The Constitution of the United States of America requires that the President "shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient." It sounds straightforward, but the recent government shutdown has made lots of routine things more complicated than usual.
While the president's annual speech may be mostly political theater, the concept is a good one for business. It forces leaders to consider the health and future of the company, and sharing this information with employees helps make them more engaged.
Here's what to consider when you deliver your company's state of the union address:
1. Review the prior year for learning.
Just like you do for your own personal growth, you need to review your company's prior year. In success and in failure, there's always a great deal to learn by looking backwards. Past performance is no guarantee of future success - and depending how you use it, that can be good or bad. It's often easier to see the lessons in the failures, but don't forget to examine the successes just as carefully.
2. How's your sales pipeline?
What's the sales outlook for this coming year? What about five years from now? A sales pipeline incorporates several critical elements of your company, including customer relationships, the sales team, marketing, delivery capability, leadership's ability to empower employees, and more. So examining its health is a great way to gauge overall company health. Consider the short- and long-term opportunities that will come your way, how you want to approach them, and how you should invest your time.
3. How's your leadership pipeline?
I'm a strong believer that every employee should be CEO-ready. Making employees at every level aware of - and accountable to - the financial realities of the company is a powerful method of engaging the team and improving outcomes.
4. What's the state of your culture?
Culture may be the most significant indicator of success for your company. Culture impacts every aspect of your company, every employee, and every division. It helps determine how dedicated your employees are, how your customers will get treated, and how much leadership will be able to influence the company.
5. Take the company's pulse.
Delivering a state of the company address is an opportunity to elicit feedback from employees. This should be an organized, thorough effort to collect and absorb what they have to say. How do they think the past year went? What do they want to see continued, stopped, or shifted? How do they see their own level of empowerment? Ask them whether they feel they have what they need to achieve, and what you can do to support them.
6. Who's your designated survivor?
Are there certain people your company simply couldn't do without? What are they doing that is so valuable? As you go through this exercise every year, consider what you learn about individual employees who seem to play an outsized role in your company's success. It may sound like this person is a godsend who must be retained at all cost, but there are deeper issues here. What is missing in your company that this one person is forced to shoulder so much responsibility? Remember that during the State of the Union address, the designated survivor routine is an emergency contingency - not a sustainable plan.