Building Your Organization - Keeping Everyone on the Same Page

By Tom Bixby, President & CEO, LEVEL Management Partners
Published May 27, 2016

In the previous article in this series, we continued examining the challenges of building your organization by focusing on adding management layers. This week we will look at keeping everyone unified and on the same page as the size of your organization grows.

Key questions include:

  • What can go wrong?
  • How can defining roles and setting goals help?
  • How important is open communications?

What can go wrong?

The short answer is ... a lot. Done right, building your company is an undertaking that will give you financial and personal freedom. Done incorrectly, it is an emotionally draining activity that will take away all your time and money.

Mark Schaffner is a Charlotte-based Client Partner with LEVEL Management Partners, responsible for directing Value Growth and Exit Planning Programs in collaboration with LEVEL Expert Network™ members.

“Building a company is a challenging and rewarding endeavor. It requires a tremendous amount of personal growth. You must transition from being the one who provides all the answers to the person who holds people accountable for finding the answers”, Schaffner commented.

Most companies get started because the founder sees an opportunity or has a skill that can be turned into a business. The start-up years are hard. Money is always tight, a small team wears many hats and needs the founder to decide how to allocate scarce cash.

The right kind of employee for this environment loves variety and deals well with ambiguity. They like to color outside the lines. Every day is a new problem and they love to solve problems. Then comes success. Customers value the product or service the company is delivering and want a lot more of it ... at a consistent level of quality.

Delivering consistent quality in volume is hard. It requires standard processes and structure. Many of those prized problem-solver employees don't like standards or structure. It requires either the employees to change or a change of employees, and the founder must drive the change.

How can defining roles and setting goals help?

A large company with everyone wearing many hats is chaos. Being the leader, or more accurately head referee, in such an organization is purgatory. Everyone looks to you to resolve all their problems. It is overwhelming.

Schaffner shares, “Everyone has to know their role in the organization, the team they operate within as well as the role of others on whom they will depend. Everyone there must know how you will measure the impact of their personal and team’s efforts.”

People have to understand their role within the organization. The first person to change must be the founder. They have to transition from being a "star player" to head coach. Star players focus on contributing on the field. Head coaches focus on building winning teams.

Winning teams get a game plan from the coach. The team members know their roles, the role of their team mates and trust that if each team member does their job well ... the team will win. Players know their assignments and expected contribution. It is no different in business.

How important is open communications?

Coaches communicate often. Beyond communicating roles and goals, communication is critical to maintaining a feeling of unity and belonging across your company. This communication should include both strategic and tactical information.

Schaffner adds, “For people to feel like they are moving forward you have to communicate a vision as well provide feedback on the team’s progress. For that communication to be effective, it must occur consistently - through regular short meetings that have specific purpose.”

Sales meetings provide a great example combining strategic and tactical communication. Sales people would report tactical activities, sales and forecast. Sales managers discuss team member contributions and opportunities for sale process improvement. The founder would discuss markets and progress toward annual goals.

The founder is responsible for having the right people in the right roles. The manager is responsible for having a process that produces the right results and the sales person is responsible for delivering. Everyone’s questions during the meeting should be consistent with their role.

For the meetings to be effective, the meeting should be organized with the team explaining to the manager what happened (results), what’s missing (needed to meet or exceed expectations), and what’s next (the staff’s plan on how to be successful in the next period).

The Manager’s role in the meeting is to hold the team accountable for delivering the agreed upon results. The founder’s role is to hold the manager responsible for the team's performance and evangelizing the vision. Evangelizing should take place in a variety of situations, including one on one conversations, department meetings and corporate "town hall" gatherings.

In Conclusion

In this article series, we began our look at organization building by asking the question “What are you getting yourself into?” There are many challenges to face as your business grows and when and how to add people to your organization may be particularly difficult decisions to make. This transition represents a coming-of-age moment for your company, and a necessary step to grow the value of your enterprise.

How healthy is your business? What changes might drive sustainable growth?
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