This is the secret of my own consulting businesses. These steps have worked for me since 2006, even through the Great Recession.
When trust is at risk, great leaders turn disaster into triumph and build trust instead. Here's how.
You can't do everything. Opening one door means closing others because time and resources are limited. The principle is: Ignore the trivial many—focus on the crucial few. So you need to choose well.
This is especially important in Hands-Off Leadership organizations because liberated workers can have too many good ideas.
The Quick Biz Case helps you ask the right questions, quickly, so you and your team can decide in under 10 minutes whether something is worth a second look.
INSTRUCTIONS: Click the Image below to open the Quick Biz Case.
Make a copy, then customize it for your own needs before sharing with your organization. Ask as few questions as possible, but make sure the bases are covered.
Assemble a tiger team to decide which projects to set aside so you can focus on what matters most.
Pick one of the tools in this chapter of NEVERBOSS (Burn Box, Parked List, Intentionally Ignore, or Dumpster) and implement it.
If you choose burn box, find a box and a convenient place for it. Under your desk is usually fine. If you choose the Intentionally Ignore list, take 5 minutes, brainstorm what you want to ignore, and put it somewhere where you’ll see it daily. For the first few weeks as you try this out, your list will change quite a bit. That’s normal.
Just saying "no" isn't enough. You also need to stop saying "yes" to the wrong new things or simplicity becomes chaos again. The Quick Biz Case (above) is a tool that quickly sifts the good from the bad.
Create a shared copy of the document and customize it for your firm. Answer the questions in it rapidly, instinctively. Who is affected? What is the impact if we ignore this? What is the potential upside if we do? What will it cost? How much time? Etc. Make the QBC available to everyone in the company, from janitors to executives, and make it clear that it applies to everyone, even (and maybe especially) the CEO.
When people or teams struggle, it's usually because the parameters aren't clear. The Turnaround Scorecard creates a safe and powerful environment for improvement—and clear documentation in the less-likely case where improvement isn't happening quickly enough.
Most of the time, a worker or team on a Turnaround Scorecard will make rapid strides and feel profound success. It's a win for everyone. About 1/3 of the time they don't and it's soon clear to everyone that a new job is needed. (In fact, most of these people find a new position on their own.) Only a small number rebel at the process, and those are the ones that need to be fired because they lack the essential quality of teachability.
Click the image below to access the Turnaround Scorecard template. This is an example only. Change the criteria to met the needs of your worker or team. Follow the example in the "How Do You Know" chapter for COMPETENCE as you discuss the best criteria for change together.
Introduce "certifying" in your next meetings with each team or manager. (Add this now as a Burning Issue to your next meeting agenda.) In these meetings, role play actual situations so they see and understand how certifying feels. Explain that we often certify as issues come up during the workday instead of in formal meetings.
Certifying measures competence. Instead of telling or grilling people, we ask "Are we ready?" "How do we/you know?" and "How sure are you?" Their answers show their skill level. Be sure to make "I don't know" a safe answer. Certifying lets us Step Back once we're confident in their CAPABILITY.
If someone is struggling, the ultimate respect you can give them is to say "We think these areas need improvement, and we believe in you and will help you succeed." The Turnaround Scorecard does that. Starting with the downloadable sample above, follow the example in this chapter to help your worker or team improve quickly.
In your next 1-on-1s, certify skills in areas where you or they are unsure.
A version of this, connected to your Thematic Goal and KPIs (discussed later), can replace annual reviews. Traditional annual reviews undermine ownership and initiative. These reviews can inspire, motivate, and focus.
Principles give life to Hands-Off Leadership. Teach good principles and your people can almost manage themselves. Principles give broad authority to ACT and take INITIATIVE, safely and effectively, within common-sense boundaries. This eliminates the need for constant approval and double-checking that would otherwise wear out both managers and workers.
As an example, see Twilio's simple Leadership Principles and their Nine Values, which will help create a culture of empowerment in their organization (as long as other elements of Hands-Off Leadership are in place, of course).
Start creating your own list of guiding principles in a shared, collaborative document. These are NOT rules, they are time-tested, easy-to-remember realities that will guide their actions. Invite everyone in the organization to use that document and update it.
Use the template above as a starting point, and share the document with team members so they can participate.
Give more authority (power to decide and act on their own) to your teams and team leaders. The goal is to push authority to the people closest to the latest information, so they can act quickly and intelligently.
In your next meetings, talk to your teams and people. Clarify when team leaders have the power to "make the call." Ask them what they would like to be able to decide on their own that they don't think they can decide now. Update your Smart Chart to make it official.
Note: Giving full authority only happens at the STEP BACK level or higher on the Leadership Steps. In other words, STABILITY, CLARITY, and CAPABILITY need to be in place, and they need to start taking OWNERSHIP. Your job is to let go as fast as they can handle it. This is how your leadership success is measured.
Most of the time, people make decisions for reasons. But as Benjamin Franklin pointed out, that means we can find a "good reason" for anything we already want to do. In other words, having a reason doesn't make it a good decision.
So how do we ensure good decisions? Great decisions rely on actual evidence, based on current outcomes we can measure. But when you don't have solid evidence yet, principles are the best initial guideposts. Principles are simple, time-tested truths that rely on past evidence to point the way forward. And if you're not sure about the principles, you can look ahead to the likely impacts on the clients, the workers, and the world for a good starting point in your decision-making.
Use the chart below to train teams to make great decisions—and to stop making decisions based on gut instinct or "reasons."
This chart is also available as a convenient plastic wallet card, in combination with the Levels of Initiative card.
In your next meeting with them, distribute Decision Quality charts and discuss how to make the best decisions. Consider giving everyone plastic wallet cards to carry or attach to their security badges as they master this skill. Wallet cards like the one below are available in the Neverboss Store.
