As a strategy and leadership coach, I spend a lot of time with CEOs and leadership teams developing their strategy and planning for the company's future. Long term success doesn't happen without a clear market positioning and roadmap for implementing key activities to drive success.
However, all of that work can be undermined by a lack of core management skills on the senior team. And, unfortunately, it's not uncommon for a rapidly growing company to outstrip these skills in early-stage businesses.
Any strategy growth plan must also include a plan for improving the skills of senior management, including the CEO and their leadership team.
I start by helping senior executives build a team and delegate work. The key to that process is to establish a weekly meeting with each direct report so they can keep priorities aligned and assignments on track.
Done right, this meeting should last from 30 to 60 minutes and the executive should do less than 20 percent of the talking. Instead, I advise them to ask the following key questions to make sure work is progressing correctly.
1. What were your goals last week?
Start by reviewing what the previous weekly plan and commitments were. Check your notes to confirm and clarify any discrepancies. One of your key duties as a manager is to hold your reports accountable.
2. What did you accomplish last week?
Once you confirm what the goals were, start with what was actually accomplished. Focus on details and demonstrable proof that work was completely finished.
Don't accept almost done or 90 percent complete. If it's not fully and observably finished, don't count it. This will establish the habit of well-defined work and goals with clear completion criteria.
3. What did you miss?
Once you've reviewed and agreed to the completed work, review and clarify what wasn't finished. Keep it neutral and objective. Don't shame or admonish. Doing so would make them less likely to be forthcoming in the future.
4. What did you learn?
Once you have accounted for all of the work that was planned, you can begin to review and develop insights from the last week. Have them do the analysis and ask probing questions to tease out insights.
It is much more powerful for them to see problem areas for themselves. I will wait for many minutes, sometimes even a meeting or two, before suggesting an insight. Be patient with this process.
5. What are your priorities for the coming week?
Once you've reviewed the previous week, you can clarify the key priorities for the coming week. This is your chance to make sure they are aligned with your priorities and your other direct reports. Make adjustments as needed to set the right course.
6. What is your plan for the coming week?
Now you can develop your action plan. What work, activities, deliverables, and tasks are they focusing on? Get specific commitments with clear success and completion criteria. Ask questions to clarify how you will know that the work is done at the end of the week.
7. What could prevent you from being successful?
Find out what risks and obstacles they have considered. Are they being overly optimistic? Do they have a reasonable workload? Are they thinking through all of the dependencies?
Train them to anticipate issues and remove any likely excuses that might come up during the next meeting. This is a good time to check if they are applying their learnings from previous weeks.
8. Where do you need support?
Once they have a solid plan and clear objectives, ask them what support they need from other members of the team and other parts of the company. Make sure they have a plan for getting that support and that it is reasonable and realistic.
9. How can I best help you?
Lastly, ask them what you, personally, can do to help them. Maybe they would benefit from a check-in meeting or an introduction to key resources in the company or advice on how to approach a task.
There are two important rules on this last one.
First, don't carry their water. They need to be responsible and do the work. You can assist, but don't get stuck in a reverse delegation.
Second, if you agree to do something, do it. Nothing is worse than a boss who promises to help and doesn't. It would be better to say you're too busy or suggest someone else than to promise and not deliver. It would undermine your ability to hold them accountable in the future.
While there are many other aspects to being a good manager, getting the weekly meeting right is a key component to an effective manager's system. Leadership teams who get this right will leverage their team's capacity and scale their business faster and easier.