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GREAT LEADERS

10 Things Great Leaders Say Every Week

If you want to lead a team toward a goal, you need to make sure they know how their daily work connects to the overall objectives. Here's how to make that happen, with one meeting every week.

Great leaders set great goals, and they ensure that those who follow them know what those goals are. That's why it's important to focus on how everyone's daily work connects to the big picture.

I'm borrowing from one of the greats here: Sam Walton, who built the most successful retail operation in the world. For decades, Walton gathered his Wal-Mart leaders every Saturday morning for a meeting that was equal parts pep rally, strategy session, and feet-to-the-fire accountability check.

You don't have to wreck everyone's weekend like that, but once a week, bring your team together. Here's a 10-item checklist that will show you exactly what you need to say.

1. Congratulations.

Unless you're in a crisis of some sort, you want to start off on a positive note, by acknowledging with enthusiasm the milestones and accomplishments of your team. Your director of sales closed a huge contract? Your COO had a baby? Your marketing director got your company mentioned in a fantastic publication? (Say, for example, Inc.?) Make sure they know that you appreciate their efforts--and congratulate them in front of the team.

2. Here's what happened.

Next up, bring everyone up to speed on what has happened since the last time you met. The people in charge of marketing might not know about the challenges that the product developers have been facing, and distribution gurus don't know about the new opportunity sales has identified. Show everyone that everyone else is working hard as well, and demonstrate what they've accomplished.

3. Here are our challenges.

Similarly, talk about the rough spots as well. Break down the silos, and ensure that everyone knows in general what their colleagues are doing. More than that, you want to ensure that everyone is working in the same direction.

4. Here are our objectives.

Will your goals change week to week? I hope not, but you want to reiterate your overall objectives every time you get together. First, you want things to become so ingrained that everyone can articulate with fervor what your organization is trying to do. Second, when your objectives do evolve--of course they will, sometimes--you want to make sure that you articulate it, and that everyone has the same focus.

5. Here's what I'm hearing.

When your team members are concerned that they don't have everything they need, make sure that they know you understand, and ask for their help in finding a solution. Also, reach out and ask them to correct your understanding when they think you've got part of it wrong. Overall, this is yet another chance to get your team members who are focused on their part of the puzzle to see the overall picture.

6. Here's what I'm thinking.

Most people don't like it when you drop big decisions or changes on them without warning. So bring them into your decision-making process a bit earlier than you might do naturally. Is there a challenge or an opportunity that might present itself soon? (If you're a real entrepreneur, by the way, those two words are nearly synonyms.) Let your team know what you see on the horizon.

7. Thank you.

This is so important. Make sure people know how much you appreciate their efforts. Moreover, you want to lead by example on this note. Cultivate a culture of gratitude.

8. Why don't you tell us...?

Don't hog the attention; encourage others to contribute. Also, you want to demonstrate that everyone is being held to high standards. At the weekly Wal-Mart meetings, one writer noted, Walton "liked to go around the room and ask everyone a question--you never knew whether he would lob a softball or ask you to explain an embarrassing screwup."

9. Let me introduce...

Have you ever worked in an office where people joined and left the team without much fanfare? It's an odd social experience, and it undermines teamwork. So don't let that happen. In the military, with so many people coming and going all the time, we would hold monthly "hail and farewell" parties to make sure everyone was acknowledged. Do the same kind of thing with your team.

10. Here's how we compare.

It's like the old Henny Youngman joke: "How's your wife?" "Compared to what?" Your team needs benchmarks. They need to know what they're being compared with. If you're coming up short, make sure people know what kind of numbers they need to be reaching. And if you're doing well, let everyone know--but also find another metric to shoot for.

Want to read more, make suggestions, or even be featured in a future column? Contact me and sign up for my weekly email.

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IMAGE: Corbis
Last updated: Apr 4, 2014

BILL MURPHY JR. | Columnist

Bill Murphy Jr. is a journalist, ghostwriter, and entrepreneur. He is the author of Breakthrough Entrepreneurship (with Jon Burgstone) and is a former reporter for The Washington Post.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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