In a world where everything is moving at warp speed and feeling like nothing is ever going to slow down enough for us to catch our breath, we, as leaders, are suppose to make continual performance improvements. Some days we can barely keep up with what is happening today, let alone have time to improve what will be happening in the future. Other days, going to the next level seems like a pipe dream. Still, it is possible to achieve performance improvements but one needs to do two things to make this happen.
First, we need to plan for more short term wins. As John Kotter, noted in his book, Leading Change: “A good short-term win has at least three characteristics:
1. It’s visible; large numbers of people can see for themselves whether the result is real or just hype.
2. It’s unambiguous; there can be little argument over the call.
3. It’s clearly related to the change effort.”
Our challenge as leaders is to produce a series of short term wins in order to energize the change helpers, enlighten the pessimists, defuse the cynics, and build momentum for the effort. As Kotter reminds us, this can not happen if we launch too many projects at once and provide the first win too slowly.
Second, we need to balance the planning around these short term wins with routine weekly check-ins with the people who are doing the actual work. The key is to realize that these check-ins are not an interruption to the work of the leader as much as foundational to the work of the leader. They tear down silos and give us as leaders an opportunity to address the contextual issues at the heart of departmental, team or individual challenges.
This week, sit down with your team and check on whether or not people have planned for a series of short term wins. Then, hold them accountable for these wins during your weekly check-ins. We can improve performance if we choose to thoughtfully plan our work and then work our plans.