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COMMENTARY

Acknowledge success to build on it

In Summary

• If leadership teams can lose their way, just imagine what happens to employees. 

• They become disengaged; they come to work to collect their pay; and many will explore other ways to make money.

Success
Success

In the hurly-burly of modern business life it’s easy to forget what you’ve done when you come to the end of the working day. It’s even harder to look back at the end of the week. I started the year taking 30 minutes every Saturday morning to reflect on the week that had passed and to write up high points, low points and learning points in a journal. That lasted five weeks, before the pace of the year overtook me.

To manage our daily tasks, my team and I use an App called Workflowy. It’s a very minimalist ‘to do’ list - the very opposite of Gantt Charts or other complex workflow management approaches (where you end up spending more time filling them in than you do making actual progress). One of the most valuable features of Workflowy is that it shows you what has been completed. 

My colleague Dr. Yolande Coombes has a favourite saying which she uses when coaching teams that have performance issues: ‘You cannot build on success that has not been acknowledged.’ I have also started to use it with CEOs. And most recently with the senior leadership teams of large organisations.

Last week I spent a morning with one such team. Together they are responsible for running an industrial business whose products are so essential to life in our country that the company could be called a national strategic asset. The business was started in the 1930’s and have remained an active player in the development of our nation ever since.

Recently it has suffered from poor performance and this has impacted the morale of the leadership team. They all had long perspectives - the average length of service was 15 years - but they could not see their current situation in the correct context. They had forgotten what had made their company great, and therefore the values and behaviours that would make it great again.

Together we pieced together a company timeline, from foundation to the present day. Along that line we plotted the opening of branches and subsidiaries; the development of new products and services; key customer relationships, notable employees and managers; triumphs and disasters. The exercise took three hours, but by the halfway point the room resembled a joyous family gathering. By the end, morale had lifted and we were discussing the way forward - a new focus on Kaizen; community projects;  key account initiatives and a stakeholder management strategy.

If leadership teams can lose their way, just imagine what happens to employees. They become disengaged; they come to work to collect their pay; and many will explore other ways to make money.