It’s no secret that successful businesses operate with a clear vision shared by everyone. They identify and solve issues promptly in an open and honest environment. But how do you keep everyone focused, aligned and communicating well?
Set Your Quarterly Priorities
Most businesses are pretty good at business planning for the year, but few focus their vision all the way down to what really matters: the next 90 days. Instead, organizations tend to enter each quarter battling on all fronts, making everything a priority and accomplishing very little. By setting crystal clear priorities – EOS® calls them 'Rocks' – every quarter as a team, you gain considerably more focus and traction to reach your goals.
The term 'Rock' came from an analogy in Stephen Covey’s book, First Things First. Picture a glass cylinder set on the table. Next to the cylinder are rocks, gravel, sand and a glass of water. Imagine that the glass cylinder is all of the time that you have during a working day. The rocks represent your main priorities and the gravel your day-to-day responsibilities. The sand is interruptions and the water everything else that happens during your day. If you, as most people do, pour the water in first, the sand in second, the gravel in third, and the rocks in last – the rocks won’t fit. That’s your typical workday.
If you do the reverse and prioritize working on the big stuff first – put the rocks in, next add the gravel, then the sand, and finally pour the water in – everything fits in the glass cylinder perfectly. Therefore, if you work first on your biggest priorities, i.e., your Rocks, everything else falls into place.
Ninety Days At A Time
Quarterly Rocks create a 90-Day World™ for your organization, a powerful concept that enables you to gain tremendous traction. How does this work? Every 90 days your leadership team comes together to establish the three to seven most important things the company must get done in the next 90 days. You discuss and ultimately agree what has to be done in the next quarter to put you on track for your annual plan.
In a growing company, it’s normal to battle for resources, time and attention and there is always tension. But when you have finished setting your Rocks and the dust has settled, the leadership team should be united on what key objectives take precedence in the coming quarter. The focus on the Rocks is what makes this process so productive. Rather than being overwhelmed by the monumental task of accomplishing your vision, this process allows you to focus everyone in the same direction and break the vision down into bite-sized, achievable chunks.
The reason to limit Rocks to three to seven (preferably closer to three) is that you’re going to break the organization of the habit of trying to focus on everything at once, which simply can’t be done. By limiting priorities, you can focus on what is more important. With the increased intensity of focusing on a limited number of Rocks, i.e., doing less, your people will accomplish more.
In his book, Grow: How Ideals Power Growth and Profit at the World’s Greatest Companies, Jim Stengel said it best: purpose mobilizes people in a way that pursuing profits alone never will.
According to Stengel’s 10 year growth study involving over 50,000 brands, companies driven by the purpose of improving people’s lives far outperform the competition – so much so that an investment in the “Stengel 50” would have been almost 400% more profitable than an investment in the S&P 500! These companies are driven by why they are in business rather than by what product or service they are offering.
Purpose Mobilizes People
A strong business purpose enables businesses to recruit, unite, and inspire all those they touch, from employees to customers, ultimately helping businesses deliver superior profit and growth. The principle extends across all boundaries – industry categories, B2B, online, retail, services, geography, scale and age of business.
If you’re running your company on EOS®, you have a business purpose in the Core Focus™ of your VTO™. It’s your Purpose/Cause/Passion (the reason for your business existence) together with your business niche. Are you fired up about it? Does your leadership team infuse the organization with energy around it? Are employees excited about being part of something bigger than themselves? If your Purpose/Cause/Passion has become a “check the box” item on your VTO, you will miss the benefits of having a compelling and contagious business purpose.
Purpose Transforms Culture
Here’s a story that illustrates how purpose transforms culture:
During President John F. Kennedy's first tour of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), he asked an employee, “What do you do for NASA?” The employee responded with enthusiasm, “I’m helping put a man on the moon!” Kennedy asked, “Wow, what’s your role here?” And the employee replied, “I keep the place clean!”
With the right mindset any job can be seen as meaningful!
