High Performance: 3 simple but powerful questions for 2021

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Heading into a new year, I’d like to ask you three simple but powerful questions regarding your business plans for 2021. It has been my experience that plans are developed with good intentions and sometimes with significant cost. But often times, these plans are abandoned along the way, fading into the background and then disappearing altogether when we get busy. What began as an inspirational plan to focus on is all but forgotten by mid-year. Three questions will help to make 2021 a year where your plan is not only top-of-mind, but achieved.

Question #1: Is our plan for 2021 aligned with our long-term vision?

Having a compelling vision for the future brings clarity about the direction we’re headed in and why it’s important to get there. It allows us to lead with intention and purpose. However, when short-term plans (12 months or less) are not connected to a long-term vision, the plans don’t seem all that important. Sure, it would be nice to hit our goals in 2021 but if there isn’t a deeper, more powerful motivation driving us to achieve our plans, it will be easy to let them slide when it gets busy.

Is our plan a “must have” or “hope to have” type of plan? It makes a difference. Someone who is simply hoping or trying to accomplish something usually does not. But if our plan is an essential requirement for moving closer to our vision, the likelihood of achieving it is much higher.

Another very real danger in not having a clear, long-term vision is that it opens the door to become distracted by every new opportunity that arises. Without a road map to follow, we may find ourselves simply going in circles and never getting anywhere.

Are we able to communicate our long-term vision in a couple of minutes, using plain language? Try writing it out right now. We may discover that we have some work to do in this area.

Question #2: Has our plan been shared with our team?

Plans are often held closely by owners and senior managers. The leadership team may know what the plan is but what about everyone else? Every single person in our organization has a desire to know what the plan is at some level. I fully understand that some plans are confidential and must be held closely but those unique situations are exceptions. In general, it’s best to share our plans with our people. Let me explain why.

When people know what the plan is, they will find ways to support it. They will make better decisions and care more about the outcomes. In addition, by disclosing the plan to our entire organization, there is a higher level of accountability for leaders to follow through and provide updates throughout the year.

However, when people are left in the dark, just the opposite is true. People know when they are being excluded and it shows up in attendance, productivity, equipment damage and quality.

While we’re sharing our plans, we may want to consider sharing our successes as well. I’m a firm believer in profit-based incentive compensation. Maybe 2021 is the year that this becomes a reality for your organization.

Question #3: Have you broken down your plan into smaller pieces?

Plans are most effectively implemented when they are broken into smaller, actionable steps. This allows for a higher level of accountability and improves the success rate dramatically. When plans are too big or complex it’s easy to delay getting started simply because we haven’t decided where to start.

If you’re not familiar with the EOS process developed by Gino Wickman, I recommend checking it out. (I had the opportunity to work directly with Gino back in the mid-2000s with great results.) A key concept in EOS is to identify very specific goals for each quarter. Because a quarter of the year consists of only 13 weeks (90 days), these goals are necessarily bite-sized pieces that are achievable. It’s a simple concept but extremely effective.

Three simple questions. How did you do?

Now go forth.

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Phil Harwood

Phil Harwood is a Senior Advisor with Tamarisk Business Advisors. Contact him at phil.harwood@tamariskadvisors.com.

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