Executive Coaching & Development, Leadership Training, Strategic Planning & More | Chicago, IL | Primer Michaels
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Achieving Timely Results

Organizations struggle to get timely results when they do strategic planning for several reasons.

-Lack of buy-in – In the process of constructing the plan, they are not buying in. They are saying that they are, but they are not really buying in. They do not believe that this is the right direction to go. We find that quite often, people will raise their hand to indicate that they are in support of going a particular way, when in fact, when we further explore, we find that about 70 percent of them do not believe that they are going to be able to achieve the goal. So, they are not buying in to begin with.

-Lack of actionable plans – With the exception of salespeople, who are able to track their progress, most organizations do not have plans that dictate who is going to do what by when. They do not take the goals and break them down into projects or take the projects and break them down into tasks over time, nor do they assign who is going to do what by when.

-Inadequate performance evaluations – Performance evaluations are a big obstacle to achieving timely results because they do not include what a person’s contributions are towards achieving the initiatives of the organization. They include other things, but they do not include contributions. Also, the frequency with which performance evaluations are conducted, by and large, is annually or bi-annually. We find that they need to be conducted once a quarter minimally, or even eight to ten times per year as brief conversations about where we are and what has to be done next.

-Lack of appreciation – The lubrication for our relationships is appreciation. Organizations do not celebrate enough. They focus on where they are not, where are they disappointed and where they need to really kick in, but they do not celebrate the progress. They do not build the momentum on the baby steps first, and they fail at getting people believing that they are making progress on their goals.
High performing organizations get timely results by going from thought to finish. How do they do that? They do that by having an equal emphasis on the strategic planning as well as the execution and monitoring process.

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Leadership Effectiveness

Leaders under perform for a variety of reasons.

First, they do not have a stake in the ground. A stake in the ground is much like when President Kennedy stated, “We’re going to put a man on the moon and bring him back safely again by the end of the decade.” That quote has been used numerous times. It is a good one. That is a stake in the ground. Leaders need to place a stake in the ground. They need to be able to clearly state, “We’re going there.” They need to identify and communicate it so that everybody has the same understanding of what they are doing, where they are going, and how long it is going to take.

Second, they do not have a process. Most organizations are people-dependent. The key to success is to be process-oriented. What I am talking about here is having a process around both strategy and execution. A strategy process is one in which everybody is able to have input and author the plan, and an execution process is one in which everybody knows where they are going, what is important, and what they have to do to make it happen.

Third, they lack organizational culture. Culture is nebulous. It is difficult to get your hands around it. Leaders like having their hands around things. The definition of culture is what differentiates an organization from others in terms of values, beliefs and behaviors. It is a leader’s job to define, defend and maintain a culture. You must be able to wrap your arms around it, define it and not tolerate someone breeching it.

Fourth, they don’t know their strengths. Every leader has their own strength areas that are unique to them. It is a God-given gift, they are born with it and they develop it throughout their lifetime. We find that people are working at their highest level when they are spending about 70 percent of their time in their natural strength area. It is important that they are clear about what that area is and that they have other people in their organization who have strengths in areas where they are weaker.

Fifth, they don’t have support. Leaders do not have anybody to go to in the organization and it is very lonely at the top. It is common for leaders to wonder if they are the right person, right now, for their organization. The fact is, what they do not know is that many leaders think the same thing. It is important to have someone at the top where you have a closed container of confidentiality and you can converse with them, expose your vulnerabilities and get clarity and focus from them as well.

Sixth, they don’t distinguish between leading and managing. It is very common for leaders to confuse the two. They get too involved in the management part instead of staying at the leadership level. They need to spend more time understanding when they are toggling between the two and having people giving them feedback so they can shift themselves back into a leadership position.

It makes sense to think of leadership like surfing. If you are surfing, you want to be in front of the wave. The wave pushes you. You can steer yourself, but the wave is pushing you. The hardest part about surfing is getting in front of the wave. A lot of times I see leaders who are paddling very hard for the wave. They are just at the crest of it, but they still have to put forth a lot of energy to get over that crest and get in front of it. By being able to follow through on these areas, they will be in front of the wave and be able to steer their own course.

