The team was attentive to Dave, as he methodically went through the agenda items. One by one, team members communicated their updates. Successfully completed tasks were met with enthusiasm, whereas issues and roadblocks were discussed. Every once in a while, the conversation would veer off in a different direction, but Dave would bring it back into focus.
The meeting was moving along and well until…
Mr. Multask walked in! Very quickly, the mood changed and people became tense. Not only did the C-uh-oh (as he was referred to around the water cooler) walked into the meeting late, but he also interrupted to explain the reason for his delay, and the many meetings he was committed to attending.
As Dave attempted to get back on track, Mr. Multask interjected again. He asked questions on topics already covered, and insisted on clarification of other items. As time went on, the team lost interest, with some pulling out their cell phones, and others focusing on their laptop. When he finally left the meeting, it was as if a thunderstorm had come through, leaving chaos behind it. With only a few minutes left, Dave scrambled to put the pieces back together, and promised to follow up on items they were not able to address.
Very often, managers exhibit a behavior as erratic as Mr. Multask. In such unfortunate cases, this affects employee engagement, work efficiency and ultimately customer satisfaction. Below are general guidelines to avoid being a C-uh-oh and affecting your teams and organization in a negative way.
- Know and understand your priorities:
If a company strategy has already been defined, then the management executives need to thoroughly understand it, and incorporate the appropriate initiatives into their division. Especially in the early phases of deployment, crucial conversations with staff are needed in order to clarify strategy, define scope and agree on key metrics. An initial series of meetings with direct reports is important in order to ‘operationalize’ the high level strategy. Of critical importance is that a good understanding of organizational priorities should lead managers to identify and deselect low priority items.
- Act on your priorities:
Develop your own leader’s standard work to ensure a regular time to meet with staff and discuss critical milestones, celebrate successes and overcome roadblocks. Go to the ‘place of work’ or ‘gemba’ and learn about how operations is incorporating strategic initiatives. Genuine and respectful questioning engages employees and can reinforce the importance of key focus areas. Continued horizontal and vertical conversations around strategic priorities is integral to establishing and maintaining organizational alignment. Furthermore, your calendar, the budget and allocation of resources should reflect the correct priorities for you and your division.
- Model your priorities:
Along with developing your standard work, consider creating a standard work board on display in your office. Some items to consider posting are: a schedule for ‘gemba’ walks and meetings with required attendance, critical projects with high level milestones and timelines, as well as daily allocation of time to respond to emails and phone calls. An organized and disciplined manager demonstrating the alignment of priorities and company strategy can influence colleagues and employees in a seriously positive manner. As managers develop their standard work, roles and responsibilities are better defined, and clear expectations are set, beginning at the highest level of the organization.
Finally, while interacting with direct/indirect reports and colleagues across the company, some readjustment to strategy may become necessary. To the extent that modifications pertain to strategic focus areas, ensure timely follow up with various staff. If your organization has a Continuous Improvement program (Lean, Six Sigma), understand enough of the methodologies to encourage employees to use them to improve critical processes.
A manager who understands, acts and model his priorities after the company strategy leads employees in the right direction, contributes to their job satisfaction, and inspires them to team up with others and complete their tasks successfully. Indeed, the behavior of leaders within an organization has a significant impact on customer satisfaction and financial profitability and is therefore critical to business success!