Do you have too much on your plate? Feeling overwhelmed and unfocused at work? Juggling too many priorities? If so, now’s the time to schedule a Clarity Break! If you’re not doing them, you’re at a disadvantage – possibly missing opportunities to reach your full potential.
A Clarity Break is a regularly scheduled appointment on your calendar with yourself to work on your business. Clarity Breaks allow you to clear your head, envision the future, think strategically, and focus on what’s most important.
Without regular time to work on your business, you risk becoming a victim of activity. Trapped in your day-to-day routines, to-do lists, and meetings, you remain working in the business, unable to focus on more high-value activities, such as strategy, key partnerships or new products, services and approaches.
Clarity Ignites Motivation
Without clarity, we’re distracted and less motivated. Life without a clear plan is just like drifting in a sailboat, letting the winds and currents carry us wherever they may be going. We end up reacting to our circumstances as they happen rather than proactively creating the life or business we want.
In contrast, people who have clarity in all areas of life outperform everyone else on a consistent basis. Why? Because clear thinking ignites motivation. If we clearly define where we want to go and surround ourselves with the right people and resources to achieve our vision, we literally unlock our potential.
Clarity Affords Focus
Now, add focus to clarity, and you have the Dynamic Duo. By clearly defining where we’re going and staying laser-focused on our vision, we’re less likely to fall prey to “Shiny Object Syndrome” – thinking of the next new idea (shiny object) and abandoning current projects for a new project that we just know is going to be a winner!
When we apply clarity and focus to our business, it’s like a light bulb that illuminates how to reach our company’s full potential. Without clarity and focus, it’s easier to make wrong turns and bad decisions – or have great ideas and plans that go unrealized. Everything costs more and takes more time!
Having clarity and focus allows us to determine what’s most essential in our business and life, and to say “No” to other distractions. Having more control over our schedule brings less stress and more peace of mind. And as the business grows, there will be even more opportunities and options. With a solid practice of taking regular Clarity Breaks you’ll be able to focus on what’s most important and drive more powerful results.
Making Clarity Breaks Stick
Here are some tips for making Clarity Breaks stick:
It’s best to get away from the office where you won’t be uninterrupted. Consider a daily walk or Saturday morning Starbuck’s session.
Whether you commit to 15 minutes daily or 1 hour weekly, the most important thing is to stay committed to a regular day, time, and location.
Put the appointment with yourself in your calendar and alert others to respect your time.
Be vigilant about working on the business. Avoid working in the business, i.e., making calls, checking off your to-do list, and other routine tasks. Clarity Breaks provide a time to think, see things clearly, and restore your confidence.
Always turn off email and social media notifications. Sitting with a blank legal pad can be one of the most effective ways to capture your thoughts without the mental interruptions and temptations of electronic media.
If you’re stuck, ask yourself, “What is the most important thing I should focus on this week?” For example, finishing your new website might prove to be most important since it will generate new leads and clarify your company’s brand promises.
If you come up with ideas that benefit the company, then share them with your team. You might find ways to save costs, time and hassles, or improve systems and structures that are integral to driving your company’s success.
Encourage all members of your leadership team to take daily, weekly or monthly Clarity Breaks. Have them share their ideas and create next steps in your weekly meetings.
Look at your calendar right now and schedule your Clarity Breaks. As a result, you’ll experience the benefit of becoming a more confident, focused leader. It’s in our moments of clarity and focus that destiny is shaped!
Download the Issues Solving Track™ from the EOS Toolbox™ to learn how to IDS™ (Identify, Discuss, and Solve) issues more effectively.
It’s that time of year when there’s a lot of buzz about New Year’s resolutions. But with all the excitement and possibilities of the new year, a commonly held statistic is that only 8% of people actually keep their resolutions. That means that 92% of people fail each year!! Yet we know there is great power in goal-setting. People who have defined, measurable, written goals outperform most others.
What Makes a Good Goal?
