After more than two decades in the Executive Search
business, I have learned a lot about what goes into a
successful hire. I try to impart my knowledge to both hiring
managers and candidates. Nevertheless, at many job
interviews I find myself listening to questions that make me
cringe and answers that make me want to cry.
Now it's my turn to talk.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Goals and Expectations

Players on a successful college basketball team are likely to share some general goals for the season, such as beating XYZ team or making it to the Final Four.  On a well-coached team, each player also understands his expected contributions to the overall goal, for instance: offensive rebounding; shooting 3-pointers; executing the defense.  Unfortunately, many companies can miss the bunny when it comes to communicating goals and expectations to their employees.

In the course of executing my assignments, I often speak to several upper and middle managers within a company.  A key question that I ask is “What are you trying to accomplish as a company and in this position?”  The purpose of the question is to gain a sense of the company’s strategic direction.   It never fails to amaze me when I talk to several managers and I hear responses to this question that do not line up, or when a response is little more than a blank look.  The management team is obviously not pulling in unison.  When this is the case, how would it be possible to achieve a company goal other than sheer luck?

Over the holidays, I had a conversation with a C-suite resident in a mid-sized company.  The topic circled around management of employees and what to do when managers seem to operate at odds with the goals for the department and the company. 

One thing this executive said has stuck in my mind since that time.  He noted that his company’s CEO had recently held a meeting of all managers to finalize and formalize the strategic plan for the coming years.  At the end of the meeting, he told the attendees that the information must be disseminated to all employees in the company, no exceptions. 

The CEO was certainly confident that his directives would be followed by his trusted inner circle (or else).  But by emphasizing that the strategic directives be communicated to the entire workforce, he insured that his goals would be known and shared by each employee, down to the lowest level.  Reinforcing the order, he advised that a review would be conducted in January to insure that the communication of goals had taken place. Just a wild guess but I am speculating that in the next three weeks, there were many meetings held by managers to outline the goals and objectives for the next few years.

If you review the most successful companies in the world, you will find that the short and long term goals and objectives have been imprinted throughout the workforce.  Each operating unit knows its role in the plan.  Every subsidiary knows the expectations of the company as a whole.  The employees are much more likely to contribute well beyond the boundaries of a paycheck and to accept accountability when they know their ultimate mission.  The above CEO certainly knew this and wanted to make sure that each of his employees was onboard.

As you start out a new year, are you confident that all of employees know your strategic vision and the operating plan for 2012?  If you are a small company, this can be easily accomplished with a hallway conversation with a few employees.  If you are a larger entity, perhaps human resources can implement a questionnaire to verify that your managers are sharing the plan with the workforce.  For a minimal investment, the payback might be significant.

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