Holly's Blog

Set Up Your Team To Be Successful

trophy hand shutterstockThe first month of 2016 has already come and gone. By now you’ve (hopefully) set your primary strategic goals for the year, pinpointed the destination, and painted a clear picture of what winning looks like for your organization. The next step involves one of the most important leadership roles and skills – setting up everyone else in the organization for success.

Clearly, leading the effort to set the mission, goals and destination is the leader’s primary responsibility. And making sure people have the knowledge, skills, resources and tools to succeed comes in a close second. When you do, your job of guiding the organization to the destination becomes a lot easier – and your chances of winning significantly increase.

Start by focusing on where the organization needs to go. Give yourself a target, and define winning with as much specificity as possible. Then think about what you need to move out of the way or suspend in order to hit that target. Once you have a firm goal/destination, keep it in front of you and everyone else in the organization at all times.

After setting the target, compare your current reality with your destination to identify any gaps between the two. Then constantly define and re-define what you’re trying to accomplish and where you’re trying to go as the world around you changes.

To help people stay focused, set clear individual goals that link directly to your key strategies for winning. Then give ongoing feedback throughout the year on how individuals and the organization are doing. You’ll know you’re communicating enough when every employee can answer these questions without hesitation:

  • What are my top priorities?
  • What are the three primary objectives I need to achieve this week/this quarter/this year?
  • How will I know I have been successful after I have worked so hard this week/month/quarter?
  • How will we know when we have won – as a team, as an organization?

Ask the Right Questions

Customers, markets and the business world in general change so fast these days that it’s not enough to take last year’s goals and stretch them a bit. Instead, leaders need to look at what has changed in their world and how that impacts this year’s goals and performance measurement indicators.

As you begin executing on team and individual key performance goals for the year ahead, it helps to explore the following questions:

  • Have we communicated the destination (what it looks like when the organization has been insanely successful at the end of the year) to every employee in multiple ways?
  • How much change does the new destination require from the way we have always done it around here? What leads us to believe we can accomplish this?
  • What employee touch points exist to support individuals and teams succeeding?  What processes, desired and undesired messaging, or rewards do we use to communicate to employees every day?  What do employees see on the walls, hear from managers and supervisors, and get recognized for that relates to the goal? Conversely, what gets ignored and how does that get in the way of success?
  • What do employees know right now, and what do they need to know to be successful, to maximize their contributions toward reaching the destination?
  • What skills do employees have that will boost their success? What skills do they need to develop?
  • What tools and resources are necessary to achieve success? Do these currently exist in the organization? If not, what do we need to do to develop them and/or obtain them from outside the organization?
  • What signs/measures will be most indicative that the team/individual is on track?  How timely are these signs?
  • How will team members know if they are not making the desired progress?
  • What is most likely to derail planned efforts at the individual level? What has derailed progress in the past, and do those factors still exist within the organization?

Pausing, thinking and focusing on these questions for a minute or two could mean the difference between playing to win or working hard just to not lose.  

Feedback is For Winners

People don’t know if they’re succeeding unless you tell them. So as the year progresses, provide feedback to employees at all levels on a regular basis. In addition to measuring what matters – such as revenue, margins, cash flow and other financial data – also measure what people can relate to. In particular, track performance metrics that directly relate to the tasks people perform each day, such as improving customer satisfaction, speeding up delivery times, reducing scrap, developing a new product or service. Then let people know how they’re doing. When employees can see what winning looks in ways they can relate to, they make better decisions that support achieving the goal.


Call to action: Identify one action to set people up for success that you’re currently not doing, and make a commitment to do it.

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