Category: Videos

Execution Management vs. Performance Management

Strategy execution and performance management are two different things. Everybody knows what performance management is, and it has to do with human resources (HR). HR owns performance management. It has to do with people’s competencies and how people perform within an organization, and it has to do with performance evaluations that are typically conducted annually or biannually. Leadership owns strategy execution. It is about attaining goals. It is about attaining initiatives and sustaining growth in a company. Leaders own strategy execution. HR owns performance management.

Execution and performance management get confused because only 15 percent of organizations really have strength around execution management. The other 85 percent of organizations do not, so they learn to turn to a process that is already in place. HR owns the process and they have a strength area there, so they look to HR to handle that area, thinking it’s managing performance. The fact of the matter is that HR does own that piece of it, but leaders are the ones who own responsibility for setting a direction and achieving initiatives.

Best-in-class companies have a process for strategy execution. That process is based on the fundamental that for every key initiative or objective that they have for their sustainable growth, there is a system of goals. Each goal is a system of projects and each project is a system of tasks, so each person knows who is going to do what by when. Throughout the course of the year, there is a monitoring process in place that is done on an individual basis between the manager and the employee. That process of communication and feedback is something that needs to be sustained throughout the year. The way to sustain the process is to tie it to the performance evaluation. There are two areas that have to be tied to the performance evaluation. One area is the person’s progress on their goals. The other is the record of the manager and the employees maintaining the frequency of those meetings.

Category: Videos

Culture Change

Senior leaders need to take a look at organizational culture change if they have a sense that their key strategic initiatives are stalling. A common conflict that we see is when senior leadership teams decide that innovation is an absolute requirement for them to grow or to be competitive. However, if innovation runs against their current culture, by way of the natural way they do business, there could be trouble. For example, if people do not feel safe sharing their points of view in a meeting, it is going to be pretty hard to create and innovate. If people are not allowed to fail, that is counter to a strategic initiative around innovation and new ideas. Thirdly, if people are running so hard and so fast that there is no time for research and reflection, innovation is tough. These are examples of when the culture could run counter to a strategy.

Culture change is difficult; however, there are proven steps to securing a successful pathway to changing the culture. The first step is to understand what you have, right now, by getting a snapshot of the current culture. In this way, senior leaders can see the degree to which their culture is working for them or against them. Secondly, once they have that snapshot, they can understand it at a deeper level and see what questions need to be asked and answered in order to pinpoint the kind of action plans or initiatives that need to be created. Step three is to prioritize the initiatives that will be required to change the culture.

There is a bad news-good news piece to culture change. The bad news is it is hard work and it is long term. You do not change the culture in a matter of a quarter or two quarters. However, we have seen culture change in as little as twelve months because the good news is that there are very clear and specific structures that senior leaders can put into place that will help them actually shift the culture.

Category: Videos

Underperforming Leaders

When leaders face underperforming leaders on their team, they don’t necessarily have to replace them. They do that easily. People know who they need to replace. The difficulty happens when they have someone on the team they believe in and have seen progress in the past, but are not seeing it now, and they do not know what to do about it.

At Primer Michaels, we get leaders to go from underperforming to becoming catalysts for high performance within their organizations. We do that by creating a closed container of confidentiality with them so that we can understand the root cause of what is standing in the way of them performing at their highest level. Then, we formulate a leadership development plan that is unique to them, their strengths and the goals that are expected of them. We work with them on that plan until they are performing at a high level and achieving the expectations year in and year out.

Category: Videos

Why aren’t they buying what you are selling

Executives are seriously challenged in creating organizational or team leadership buy-in. Some of those challenges are:

-Competing priorities – Priorities shift and change, and everything is A-plus and must be done as soon as possible.
If everything must be done as soon as possible, there is less credibility that the priority is real, and that is going to impact buy-in.

-Competing personal agendas – When there are many competing priorities, people decide that it is every man for himself or herself, and you end up with competing personal agendas. So, while in the meeting we are saying what our goal may be, but people are really invested in their own personal goals. That is going to prevent or make buy-in very difficult.

