first panels and focuses it into To-Do lists.
The students were very pleased with the process and they felt it gave them a very solid plan for moving forward. Obviously, there are a million ways to customize a Personal Story Board. Start one today and let us know how it worked for you.