We are just a few days into 2014. I wonder what your world is like as the new year unfolds? Are you refreshed from the holiday season and ready to begin strong? Do you have a clear plan for January (and even February and March)? Is your team ready for the next three weeks of January?
I heard a sermon recently that began surprisingly with a “Where’s Waldo?” cartoon. A bit unorthodox you might think until you hear the reason. Focus and simplicity were two themes of that particular sermon which are certainly applicable as life principles. But that mindset is also invaluable in your business.
If by chance you are unfamiliar with this red-striped character, Where’s Waldo?™ is a series of children’s books created by British illustrator Martin Handford. The books consist of detailed double-page illustrations depicting people doing a variety of amusing things at a given location. Readers are challenged to find a character named Waldo hidden in the group. Click here to see a cartoon example.
Hmmm…Waldo and business priorities. Any connection? Sadly so. Many organizations fall into the trap of elaborate business goals yet employees (and perhaps customers) don’t really understand them. The result? That well-intentioned strategy is lost in a series of many activities and performance that fail to move the organization forward.
Can you relate to this illustration? Before you answer this question I challenge you to respond as your employee not yourself because that’s where the connection gap usually occurs. But good news, you have an opportunity to bring more focus to your team.
Consider these three indicators your business strategy may need some clarity with your team.
#1 Your business goals are longer than a tweet.
You don’t have to live in the world of Twitter to apply this principle. You should be able to articulate what your team is focused on or your greatest targets in less than 140 characters. In two to three short sentences, your priorities should be described in a way that enables your team to understand what and where to focus their energy and resources. If it takes a five-minute explanation, your message may be too complex. This doesn’t mean your strategy doesn’t have depth but the over-arching purpose has to be simple. If you can’t explain it easily, how can your employees do the same?
#2 Close may not be good enough.
This principle is perhaps the greatest obstacle for teams who want to be great. What does this mean? A multitude of projects and tasks may be good things for the business but if they are not linked directly to a strategy, they can easily become a non-value add to the bottom line. It is that alignment that allows the team to prioritize and even reject seemingly good initiatives. How much time is wasted on this “good” work versus meaningful performance? Falling short of this discipline is the small degree that can make or break your success.
#3 Your employees don’t know how their job “fits in” to the bigger picture.
Leadership always has an individual impact. This third indicator captures the reality that can occur at the employee level of your business. If employees’ perceive their job as simply “the job” and don’t understand how their ideas, creativity, service and dedication link back to the “why of the business”, marginal performance is likely. Clarity drives engagement. And engagement drives focused performance.
I realize this idea is much easier said than done. In fact, clarity in our business strategies is an on-going task. I face the same challenges as you. Maybe that’s why a Where’s Waldo?™ cartoon was still on my mind long after that sermon ended. How about you? Here’s to spotting your biz Waldo in a snap!