So, what's next? There's likely no returning to the "normal" we knew before. Some are finding completely new career paths. Others are looking at how to incorporate some of the new efficiencies they've developed during this period of change into their long-term strategies. Now is the time to reassess and realign your goals.
Recently, I attended a webinar with the Studer Community Institute, Leading Change in Times of Uncertainty and Disruption (encore). The discussion was again led by Kristie Tobias, an innovative and dynamic national consultant, and speaker with Huron Healthcare. In order to lead change, we must realign our goals.
New Normal, New Priorities.
If we're headed into a new normal, it naturally follows that we may have new priorities. For a deeper dive into how to map that out, we'll look at three areas. First, realigning your goals. Second, building out a communication plan. Third, establishing an innovative path for your business.
Realigning Your Goals: Back to Basics.
The SMART method is a tried and true method of setting goals, first coined by George T. Doran in his 1981 paper featured in Management Review, There's a S.M.A.R.T. Way to Write Management Goals and Objectives.
Specific. Target a specific area for improvement. Many times, we may have general goals like, "we want to conduct all corporate activities with honesty, integrity, and fairness." While this is a great statement, it is not specific. Drill down deeper. Pick one activity or department. How will you target that area for improvement in honesty, integrity, or fairness? A specific statement may look more like, "improve customer service and satisfaction." Be specific.
Measurable. Your objective should provide a metric or number that identifies when the objective is achieved. If there is no available metric or number that applies, objectives should at least suggest an indicator of progress or completion. A measurement may look like, "increase our average customer satisfaction score by 20%."
Assignable. You should specify who will do it. This seems like a no-brainer, but I often have to remind myself of this step. Even in small teams, objectives that are left to the group are left to no one. Even if you're assigning something to yourself, clearly communicate the assignment. Accountability raises the morale and effectiveness of your team.
Realistic. State what results can realistically be achieved, given available resources. This is a tough one for me. I love swinging for the fences and dreaming as big as I can. However, when it comes time to put the rubber to the road, setting unrealistic objectives is harmful. If we are consistently failing to meet objectives that we never could have met in the first place, eventually morale and effectiveness take the hit. So reach for the stars, but unless you've got a rocket, maybe after you've dreamed of the best case, bring it at least within the realm of the possible.
Time-related. Specify when the results can be achieved. Again, this seems obvious, but often gets overlooked. On a project I'm working on we've had several tasks that we all agreed needed to be done, we assigned who should do it, but we didn't put a timeclock on it. Guess what? It didn't get done on time. Adding a time-related constraint helps objectives move forward.
Not every objective will be able to include all of the SMART elements, but the more, the better. Look at your goals and objectives, as you consider the best way forward in this new normal, are your goals and objectives SMART?
Communication Plan: Identify Your Network
Step one, you need to identify your network. Who is in your network? Who should be in your network? This is a great time to audit your network. Look at who you're communicating with. Consider who you should be communicating with related to your message. Take some time to look through your communication channels–your social media followers, the followers that engage with you, your email lists, your mailing lists, your civic and social clubs. Do all of the listed things still make sense? Are there people, accounts, clubs, or groups that should be on the list?
Step two, identify and establish a communication cadence with your mentees, mentors, partners, and advisors. We all had a shock. It comes with any change, and especially so when the change is rapid and unexpected. But make sure you and your people are moving towards acceptance and adoption. Now is not the time to hide in a hole. Your mentees are relying on you now more than ever. You may not even realize the added stress you're under. In a recent article by Quint Studer, Is Stress Negatively Affecting Your Ability to Lead?, he goes through discovering and handling your stress load. You set the tone. So now, maybe more than ever, it's important to keep up communication with those that support you, your mentors, your partners, and your advisors.
Step three, build-out consistent and frequent meeting schedules with diverse meeting pathways. By now, if you weren't used to working remotely or utilizing video services, there's a good chance you're on your way to mastering it. As we make the change back to the new normal, continue to incorporate video meetings as a way to reach people that seemed inaccessible before. Work this into your other meeting pathways of conferences, emails, and internet platforms.
Communication Plan: Retool Your Go-To-Market Strategy
This is also a great time to re-tool your strategy to go-to-market. How will you utilize your inside and outside resources to deliver your products or services to customers and achieve a competitive advantage?
First, establish your social media platforms. I like to dabble in as many platforms as I can so that I have a familiarity with each. However, in a recent webinar with social media expert and consultant, Corey Perlman, shared that it is most effective to select a few social media channels and do them well. Furthermore, make sure you're focusing on the platforms that have the attention of your market. Yes, that means if your target market is under 25, you need to learn TikTok.
Second, just like your network above, you need to establish a consistent cadence for communicating with your social media networks. Now is not the time to hide. People likely have more downtime than ever, and now is a great time to deepen the authenticity and connection with your social media networks.
Third, be adventurous in your connection points and build out your contact list. More people are spending more time online. This goes right along with diversifying your engagement bank account. Try TikTok, go back and see what's happening on LinkedIn these days, see where the folks you admire are communicating (and what they're communicating and how). Look at new channels and look to make new connections you didn't have time to, or were too scared to before.
Communication Plan: Shape Your Message.
Be intentional about your message. The typical message sequence goes, "What, How, Why." Check your past messaging. Do you follow this sequence? It is less effective.
A more effective sequence is, "Why, What, How." Starting with why builds trust faster. People can sense sales a mile away. But they connect with purpose. Take some time to look at your messaging and share your why.
To build effective communication you have to build trust. This can be done by actively sponsoring your message. Express the message. This is you getting the message out in newsletters, vision statements, speeches, and the like. Then model the message. This is done through the decisions you make, the priorities you set, and how you allocate your resources. The more your actions model your message, the more trust your build. Finally, reinforce the message. When you see the message modeled by others, recognize them, promote them, and reward them.
All of this builds trust. In customers and in your organizations. Lower degrees of alignment between actions and messaging, the lower degree of trust. Low trust translates to low speed, and high trust fosters high speed.
Reengage Your Business Priorities.
We made it! Looking back, we now have a clearer sense of what our direction is. Now, stick to it. You can apply your new focused priorities in the Downtime Assessment Tool, available at the link above. What areas of your world will you focus on first?
"If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude." -Maya Angelou