Business leaders tend to lack focus in certain areas when things are going well. When the top line looks good and the bottom line looks even better, who is really going to question the details behind how those results are being achieved, right?
Anything necessary for your business to achieve goals and succeed must be managed and measured consistently. Without regular analysis of what's working, what can be improved upon and trends that could present obstacles in the future, you can easily get blind-sided down the road.
The following five aspects of any business may seem like obvious places to start, but in my experience most of these five "T's" as we will call them can't exist well without the other. Additionally, while some leaders and managers may have a good handle on some of these things, at least a couple usually slip through the cracks. Whether things are going well or starting to take a turn for the worse, dive deep into each of these five areas and I guarantee you will uncover areas for improvement.
On a regular basis throughout Navy SEAL training, each member of the class will anonymously submit a list to the instructors of who they think are the top five and bottom five performers. The instructors compare this data to their own analysis and the names consistently landing in the bottom five are cut. Some large organizations cut the bottom 10% every year. This keeps things fresh and more importantly combats complacency.
As author Jim Collins refers to in one of my favorite business books, Good to Great, you need to get the right people on the bus and put them in the right seats. In just about every successful business you will find a dedicated team that is accountable and driven to win at all costs without sacrificing the values of the company. Assuming the mission, vision and values of the organization have been well-defined, it is then up to the leaders throughout the company to make sure they have the right people to meet the company's needs.
The team has to share the values and truly believe in the mission. If there are team members that don't connect with that shared sense of purpose, they most likely need to be let off the bus at the next stop. Always make sure you have the right team to get the job done. That means having A-players and B-players that have the potential to become A-players. Anyone else will hold you back and cause resentment among your top talent.
Now that we have established the importance of having the right people, we also need to touch on how critical it is that each team member has the talent necessary to do their job. Having people that share the vision and values is great but without the skills necessary to drive the company forward, problems will quickly arise.
Not all companies have vast training and development resources. Much of the time talent needs to be recruited from the outside as opposed to grown within. Other times the company outgrows team members that used to be perceived as top performers. It's not uncommon as companies grow they must shed old systems, processes and sometimes people in order to become more mature and scalable.
But great talent costs money to attract and retain; and that plays a big role in these decisions. Do you invest in developing talent from within or invest possibly more in recruiting the top people in your industry? Both approaches pose potential challenges. Always be thinking about who you have on the team, who should not be on the team and who you still need to add to the team.
The right team with stellar talent still needs the tools and resources to be successful. You wouldn't send a SEAL platoon to assault a terrorist stronghold with BB guns and expect amazing results. OK, who am I kidding right? They would still achieve great results!
I have experienced this in my own companies. Having a great team only takes the business so far. They must also have tools that aid in the efficient execution of their duties. Not to mention that when any team is clearly not set up for success nor given what they need to perform at peak levels, morale will take a huge hit. Whether its software, the right machinery, the right vendors or proper budgets, make sure the team is set up for success. If so, they will give you everything they've got.
In the SEAL Teams you get the best tools and then you train, train and train some more. As the SEAL Creed says, "...My training is never complete." As I mentioned above however, not all organizations have endless time and resources for training and professional development.
In surveying team members in our companies we have found that outside of a great working environment and fair compensation, people want to be trained. They seek mentorship. They want to increase their skills in a given area and be in a constant state of learning and collaboration. This expands their ability to perform in their roles, provides a tangible framework for their career path and helps build the high-performance team necessary to compete and win.
If you don't think you have the monetary resources to offer training and career pathing for the team, I recommend working with your CFO or finance team to find the budget. It will pay dividends in the long run and you will attract and retain great talent. All of this has a positive impact on the bottom line.
None of this matters if the team doesn't have the time to adequately execute their duties, follow up on important initiatives or develop their skills. Time is something that none of us have enough of. It is the team's most precious commodity. Time management and prioritization are the key to having a truly productive team. If there are too many top priorities there are really no priorities at all. The leaders must communicate the priorities and provide the team the right amount of time to get the job done. Rushing through tasks leads to mistakes and the loss of more time and money.
By performing regular audits of these five areas in any business, you can stay ahead of the curve and proactively make adjustments to fit the current and future needs of the company.