Traditional goal-setting wisdom has taught us that a good goal must be SMART:
Specific. It’s always best to write down your goals – either on paper or digitally – breaking pieces of the goal into smaller steps.
Measurable. Put a number to your goal. Set it to hit it. Find an accountability partner for encouragement and set reminders to keep yourself on track.
Attainable. You must believe it’s possible, or you won’t be motivated. Be sure you think through any obstacles and the tasks needed to overcome them. Make sure it’s possible for you to have control over the outcome.
Realistic. Be sure the odds are good for you to accomplish your goals. Otherwise, you might set yourself up for overwhelm or frustration.
Timely. Always put a deadline to your goals. Typically, people have about a 90-day attention span for goals. At EOS®, we call these Rocks – the 3 to 7 most important things that must get done over the next 90 days.
While we might have a handful of annual goals or long-term priorities, shorter timeframes build good follow-through habits and reward you with quicker gratification. By having more frequent victories, you’ll build a strong track record and create more momentum. On the other hand, long-term goals force you to grow, keep you headed in the right direction, and provide a sense of greater purpose with something exciting to work toward.
A mix of short- and long-term goals is ideal. To apply this concept to your business, we use the Vision/Traction Organizer™ (VTO™).
Here are some examples of goals with a well-defined action plan and specific deadlines:
If you’re trying to lose 10 pounds, get specific about your diet, workout plan and deadline, say for an important event or wedding.
If you’re trying to reduce stress, get specific about what you will do to make that happen and by when. Maybe your measurable is to reduce your blood pressure by 10 points.
If you’re trying to increase sales by 20% in the next quarter, then create a 90-day plan to get you there.
We really have two choices: either we can leave things up to chance and react to life as it happens, or we can take action toward creating the future we envision for business and life. The more successful we become, the more we can contribute to making the world a better place!
As an EOS Implementer™ I work with leadership teams running their company on EOS®, a business management system. During our quarterly sessions together, we spend a high percentage of our time on solving their issues. In the EOS Model™, the Issues Component™ has two tools. The first is the Issues List and the second is IDS™.
Two Issue-Solving Tools
To start, the leadership team compiles a list of issues they are facing in the business. An issue can be a concern, problem, or obstacle, but it can also be an idea or an opportunity. Most importantly, you need to be able to trust each other and know that you are able to speak up and put anything on that list. There are many times that I’ve heard members of leadership teams say, “I’m not even going to bring that up!” or “I can’t put that on the Issues List!” This hinders the company's ability to grow, because if you are not being honest about your issues, you are not moving forward.
Once the list is compiled, we choose the three issues that are the top priorities and begin IDS-ing them one by one.
I – Identify. Truly identify the root cause of the issue.
D – Discuss. Openly discuss the issue with everyone sharing their opinion.
S – Solve. Come to an agreement on next steps to make the issue go away forever.
The first step in the process is the one where I have the most passion – Identify. You may find it surprising, but this is where most teams have difficulty. As humans, we want to get to Solve quickly – to get the issue out of our way. We have a tendency to use duct tape to fix the issue, actually, many different colors of duct tape – red, blue, orange and, of course, gray. However, that only seems to solve the symptom and when we do that, the same issue seems to keep coming back, so we try to “duct tape” it again, and again, and shove it aside. Yet it never seems to go away fully. The magic happens when we peel back the layers of the issue like an onion and get to its root, i.e., what is truly causing the issue we're looking at today, not its symptom.
Once we’ve truly identified the root cause of the issue, we can move on to the second step – Discuss. This step also takes a large amount of trust. We need to feel as a team that we are able to use our voice and honestly say what needs to be said to move the issue to Solve. Asking the questions that will help you get to the core of what is causing the issue. Everything starts with trust. Everyone needs to feel heard and comfortable voicing their thoughts. As a leadership team, you need to spend the time to earn each other’s trust so you can speak freely and use your voice to solve issues for the greater good of the company.
