I recently came across John Hamm’s article on The Five Messages Leaders Must Manage. It highlights the value of clear communication in driving results in your business. As a leader and manager, clear communication is the key to making sure you effectively engage your team to reach the necessary results. In its absence, your team - whether an assistant or an office of 25+ - will struggle to interpret what you mean by such broad concepts as “Do whatever it takes” or “We need to land 5 whales by the end of the month”. Even terms like vision, priority, accountability, loyalty and client relationship mean different things to people.
Do not assume everyone shares the same definition as you. Without clear definitions and directions, your team will develop their own interpretation of what you mean and, sooner or later, their work will become misaligned with your vision. As a leader, you need to take the time to explain what you mean explicitly (by carefully articulating the vision, mission, objectives and areas of accountability) and demonstrate what you mean implicitly through your own behavior.
As John Hamm so eloquently states, “The real job of leadership is to inspire the organization to take responsibility for creating a better future.” John Hamm identified 5 areas that leaders need to focus communications around: Organizational Structure, Financial Results, Your Job, Time Management, and Corporate Culture. You may identify additional areas that are relevant in your business, such as client service.
The right organizational structure ensures accountability for the results you are looking to achieve. The structure of your business helps you to focus on the first and second principles of entrepreneurship: Optimization and Leverage. You want to build the structure that allows you to best utilize the resources around you.
I would reframe this more broadly and title it results and metrics. As concerned as you are for the bottom line, not everyone is motivated by financial results so you want to include other metrics through which you will judge success. As Hamm states, “Consistently positive results spring from intelligent strategy and an incessant focus on quality of execution.” You want to be clear on your strategy and focused on the execution. Accountability and activity metrics will drive the results you wish to achieve. It is important to measure activity and results, whether financial or performance related. When reviewing your results, it is important to remember that they should not be interpreted through a punitive lens, but rather a diagnostic and learning lens. If a shortfall occurs, do not react emotionally and begin assigning blame. Instead, ask questions to identify the cause of the problem. You want to engage your employees and encourage continuous improvement of the systems and processes inside your business. Maintaining an open dialogue will squash any fears they may have in sharing ideas or problems.
As an entrepreneur, you fill a variety of roles. These include leader, rainmaker and manager. In order to engage and empower your team, John Hamm highlights that a leader’s job is not to provide all the answers, but to help your team process information and find the best solutions. As you grow, those who join your team may also wear many hats, especially in the beginning. You want it not only to be clear what role you are expected to play, but also what role each staff member must play. At The Covenant Group, we use a powerful tool called the ROA Process in our work with individuals and teams to clarify the responsibilities, objectives and activities everyone is accountable for in their role.
Everyone feels constrained by the number of hours in a day. Instead of working to beat the clock, you must work to optimize your time (and that of your team) to utilize it most effectively. Time is not the enemy, but rather a reality. You need to identify the other levers in your business that you can control to utilize time more strategically. “A leader who communicates that when time is tight, it’s better to do fewer things – but do them very well – gives employees the confidence to make the best use of this precious resource,” John Hamm states.
To build a productive and performance oriented culture, you need the right talent. Ideally, you hire people who have the capability and motivation to perform in their role. Then, you provide the necessary systems and processes for the whole team to fulfill their responsibilities and objectives. Google’s corporate culture is not defined by its candy station, slides, nap room or foosball tables. Its culture is fostered by the fact that it has goals in place, metrics to measure them and it has engaged its talent in the experience of winning. People strive to work there not only to have fun, but also to make a difference. Employee engagement tactics should not detract from core business metrics.
The next time you start your day, ask: “What needs to happen today or next week, next month, next quarter… to get where we want to go?”, “Is there any uncertainty that I need to address?” or "Is anything being taken for granted?" You want to make sure that everyone is on the same page and that you are communicating your vision and keeping everyone informed of the expectations. When communications around the 5 issues are well articulated, disseminated properly and controlled, the level of alignment, accountability and performance improves.