Welcome to lesson three in Building a Goal-Oriented Team! So far, we’ve talked about setting priorities and choosing metrics that align with those priorities. Awesome stuff. But if you don’t communicate goals to employees then key metrics remain buried in the document where they were jotted down, and nothing changes because the wider team will be oblivious to them.
Power is gained by sharing knowledge, not hoarding it.
– Dharmesh Shah, Founder and CTO of HubSpot
It’s time to start talking.
Step 3 for building a goal-orientated team:
Share and communicate your company priorities, metrics, and goals
Share, share, and share again. Growing your company depends on every team member knowing and working toward the same objective and metrics. This shift to unified focus is a process that requires change. Imagine the chaos that would ensue if everyone was working towards different goals and objectives. Your smooth-sailing ship would certainly capsize.
Guess what? You’re the change agent. It’s your job to continuously communicate the company mission and the metrics that will define growth, and we’re going to help you.
If you’ve spent any length of time considering your priorities, it’s easy to assume everyone else is as familiar with it as you are. Not so fast.
In his new book, Originals: How Noncomformists Move the World, research professor Adam Grant explains the common pitfall of under communicating a vision or new idea.
“When Harvard professor John Kotter studied change agents years ago, he found that they typically under communicated their visions by a factor of ten. On average, they spoke about the direction of the change ten times less often than their stakeholders needed to hear it.”
“In one three-month period, employees might be exposed to 2.3 million words and numbers. On average during that period, the vision for change was expressed in only 13,400 words and numbers: a 30-minute speech, an hour-long meeting, a briefing, and a memo. Since more than 99 percent of the communication that employees encounter during those three months does not concern the vision, how can they be expected to understand it, let alone internalize it?”
“The change agents don’t realize this, because they’re up to their ears in information about their vision. This explains why we often under communicate our ideas. They’re already so familiar to us that we underestimate how much exposure an audience needs to comprehend and buy into them.”
So how do you communicate the goals that will help align your team? Great question. Here are a few practical ways to foster data communication and metric sharing to drive growth.
- Monthly/quarterly all-hands meetings: This is a great way to provide a bird’s eye view of how the company is doing with lagging metrics, address recent trends, and highlight specific areas of focus for the upcoming period. Take time to reiterate the mission and let each team give updates on how they’re contributing towards it.
All-hands meetings should be more about what’s communicated than the process. Always be candid.
– Kevin Dewalt, Founder of ScribbleIQ
- Weekly team meetings: Work backwards from the main company objective to determine team priorities and set specific metrics to measure progress toward those objectives. Whether you’re using OKRs, Pirate metrics, KPIs, or another framework discussed in Step 2, review your progress towards your target and use that data to prioritize next steps. Make it a collaborative effort to share ideas for removing roadblocks to accomplish the team (and ultimately the company) goals.
- Weekly company Q&A with the CEO: As a byproduct of building a goal-oriented team, your company culture will become more transparent. You can foster even more open communication and team alignment by allowing (and encouraging) everyone to ask questions. If weekly is too much, you can always push it out to every other week.
Case study: Facebook and the weekly Q&A
Even though Facebook has well over 12,000 employees, their CEO Mark Zuckerberg hosts a weekly Q&A where employees can ask him anything. Mark shares how this open communication sparks conversation around Facebook’s objectives.
“[The Q&A is] an important part of Facebook’s culture. People ask thoughtful questions about why our company is going in certain directions, what I think about things happening in the world, and how we can continue improving our services for everyone. I learn a lot from these Q&As, and the questions people ask help us build better services.”
Mark just recently shared his first ever Live Q&A.
- 1:1 meetings: Take the opportunity in one-on-one meetings to discuss how each team member contributes the the company mission. Work together to set individual metrics and goals that align with the business priorities as a whole. When each person knows how their effort impacts the bottom line, they’ll take more ownership and have greater motivation to do their best work.
Case study: Baremetrics and 1:1 meetings
Josh Pigford, founder of Baremetrics, shares how 1:1 meetings have been a big win for their team as the company grows. He conducts 30-45 minute 1:1 meetings with each team member every two weeks to discuss “…common themes that are important to them, small frustrations they may be having and ways they want to grow.” Having these meetings scheduled (instead of spontaneous) and showing up on time conveys the importance of each team member. Josh usually asks 5-8 questions on a variety of topics to help guide the conversation. These topics include goals, business, happiness, team, management, and performance. (See a sampling of the questions he asks here.)
“More than anything you just want to have a conversation. Try to keep it as laid back as possible and open yourself up as well. This isn’t you grilling them on their performance, it’s you genuinely wanting to understand what they need and how you can support them better. If you ask all of these questions and then never do anything, you’ve missed the point. You need to follow up and take action.”
- Company-wide chat: One reason for setting a company-wide objective is to inform and align every project and task. A company-wide chat like Slack is a great way to weave your mission and priorities into the day-to-day conversation.
With three offices across eight time zones, Distilled has to be creative with meetings and they continue experimenting new formats:
These days we take a more mixed approach to company communications including more written comms (weekly email and / or Slack updates, sharing of board docs, etc.) coupled with Q&As in each office, the occasional all-hands, pre-recorded videos etc. For many purposes, using written comms is perfect because it allows people to consume information at their own pace and on their own time zone.
– Will Critchlow, Founder and CEO of Distilled
- Live TV dashboards: The most successful online businesses are no longer relying on traditional weekly or daily reporting to communicate progress against goals to their team, because their business changes quicker than that. Many are turning to live TV dashboards in the office for broadcasting live goal progress all the time, which focuses teams on prioritizing actions that will improve key business metrics. Here are some dashboard examples if you need inspiration.
Having data updating live on screens around the office is invaluable in spotting changes in trends and picking up on issues before they become a problem.
– Adrian Sevitz, CTO at Vzaar
If you have visibility of the metrics, you can make informed decisions. Geckoboard has saved us 40 man-hours a month.
– Sebastian Lewis, Founder & CEO, Sole Trader