-Strong bias for the short term – Individuals and organizations have a strong bias for the short term. There is a bias for the low hanging fruit and the things we can get done fast. Getting buy-in on something bigger or more strategic or something we have never done before is harder to do.

Primer Michaels has a 25-year track record of helping senior leaders get buy-in from their teams. First of all, we help put leaders back in front of their teams. We get the team talking about what matters most, and we equip leaders with a process to bring their team together and author together a driving plan that will produce results.

Category: Videos

Eliminate Team Dysfunction

When a senior leader feels that their team is dysfunctional, it causes a lot of pain. It is painful for the senior leader to think about the meeting that will take place after the meeting, knowing full well that team members are not coming forth with what is really on their minds. They know a team member is angry, they are hoping to have a fruitful discussion, get resolution and be able to move forward, and yet there is not a commitment to talk about what is important and move on. Sometimes there are grudges that result in sabotage, back stabbing and gossip, and it is very discouraging, if not depressing, for leaders. There is a sense of being stuck. We keep revisiting the same issues over and over again. A senior leader knows not only that are we not making the kind of progress that we wanted to make, but that people are also upset with each other, morale does not feel good and there is tension in the room. The whole situation becomes extremely discouraging.

Primer Michaels has a strong track record for turning around dysfunctional teams. We have proven processes for:

Revealing the elephants in the room and ensuring that teams are really talking about what matters most in a way that avoids bitch sessions.
Helping teams rebuild a goal focus, a real commitment and orientation to results and what they need to do together to accomplish results.
Providing sustainable ways for team members to hold each other accountable, and through that accountability, celebrate and recognize their accomplishments and create sustainable success.

Category: Videos

Failure to implement Strategic Plans

I would sum up the pain that senior executives feel around the strategic planning adventure with the statement, “Here we go again.” Strategic planning is a requirement. People accept the idea that we must have a plan, we need to prioritize. Stakeholders expect to see a plan and it makes sense that we organize around a plan. However, our real experiences are that we go away for a couple of days and we have some rich, meaningful conversation. We spend some money, and three months later we can hardly remember what it is we even discussed. We feel a sense of disillusionment or disappointment because we get excited about our aspirations but we do not have a good track record for implementation. When the time comes again that we are going to talk about the strategic plan, we see a lot of eye rolling, heavy sighing, and again, “ Here we go again,” because it is so painful. It is the recurring nightmare of many a senior leader.

Primer Michaels helps senior leaders get over this hurdle of, “Here we go again,” and the recurring nightmare of strategic planning that does not get traction. We have a highly proven, very efficient process for getting the right conversations going, for seeing the most meaningful conversations to completion and for vigorously prioritizing so that the senior leadership team does not leave the room with a highly unrealistic menu of initiatives that are going to go no place. We prioritize, we make specific action plans and we equip senior leaders with a way to monitor progress so they can always answer the question, “Where are we now relative to where we hoped to be?”

Category: Videos

Effective Strategic Planning

Our clients come to us for strategic planning because we have a strong reputation for effective and efficient processes. The strategic planning piece is actually the easier piece. What leaders worry about is implementation and execution. With our proven processes, we provide a replicable way to put a plan in place that brings people together and shares ownership so that buy-in is not an issue, and people leave with actionable plans. Our process is inclusive so that organizations benefit from hearing all voices, and plans are specific enough so that teams can answer this question on an ongoing basis: “Where are we now, relative to where we’d hoped to be?”

Category: Videos

Full Buy-In

Primer Michaels has a long track record of helping senior teams create buy-in.

First, we ensure that the most needy issues are addressed in a constructive and productive way.

Second, we ensure that teams clearly answer these critical questions:

-So what?

-Why is this particular initiative so important?

-What difference will it make?

-What are the implications here?

-What if we do something else instead?

-What is the meaning behind these initiatives?

Third, and most important, we help the team build momentum so that they begin to trust that their engagement is making a difference, and so that they see progress on their goals.