As 2020 rapidly approaches, leaders should take time to reflect on the past year and reevaluate their road map for success – ensuring key strategic priorities are defined, prioritizing time on high-impact goals, and building a highly engaged and purpose-driven team.
Is your vision clearly articulated?
In order to be successful (and thus set appropriate goals), it’s critical to have a compelling vision grounded in a deep-rooted belief or value-set that others can rally around. One of the most notable examples is Microsoft in the early 1990s. Bill Gates articulated a vision around the power of the personal computer. He believed from his core that this technology needed to be put into the hands of everyone in the world. The stated vision of the company in those early years was exactly that: “A computer on every desk, and in every home.” In that simple sentence, he articulated both a scope (the entire world) and a success metric (having a computer on every desk and in every home). Follow the same framework as you look to define – or reevaluate – your company mission. Once this is finalized and communicated to your teams, they’ll be set up to build goals and the path to help achieve them.
Unlike most companies, Bill Gates also started with “why” – articulating his purpose upfront. Author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek advocates that companies should start with honing in on the why, or the company’s purpose, in his useful framework for his approach to leadership: the Golden Circle. At the center of the Golden Circle is “why”. The next concentric circle is “how,” and the outermost circle is “what”. As Simon mentions throughout his book Start With Why, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” This is an approach we keep top of mind at Evite.
Building your time management anatomy
When it comes to actually getting the work done, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has said, “If I have three good decisions a day, that’s enough. They should just be as high quality as I can make them.” My daily priorities are carefully calculated and clearly articulated. I am a huge advocate of applying the tried and true four quadrants of time management (sometimes also referred to as the Eisenhower Matrix) to my everyday to help identify where to focus my energy.
First, take a look at what’s on deck and single out items that can be accomplished fairly easily but provide the highest impact – start with those. You may be tempted to start with tasks you can quickly check off – the less important ones – but doing so can lead to higher stress levels because you still have high-priority items left on your plate. I try to focus 75% of my time on important/non-urgent issues so I can spend dedicated mindshare on long-term, high-impact goals that help drive the business. Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky offers another point of view as explained on a “Masters of Scale” podcast. He helps meet his goals by creating and refining lists: “If you have a list of 20 things to do, you end up realizing, ‘I don’t need to do 20 things. If I do these three big things, the other 20 things will kind of happen as outcomes, or outputs, of it.’”
Separately, encourage your managers to integrate effective time management into their individual team cultures as well, ensuring all team members clearly understand their goals, priorities and how to reach them. A Holmes Report revealed U.S. companies suffered $26K per employee annually due to productivity losses resulting from communications barriers. During the onboarding process, set employees up for success from the start by clearly articulating goals and figuring out the best time management approach for them.
I also recommend striving towards inbox zero. I use my inbox as my core task management tool. All e-mail is generally delegated, filed, or left in inbox if it needs to be actioned. Given my remote commute, I have the luxury of a lot of time spent on flights where I have focused work time. If I didn’t have that, I would carve that time out explicitly.
Don’t let competitors keep you up at night
Really – don’t let them. High-performing companies and leaders spend little time on competitor analysis. It is counterintuitive and not productive. This mindset is something I learned from my time at Intuit many years ago. Focus on your customers and their pain points, build a strong and impactful team, get to the point where you can continuously innovate and build out, then have your competitors follow suit. T-Mobile is an example of a cellular company who follows the behaviors of their core customer and in-turn, builds bold offerings that focuses on wants, needs and attributes of its audience.
Looking outside your company or industry should be reserved for innovation and inspiration. When we launched text message invitations at Evite, for example, we didn’t look at how competitor invitation platforms were handling SMS. Instead, we turned to leaders within the chat and messaging industry, WhatsApp and iMessage for example, which led us to create an incredible value-add for our customers.
Hire with purpose, lead with collaboration
A Gallup poll revealed actively disengaged employees cost U.S. companies between $450-$550 billion in lost productivity per year. Looking at financials alone, that’s a waste, but there are also immeasurable costs to company morale to consider. Ensure your employees are adding value and operating effectively by holding them accountable for delivering consistent and measurable results. This is one among six criterium in which Evite uses for hiring as well as promotions in a model we call “How We Succeed.” This model is focused less on day-to-day individual success, but rather, what individuals can do to contribute to a thriving organization and to amplify their teams’ and Evite’s success. Within this model, we also encourage employees to Think Strategically, Master their Craft, Communicate Clearly, Build Great Teams, and Be a Role Model. This framework can be universally applied to everyone in the company, yet flexible enough to address the unique needs of each team.
To maintain a true environment grounded in collaborative integration, managers should help their teams find opportunities to continuously build a culture where everyone is highly engaged. When I first joined Evite, the entire company came together for what I refer to as a “divergent session” – where we worked to rebuild the company values from the ground-up. Each year, we get a pulse on whether those values are still authentically Evite via employee surveys, iterating and refining as needed. This approach ensures our principles reflect our team’s beliefs.
As you finalize your business plan for 2020, take the time to place a fresh lens over your overall business and talent approach. Clearly communicate your company’s purpose, focus on feasible, high-impact work, and cultivate individuals who are change makers.