After everyone has been heard, we move to the third step – Solve. Not all issues will be solved on the first tackle. Finding the root cause may bring up other underlying issues that need to be dealt with prior to solving the original issue brought to the table. Sometimes the first issue addressed goes away after solving the underlying issues. It’s about deciding what Solve looks like today and becoming masterful at answering the question, “What is the to-do(s) that will move this issue forward?”
Where there is trust within a leadership team, so goes the ability to go deeper and stronger. Be brave. Use your voice.
Download the Issues Solving Track™ from the EOS Toolbox to learn how to IDS (Identify, Discuss, and Solve) issues more effectively.
Don’t you love the feeling of walking out of your Quarterly session with clear Rocks focused on solving the company’s highest priority issues for the next quarter? And doesn’t it drive you crazy when you get to your next Quarterly and realize that your team has only completed 40% of them?
If your leadership team frequently has a Rock completion rate that’s lower than 80%, consider these tips for driving your Rocks to completion every time.
Write it SMART
First and foremost, make sure your rocks are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely). This does not mean that you need to write a paragraph outlining every deliverable and metric you plan to achieve when the Rock is completed. Keep it simple, but be clear about what you want to have accomplished by the due date.
For example, consider these two versions of the same Rock:
Version 1: Improve our sales pipeline.
Version 2: Add $2M+ in qualified Target Market Opportunities with estimated close date before December 31st.
Version 1 is vague, while Version 2 clearly states the desired outcome and leaves little margin for error. If you’re uncertain about what you’re committing to as a Rock owner, or if others on the team seem confused, refine the wording until everyone is clear on the outcome you’re trying to achieve.
Plan to Call It Done
A Rock without a plan is just a wish. If you are accountable for completing a Rock, take your commitment seriously and come up with a realistic plan for getting it done.
What needs to be done, and by when?
Am I relying on other people, and are they aware of what I need from them?
What “deliverables” need to be produced to call it done?
How much time do I (and others) need to set aside to get it done?
Does anyone need to approve or review my work along the way?
The plan can take any form that works for you – an outline, a whiteboard drawing, a bunch of sticky notes on a wall, a PowerPoint presentation, etc. Whatever helps you think it through from start to finish, so you can minimize the unexpected and maximize your chance of keeping your commitment to the team.
When you’re done, consider reviewing the plan with your Integrator to make sure you’re on the same page about what “done” looks like.
Block Time on Your Calendar
Let’s face it. The Rock Fairy is not going to show up the night before the Quarterly and magically give you two more weeks to get your Rocks done! The best way to make sure you have enough time to get your Rocks done is to make the time. Sit down at the beginning of the quarter and block time out on your calendar to focus on your Rocks. If you are working with other people, get those meetings scheduled NOW, so you’re not scrambling later to find time to get together. If you need to turn off your email or go offsite to minimize distractions, let your team know so they can cover for you while you focus. Just don’t forget to return the favor when it’s their turn!
Drop It Down
There’s nothing worse than working hard on a Rock all quarter, going into the Quarterly thinking it’s DONE, only to find out that your team expected something different. Or to spend an entire quarter hearing a team member say “ON TRACK” during your Level 10 Meetings™, only to say “NOT DONE” at the Quarterly. In both cases, ninety days have just been wasted – either working on something you didn’t really need or NOT working on something you really DID need!
Teams with great Integrators avoid these situations by dropping both OFF TRACK and ON TRACK Rocks down during Level 10 Meetings to spend a few minutes reporting on progress, asking questions about what’s been done and what’s left to do, and IDSing any obstacles or barriers standing in the way of getting the Rock done by the due date.
Get Ready to Crush Your Rocks
As you head into your next Quarterly or Annual session, keep these four tips in mind! With clearly worded Rocks, well-thought-out plans for getting them done, time set aside to focus, and periodic check-ins to stay on track, you’ll be crushing your Rocks in no time.