Half a year’s gone by—how are things progressing?
If you’re like many people, some things are going well while others could use a mid-course correction. Our company is in the middle of our budget reforecast and that always means taking a hard look at what we have on-deck for the second half of the year—including the resources allocated—and whether it still makes sense to proceed as we originally planned.
It’s a great annual exercise. Taking stock of where you are, how you are doing, and whether or not the current path is helping you get there—is a practice that benefits both organizations and individuals.
Here’s a four-step process that can help you get—or stay—on track.
Nothing’s worse than spending your time climbing the ladder only to find that it’s leaned up against the wrong building. Take a minute to lift your head and look around. Looking forward to the end of the day more than usual? Feeling listless? Less than engaged? Or maybe just feeling like you're trying to push a rope? Any of those symptoms are clear signs that it's time to take stock of what's happening on the job, on your team, or in your organization.
If momentum is stalling, begin by looking at your purpose and vision. People perform best when they have a clear purpose, are focused on their goals, and mindful of why those goals are important. Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? But you’d be surprised by the number of people who get off track as they follow along on their day-to-day tasks.
Keeping your head down can seem like focus, but sometimes that focus is too narrow and you wind up getting lost in petty details. The focus that gets things done is the one that keeps the goal in sight and makes sure that each step is moving you closer to the finish line.
In this quickly changing business environment, it’s easy to lose sight of exactly what we are doing and why it matters. Focusing on a clear vision and purpose is the first step to staying on track.
The second thing to look at is structure and processes. What do we mean by that? We mean that in order to achieve a goal, you not only must have a purpose and vision in place, but also a structure—a reasonable plan—to make your vision a reality.
For example, you can have a vision of a bridge spanning a certain area—but there are structural laws that need to be addressed so the bridge is strong enough to sustain the load it's designed to bear.
The same thing is true when you're structuring your business and your approach to achieving your goals. We often see situations where great strategic direction is set but little is done to work out the structures and processes that need to be in place to put the plan into operation.
This type of leadership resembles a classic case of "all hat, no cattle"—a big declaration about what you’re going to do and what needs to happen, but little attention to implementation, identifying resources, and making sure that people are deployed properly to create the results you’re looking for.
It's great to have a vision, but having a reality-based plan is imperative.
Just as important as where you are going is looking at where you are not going—and identifying some of the distractions and detours that might siphon off the energy needed to move forward purposefully. This means looking for things that aren’t working, as well as things that are working only marginally. In his book, Necessary Endings: The Employees, Businesses, and Relationships That All of Us Have To Give Up In Order To Move Forward, Dr. Henry Cloud reminds us of the power of looking at the things that aren't working anymore and bringing them to a close. It means having the discipline to end things cleanly and honorably so we can create the room we need to focus on what’s important.
Dr. Cloud calls attention to the bad habit many organizations have of not identifying the people, policies, or strategies that are no longer effective. He explains that when endings are avoided—or handled poorly—good opportunities are lost. Innovation and the ability to capitalize on new ideas becomes almost impossible when people and organizations continue to do the things that aren’t working or aren't as important.
An everyday example of this is probably visible in your neighborhood. Next time you’re walking or driving down your street, look at roses growing in people’s yards. You'll find that the gardeners with the most beautiful roses are the ones who most aggressively prune their bushes.
When you prune a rose bush, you are providing the plant with a way to concentrate its resources to create the best-looking roses on the strongest branches. If a rose bush is not pruned, the result is a diluted response and less than spectacular flowers.
It's tough to prune, but you have to do it—and you have to do it frequently and consistently. That’s where a clear vision comes back into play. Being confident about where you are going gives you the willpower to cut back on things that aren’t helping you reach your goals. Eliminating what’s not necessary will free up additional resources and time so that goals become attainable and new opportunities can emerge.
A lot of people will tell you, "If it ain’t broke, don't fix it." That may be good advice if you are in an industry or career path that is fairly stable. But if you’re not—and who really is?—it's probably one of those sacred cows you should question. Inaction may keep you from making a necessary move—and may even drive you out of business.
Don’t continue down a path that isn’t taking you where you want to go. Midyear is a great place for a midpoint correction. Evaluate where you are. Reconnect with your purpose and vision. Identify distractions and energy drainers. Break from what you are doing—before the situation demands it.
[Image: Flickr user Bruce Guenter]