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May 24, 2016

Back to Basics

By | Be Clear, Be Honest, Be Reasonable | 15 Comments

My injury and health recovery over the past 19 months has had its ups and downs. Some days are good; some days are not so good. I have also had some long periods where things only sat on that not-so-good side. It is a humbling reality, requires patience, gratitude and the willingness to start over – on repeat.

Recently, after about an 8-week “I’m too sick” hiatus from Crossfit and regular workouts, I was able to make my way back into the Crossfit Box. My first day back was an in-your-face reminder of how important the basics are. I had to exercise a level of self-control that I often let run wild before my car accident. I had to go slow, ask the Coach to watch my movements and stop me if I am off, modify the Workout of the Day (WOD) so I did not cause injury and/or work myself so hard that I couldn’t move for the days that follow. I also have to accept, and be proud of, my performance – even if my name is at the bottom of the board. I need to focus on the fact that I am at least ON the board – that is more than I can say for those still sitting on the couch.

Recently, at SoapBox, we have also had many not-so-subtle reminders to get back to basics. I will spare you the details, but we netted out 5 Key Takeaways.

Information Sharing – As your organization is growing, it is crucial to find an efficient and effective way to share information across teams and divisions. It is especially important to ensure there is a line of communication between Sales and Operations. Not sharing can result in missed opportunities, doubling of work effort, missing input form key players and a total breakdown when it all comes to a head. As a leader, you also have to protect the organization from oversharing, or you end up with groups of people wasting time, not staying focused, getting involved in what they should not, and limiting your ability to scale as you have too many cooks in the kitchen (did I just say that – I sorta hate clichés like that).

Job/Role Defining – As a startup, everyone likely does a little bit everything. Everyone you hire has to be a jack of all trades, master of none (did I just do that cliché thing again?). Once you get to a certain size, you need to set up the organization to divide and conquer (I now hate myself). Team members need to know their role, what they are responsible for and start dividing ownership of tasks. It can be super tough to undo the “all in” attitude, but at some point it becomes critical. It means being super CLEAR (Telltale 10) about what individual’s roles are, and are not. I may mean reallocating tasks that people don’t want reallocated. Se la vie.

Ongoing Training – With growth, comes a tendency to think that everyone just knows how to do “things.” Things like manage, interview, delegate, co-manage, oversee company initiatives etc. It is simply NOT the case. Training is key at all stages of the employment tenure. Many companies and leaders get hyper focused on new hire onboarding and training and then “set it and forget it” (who remembers that commercial). Doesn’t work. Even the senior people can benefit from training.

Reporting/Metrics – We fell into the “report on everything” but “assess nothing” trap. You know the trap where people are running and sending reports, but not looking at or analyzing what they mean? Not super helpful. Having people run reports, that are ultimately not the owners of the outcomes, tends to lead to a lot of numbers and not much else. It is certainly acceptable to have admin level people running reports, as long as there is an owner who is analyzing, evaluating, assessing and making recommendations based on the data – otherwise there is no point. Our Market Research clients don’t just pay for reports and then not read or take action on them. If they did, the Research business would be out of business. So why let that happen INSIDE our companies?

Feedback Loop – This may seem like such a basic thing, and likely we all think we are “doing it.” But I am betting most of us think we are, but aren’t. Or we are giving feedback, but not the kind that actually moves the needle forward. People need specific feedback, with specific examples and a related call to action step. I know it can sometimes seem easier to ignore, assign the task to someone else, complain to another member of the team etc. In the end, facilitating an environment to give AND receive feedback is crucial for both employee satisfaction and scalable growth.