First you assess, then you design

Examining the second pillar of leadership

A few weeks ago, we started talking about three “pillars” that a business owner — or any decision-maker, really — should rely on while evaluating a certain course of action.

The first step is to assess your current situation. You can read more about that here. At the end of that first step, you usually identify an issue or challenge that needs addressing. But for all the SWOTs and situational analyses, you won’t get anywhere unless you design a concrete plan or solution. This may seem like a daunting task, but the process can be easier than you’d expect if you are honest with yourself and your business’s needs. As you move forward, consider using the following guidelines:

Define the problem or challenge. Ask yourself what are you pretending not to see. This sounds simple, but with so much going on, it may be difficult to pinpoint exactly what needs fixing. Time, team and money are usually involved here. Are your numbers on the decline? If so, why? Is there conflict among your team? What’s causing it? Do you or anyone on your staff struggle with time management?

Identify a solution. This can take many forms, of course, from goal setting to confronting a personnel issue. Something to consider: while SMART goals are important, you can be SMARTER by incorporating encouragement and rewards into your goal-setting practice. If you are setting goals, break your goals down to 12-month, 6-month and 90-day sets. This method allows you to work toward your ultimate 12-month goal on a daily basis.

Have an honest conversation. Part of this process may involve having an honest conversation about the changes you need to make, whether it’s with yourself or someone on your team. Don’t avoid it. And make sure you base your goals in reality — you don’t want to hide behind rose-colored glasses.

Establish timelines. This may seem like a no-brainer but it is especially important if you’re seeking to change quarterly or annual numbers. Determine the date by which your goal needs to be met and reverse-engineer it so that you know what you need to be doing TODAY to achieve it. You’ll also be able to verify whether the timeframe for that goal (or concurrent goals) is realistic

Create a matrix for testing and measuring performances. Think about the questions you need answered. If you are in sales, how many contacts do you need to make and convert into new customers to help you reach your goals? Or, let’s say you need to address poor team performance. You and/or your management team will want to sit down and establish a baseline of expectations. You would then use that baseline to create a method of measuring success moving forward. If it’s a quality or production issue, you’ll want to set a goal minimum percentage of recalls or returns and measure against that number on an ongoing basis. You can also use these numbers to create an incentive program for your team.

Create a system of accountability. Who will you share your plan with? Make sure it is someone (or someones) who will hold your feet to the fire. It’s important to do this before you put your plan into action.

Know that you’re going to delegate as you move forward. If a particular skillset isn’t in your wheelhouse, can you outsource it? Reach out to people around you — you don’t have to solve everything yourself. Who’s help will you need? Which team members will you bring into play?

Hire strategically. Speaking of delegation, make sure your hiring system reflects the culture of your organization. Where do you list your job postings? Studies show that when you use tools like job-matching assessments during the hiring process, you can increase your employee retention rates by as high as 87.5 percent.

However you choose to move forward with designing a solution, it’s important to find a plan that matches the distinct needs and variables of your business. Up next, we’ll talk about best practices for implementing your plan.