My 6-year old son, Kaleb, asked if he could participate in the after school chess program. We do not play a lot of chess in our family, but we have had fun with the ‘No stress chess’ game in our house since Christmas. So we signed him up.
Recently I asked him about his high and low for that day at school. I was inspired by his answers and think you might be too. His mindset was very timely for many of us as we end this challenging first quarter.
Me: Son, what was your favorite part of your day?
Me: Why? Did you win? (He has only won 3 times in many, many games)
Kaleb: No, I lost.
Me: Why was it your favorite part of the day then?
Kaleb: I liked the challenge.
I left the conversation in awe. We are told to have childlike faith, but this also reminded me that we need to have childlike eagerness to go after challenge.
What about you?
As the first quarter is coming to an end, many clients we work with are facing a challenge. The first quarter did not go as planned. For some clients, revenues were lower due to record breaking cold temperatures and snowfall in parts of the country. Other clients, the revenues were not the problem, but due to supplier price increases they have not experienced the margins they budgeted for.
The average leader will just brush off this slow start and blame it on others, and strive to do better or more, the next three quarters. Work longer hours, keep pushing along the same strategy, and not rallying the team. When we lead with pushing striving, our team reluctantly follows, and if we cross the finish line, the team is exhausted and burned out.
Great leaders recalibrate due to the dynamics around them. Based on external circumstances they will make adjustments, as well as look inside the company of what needs to be improved.
What should you do?
When leaders have a challenge in front of them, they need to stabilize the team by communicating about the situation, and then recalibrate the priorities for the team to focus on.
Ready: Cast the vision
Leaders need to calm the team and recast vision. When sales are down, the team knows it. They are not as busy. The phone is not ringing as much. Less emails are coming in than the previous months. If leadership is not talking about the decline, then there is stress and anxiety building amongst the team. Is leadership aware we are declining? What are they going to do about it? When will the leaders say something? Does leadership care? With each day that passes, the team begins to wonder if they are in this fight alone, and if so, should they continue to care so much if no one else does. When leaders bring the team together and discuss the slow first quarter, there is relief amongst the team. Employees want to be led, especially through the challenge because they do not know what to do.
Leaders need to calm the team and cast vision. Remind everybody what the team is going after. The vision for the organization, the ‘why’ for doing the business. Stating the vision to the team reminds them what they are fighting for.
Set: Define the priorities
Changes may be required in the organization for the next three quarters. What started out as top priorities, may need to be reordered for the rest of the year. The priorities may be the same and in the same order, but may need a different approach. Phone calls may need to change to face to face meetings. Referral programs may need to be considered.
Leadership needs to redefine the priorities for the next three quarters. The team needs direction and to be reassured their day to day tasks are the right activities.
Grow: Accountability for each role
Now that the vision has been cast and the priorities redefined, we must hold the team accountable moving forward. Leaders can’t cast vision and then completely walk away. Leaders need to be aware of the team’s actions and whether the new priorities are working. Employees want to know they are not only doing the right things, but are they doing them correctly.
Accountability the next three quarters will be the guardrails for the activity. Help keep everybody focused and not get too far off track. Accountability can look a few different ways based on the culture of your organization. We function with Tuesday ‘stand up’ meetings via Zoom video where we state the top 3 items we are working on each week. Stating your action verbally helps drive action. If we miss a deadline, then we need to provide the reason why on the next call. A previous boss had our team submit the top 3-5 things on Friday for what we did to grow the business that week.
There are a variety of ways to do this, but the key is accountability so you are close enough to the business to make adjustments sooner rather than later.
You are not alone.
As we head into the second quarter, you are not alone if your business is down. Your team also needs to know they are not alone and you are with them. Not just telling them what to do, but in the trenches with them.
Please reach out to us if you need an outside perspective during this season. You can contact Cory at firstname.lastname@example.org.