September has arrived and if you’re with an organization that plans by the calendar year, you’re less than a month away from the start of the final quarter. I’ve always felt September is the ideal time to gather the team together and check our alignment. By that I mean, are we focused on what needs to be completed before year-end? Are we set as a team, and individually, to finish strong? Are there things, like a car wheel out of alignment, that are pulling us off course, causing unnecessary wear and tear, making us function less efficiently?
I really enjoy the process of realignment. I welcome talking through and getting clear about what our team needs to focus on and what my personal part is in accomplishing the plan. I’ve found that with greater clarity comes reduced stress and more energy to put into those actions that will make a difference so that once the year ends, I can look back with a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment that progress has been made toward achieving our mission. Without these times, it can be all too easy to keep our eyes down on the tasks at-hand and not notice that we may have drifted off course.
The process I like to use begins with going out to the team to collectively review the top 3-5 priorities for the year and celebrate what’s been accomplished year-to-date under each of the priorities. This is a time to be positive and forward-focused, not a session to dwell on what hasn’t worked. As an example, this year we developed and began the beta test of our new Connection Culture e-course that we will be making available to the public later this fall. We also completed both the Connection Culture Inventory (CCI) that assesses subcultures in organizations and the Connection Culture Pulse (CCP) that can be taken throughout the year so that managers receive ongoing feedback about organizational health and employee engagement. Another encouraging development is that Jon Rugg, a Ph.D. student advised by our Chief Scientist, Dr. Todd Hall, completed an impressive study which found empirical evidence that Connection Culture as a general theory of leadership and organization culture and a practical model for leaders to develop culture, provides a competitive advantage to organizations. These items are among the great things that have happened this year that energize me and our team about the progress we’re making to help leaders and organizations create cultures that connect.
After reviewing what’s been accomplished year-to-date versus our 2018 top 3-5 priorities, I like to zero in on what we would like to complete before year-end; provide my perspective on some of the challenges; and ask colleagues to share their thoughts about what’s right, what’s wrong, and/or what’s missing from my thinking, and how we can overcome any obstacles to finish 2018 strong. Tapping into the ideas and opinions of the team produces the best thinking that we can factor into our plan for the fourth quarter. If you’re familiar with our work, you will have picked up on the similarities in this step of the realignment process and a “knowledge flow” session.
After conversations with the team, I commit the fourth quarter plan to writing and develop detailed W4s for each action. W4 stands for what has to be done, when it has to be completed by, who is responsible for overseeing completion and who needs to know about it. W4s bring clarity to implementation that converts the plan to reality. I recommend that you make the W4s available to the team as a natural follow-up, even if a particular W4 doesn’t pertain to each individual.
Taking time to check alignment and identify changes to make is an opportunity to further the connection on your team. It reminds you of the vision and mission in front of you, it calls upon the unique contributions that each person brings, and it invites everyone to contribute to the discussion (to hear and to be heard).
Going into the fall, my hope for each of you is that you and your team go through the September realignment process, come out of it feeling good about what you’ve accomplished thus far in 2018 and energized in your commitment to keep moving forward together, with greater clarity to finish the year strong and go into 2019 with a sense of accomplishment and enthusiasm for the year ahead.
More from Michael Lee Stallard
Michael Lee Stallard is a thought leader, speaker and leading expert on how human connection in workplace cultures affects the health and performance of individuals and organizations. In addition to Fired Up or Burned Out, he is the primary author of Connection Culture: The Competitive Advantage of Shared Identity, Empathy and Understanding at Work.