Recently, I came across a popular unattributed quote floating around online (in a meme, of course). It states, "You are not stuck in traffic, you are traffic." It's a powerful comment on the tendency of people to remove themselves from blame in bad situations – and there's a business lesson to pull from this idea, too.
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Leaders, if something in your organization isn't working – whether it be boring meetings or ineffective communication – I've got some tough news: You're part of the problem.
The good news, however, is you can fix things if you commit to change.
As a business coach, I work with businesses to identify these "traffic issues," and I help leaders enact change through use of the "Rockefeller Habits," a collection of business fundamentals developed by Verne Harnish. The habits aren't just friendly reminders or general guidelines – they are the aggregated best practices of the world's most accomplished organizations.
The Rockefeller Habits are effective, but they require real effort from a leader willing to accept responsibility for organizational issues. If you recognize traffic problems at your organization and are willing to accept responsibility, here are two essential steps to take if you want to eliminate those issues:
Step 1: Create Meeting Rhythms
Establishing meeting rhythm is a great way to ensure that quick, consistent, and accurate communication keeps flowing from top to bottom (and bottom to top) in your organization. Set up a rhythm of regularly scheduled, consistent meetings where your team members can discuss items for which they are accountable and that support organizational and individual priorities.
In my work, I have found that one of the most essential and effective meetings is the daily huddle. Now, a lot of leaders scoff when I insist that they need to add another meeting to their daily schedules, but trust me: This one is vital to organizational success.
Set aside a time each morning for your entire team (yes – the entire team) to gather for 10-15 minutes. At this meeting, everyone should discuss their daily schedules and any other information the rest of the team should know, progress on key performance indicators, tasks they need help with or are stuck on, and nonnegotiable priorities that need to be accomplished that day.
As a leader, make sure to prep for each huddle with intention and zeal! Gather beforehand a few high-level insights that the entire team needs to know about, and throw in a little something extra from a personal standpoint, such as a recent win or struggle you've experienced. If you demonstrate a willingness to share, others will learn to do the same. The next thing you know, people will actually look forward to the huddle and even depend on it.
Another meeting we encourage is a biweekly one-on-one. This is an opportunity for a team member to sit down with a manager to talk openly and honestly about workloads, shifting priorities, struggles at work, and even struggles at home. Aside from giving leaders the inside scoop on team functionality, these meetings provide employees with the opportunity to vent to someone who can take action on the matter. Otherwise, an employee's negativity could spread to others in the office.
Step 2: Install Accountability
The second step is to incorporate accountability into these meetings, ensuring that team members are doing the things they have promised to do.
Every single team member in your organization should leave these new meetings with action items or next steps towards a goal. If they're not, the meetings aren't being used correctly. (No wonder they're boring for some of your people!) Furthermore, you should check on tasks assigned in previous meetings to stay updated on their status and next steps.
Preparing an agenda of discussion topics for each meeting can help keep meetings on track. Even a rough outline can help reign in conversation and keep people focused on the larger goal at hand.
During these meetings, track the conversation on some kind of visible medium, such as a document or a whiteboard. A visual representation of goals, action items, and reminders is a bold and memorable way to keep people organized and on track.
The point of smarter meetings is to open up communication and help team members accomplish their goals. When you establish consistent rhythms, those pesky traffic problems will become a thing of the past. Ready to try it in your organization?
JT Terrell is a certified Petra Coach.