Context: The key to keeping teams focused - Mark MacLeod

July 14, 2021 - Mark MacLeod

Context: The key to keeping teams focused

Many of the CEOs l speak with are dealing with impossible schedules. Endless meetings. No time for personal work, thought and reflection. Most of the meetings are internal. Meetings to get projects on track, create more focus, made decisions – small and large.

As your company grows, there is still just one CEO performing an ever-increasing amount of decision triage. The solution here is not figuring out how to fit in more meetings and make more decisions. What you need is a system to help staff think, act and decide in the same way you do.

This is not about creating clones. You want a diversity of skills + approaches. Instead, it is about giving the whole team the thing that the CEO has more than anyone else: context.

The reason why well-intentioned, smart and capable team members lose focus, go on tangents, etc. is because they are making decisions without the 360 degree context of the business.

As CEO, a key role is thus to continually give that context. This means ensuring all team members understand and embrace:

Vision: Why you started this company. What gap or opportunity you saw in the market. Our north star.

Mission: Our purpose. Why we do what we do.

Values: What is important to us. How we do what we do.

Priorities: Elevating and aligning all decisions with the most strategic company priorities and ultimately with the vision and mission.

Choose your medium

Some people love to write. Others prefer short videos, podcasts, etc. Whatever medium works best for you, what is needed here is to create a content repository where staff can go to receive the full context of the business. This content works for you. It is evergreen and can be referred to any time.

New staff should get the full origin story and walkthrough of vision, mission, values, etc. during their onboarding. All staff should get refreshers of these. Quarterly or monthly All-Hands meetings are a great time for this.

Use these communications to make an explicit alignment and connection between current projects and overall vision, mission, etc.

OkRs are intended to do make these connections. Done right, OKRs are highly effective. However, I have seen a 50/50 success rate with them across the companies l work with.

As written previously, as CEO you can impact each material project directly through a barbell approach: You are involved at the start to align the project with the overall context of the business. You show up again at the end to decide if the goals for this project have been achieved. You stay out of the messy middle.

One final word of caution: CEOs carry a big megaphone. lf you are off thinking about new long-term possibilities and directions that are not part of what the company does today, then if you share those musings with your team (outside of senior leadership), that is what they will be focused on.

Questions to consider

Are all team members clear on our vision, mission, values and most strategic priorities?

Can all staff members connect their individual contributions to our vision, mission, values and most strategic priorities?

What tools & programs have we implemented to make this connection? Are they working?

If I asked five random staff to recite our vision, mission and priorities, would I get the same answer?

What medium would work best for me to use to deliver ongoing context?

If I look at all of our current projects can I directly relate them to vision, mission, etc? If not, which projects need to be revisited or stopped?

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