(This action continues in the next lesson...)
The solution to information overload isn't less communication, it's CLARITY. Great communication gets the right information to the right people, at the right time, in the right way. That can't happen unless you make the channels clear, and you have the right kinds of channels.
A huge key to that is deciding how quickly you need a response. By separating the urgent from the non-urgent, stress drops and people start seeing what matters most, when it matters.
Great communication gets the right information to the right people, at the right time, in the right way.
Click the image below to open a Communication Channels template you can customize for your own company. This is a simple Google Doc for speed. Once you're comfortable with it, consider making it beautiful and inspiring.
The ACTION items relating to this template appear below as well. These items come from more than one chapter.
Introduce the Communication Channels to your people. Announcing in-person is important since they may have fears. Be sure to listen with mutual empathy, mutual respect, and then establish mutual purpose. The dialog in this chapter can guide you.
Use the Communication Channels template above as a starting point. Once you're comfortable with your channels, upgrade it to make it attractive and inspiring.
For good accountability, you need transparency and good communication without overload. Daily Intents does this. It's a simple morning check-in to sync up, sharing plans and results as a team. It's simple and easy:
It's essential to have every team member on the same channel—and other teams on separate channels. You'll learn from each other and remind each other to participate without overload.
Traditional organization charts tell people their job descriptions and who they answer to. The result is traditional, top-down management.
A Zone Chart is different. It focuses on authority: zones and roles within those zones, so people know each other's areas, expertise, authority, MPAs, and how to support each other. Zone Charts are also collaborative, so cross-functional teams emerge quickly, anytime. When needs arise, form a team from the stakeholders. Disband just as quickly when those needs are handled (and archive the team in case you need it later).
Click the Zone Chart image below to open a Google Doc template you can copy and share freely. Make a copy and start creating your own team, department, and company Zone Charts.
See the ACTION below it that relates to the Zone Chart, with additional detail from the book.
Using a shared document that anyone can edit simultaneously (like the Google Doc template above), create a Zone Chart for your organization. No fancy graphics. This is NOT a flow chart either. Flow charts are too inflexible. Just use text. Don't try to make it perfect at first—you want progress, not perfection.
Start listing the key teams in your organization. Ask everyone to add themselves to it with their job descriptions as zones and roles. Include process and project teams. When listing teams, don’t just list the team members. List their zones, and list Owners, Stakeholders, Subject Matter Experts, and Champions, including outside resources. That way people know their zones, roles, and support system.
Click the template image above for an example and easy starting point.
What would it cost to hire someone else to do what you're doing? Add "MPA Exercise" to your next team meeting agenda. In that meeting, explain the principle, then have everyone to activities they spend the most time doing. This should be quick, 5 minutes or less, on screen in your meeting notes. Quickly add items to each other’s lists that they may have overlooked. Then each person should put estimated $/hr values for the company to hire each action out. Star the 2 top items most valuable to the company. These are your MPAs.
Now make sure that these MPAs appear in your Zone Chart. Flag each one with an asterisk. Everyone needs to see them.
Finally, take personal assignments to choose KPIs to match your MPAs. Add this to your 1-on-1 agendas now to discuss what you decided. In those meetings, certify: "How do we know this is a good KPI?"
Clarity and structure can suffer in smaller, newer, or fast-growing companies. The result?Micromanagement—to try to manage risk. But micromanaged workers stop caring.
Instead, establish clarity based on principles, and managers can start to give authority without fear. This Company Handbook is a helpful starting point.
Edit this document to suit your own needs. It is agile. It is not perfect, and you'll need to check with your own company attorney to see if it meets your needs in your locality and as laws change over time. It will change regularly. Check back often to see the latest version.
Click the image below to open the Google Doc template.
ACTION items relating to this document appear below.
Introduce the Open Floor Policy to your people. Inform everyone in your team or organization of the new policy change. Announcing and discussing in-person is ideal since this is a face-to-face policy.
Here is the Open Floor Policy in a simplified form.
When you have an issue with someone, (optionally) talk with your manager about it first, who will advise but not act on what you say. Then you MUST go directly to the person to try to resolve it. Ask, listen, and discuss with mutual empathy, mutual respect, and mutual purpose. If you don't get satisfaction or you don't feel safe, then take it (back) to the manager and the three of you will resolve it together or escalate it to the next manager, and on up the line.
A FULL Open Floor Policy is found in the Company Handbook document, above. Open it, and look for Open Floor Policy in the table of contents, and copy and paste.
Bullying is emotional harassment that doesn’t always rise to the legal definition of harassment, but it's still serious. (If you don't have a good written bullying policy, add one to your handbook.)
The Company Handbook above has a good bullying policy you can copy. Open it, find "Harassment or Bullying" in the table of contents, and copy and paste into your own Company Handbook as a starting point.
One subtle, damaging kind of bullying is "repeated, unsubstantiated complaints against another worker that put them at risk of their job." When this happens it can derail your Open Floor Policy if you're not prepared. However, if you add that definition to your bullying policy, the solution is simple. Take every accusation totally seriously. Investigate. Document everything. Write down what the findings were, what action was taken. Then you keep permanent, written score. At the end, was it warranted, unwarranted, or undetermined? After someone has filed 3-4 unwarranted accusations in a row, remind them gently:
“Everyone has the right to be safe here. You may have noticed this updated policy in our handbook. Bullying and harassment includes repeated, unsubstantiated complaints against others. How can we make sure that in the future, your concerns can be substantiated? Otherwise it’s going to look like you’re bullying Joe.”
Change your hiring process to the Moneyball standard. This works brilliantly for almost any position: