5 Ways You Can Get Ahead This Summer
By Les McKeown, CEO of Predictable Success
For many senior executives, the summer is a time when things slow down a little. And with the regular cadence of meetings and interactions disjointed by vacations, it’s often the case that we arrive at the start of Q4 with a vague sense of not having achieved much in Q3.
It doesn’t need to be that way – indeed, with a little planning and forethought, the summer months can be more impactful than any other.
The key to maximizing the dog days of summer is in recognizing the vital difference between the urgent and the important (sometimes referred to as ‘The Eisenhower Box’). Most of the rest of the year, we are consumed by the urgent. View the summer months as your opportunity to spend some quality time on what’s important (but not necessarily urgent).
Here are my personal recommendations for your summer ‘Eisenhower Retreat’. Feel free to add, subtract and edit to make it your own:
1. Review your organization’s Mission, Vision and Values (MVV).
If you’re going to spend time looking at what’s important to your organization, then you may as well start at the mountaintop – looking at your organization’s long-term Mission, Vision and Values. Are they clear? Do they still hold? Do they genuinely guide your organization as a North Star, or are they more aspirational – or worse, just empty words?
2. Review your organization’s annual goals.
Sure, you conduct monthly and quarterly reviews of KPIs and OKRs (and/or whatever other metrics you use internally in your business), but think about the environment in which those reviews are conducted: In the heat of execution pressure, squeezed in between ‘normal’ operating activities, dowsed in the sweat of the urgent.
Use the summer months to review your organization’s annual goals with the less frenetic pulse of the important as a backbeat. Get off to somewhere less frenzied than your office, and review your organization’s overall progress toward its annual goals from a higher perch – you’ll be amazed how differently you’ll interpret where you are (and what your organization needs to do next to achieve those goals) when you’re not taking a monthly or quarterly short-term view.
3. Review and reset your personal SPG.
We’ve written before about the concept of a Single Pre-Eminent Goal: Essentially an OMG (an Overarching Medium-Term Goal, if you will) that sits between your Mission, Vision and Values, but above individual strategies. Good examples of SPGs I’ve seen include:
– A CEO committed to changing his manufacturing company’s entire product line from wood to aluminum;
– Finding a business partner or competitor to merge with;
– A not-for-profit’s president committed to switching funding sources from grant support to supporter donations;
– Designing and launching an e-commerce arm to complement an existing brick-and-mortar retail business.
If you have an SPG, take it out for a stress test this summer. (The same questions apply as you used in reviewing the organization’s MVV: Is it clear? Does it still hold? Does it genuinely guide you as a medium-term North Star?) If you don’t have one, now’s the time to create it.
4. Oil your organization’s decision-making machine.
Your organization exists for one purpose: To make and execute high-quality, team-based decisions. Make and execute consistently correct decisions and you thrive; make poor decisions (or fail to execute on good decisions), and you lose. Your entire organization is, essentially, a machine for decision-making.
Like anything with moving parts, your machine for decision-making needs regular preventative maintenance. Except no one ever tells us that, let alone provides us with a maintenance manual. Until now, that is. Here at Predictable Success we’re so convinced of the vital necessity for a well-oiled machine for decision-making that we wrote the manual on how to create and maintain one. Click here to download it, take yourself off to the mountaintop (or the beach, or the lake side) for a day and come back with an action plan to re-tool your machine for decision-making.
5. Get outside your discomfort zone.
No, that isn’t a typo – I don’t mean ‘get outside your comfort zone’. After all, as a senior executive, that’s second nature to you – you work outside your comfort zone every day. Dealing with ambiguity, uncertainty and rapidly changing priorities either comes naturally to you, or you’ve trained yourself to be really good at it – otherwise you wouldn’t have gotten to where you are today.
Here’s the thing: All that living with discomfort is still done on your terms. You’re still the conductor of the seeming chaos around you. All that ambiguity and uncertainty – you’re the one either spinning it up or managing it when it happens.
This summer, try taking a while to place yourself in an environment where you’re not the one causing the discomfort, where you don’t have the ability to manage outcomes. Volunteer at your local animal rescue for a week. Take a monastic retreat. Go babysit at a creche. Do something that takes you out of your (managed) discomfort zone.