Every Thursday, our team connects for an hour in the morning in a Google Hangout. It’s the only time in the week where we’re all connecting, face to face, in a meaningful way. The purpose of these check-ins used to be primarily tactical. We’d attempt to go through our team, each member outlining what they were working on, if they had any blockers, etc. Fairly standard stuff.
There was one problem, though. None of us really enjoyed these meetings. In my estimation, the communication that occurred during these calls could be handled much more effectively via Slack, one-on-ones, or some other method. I was frustrated that the valuable face-to-face time we had was being squandered. So we changed things up. Instead of focusing on primarily tactical and task-related issues – now we focus weekly on strategy. That’s right – our entire team focuses on business strategy, every week. We make it the responsibility of everyone on our team to be thinking about why we do what we do.
I’ll likely write separately about why this is so wonderful – but we’re still realizing all the benefits from switching to this focus for our check-ins. So far – having everyone focused on why instead of what has been wonderful for so many reasons. It’s incredibly empowering.
As our team’s leader, it’s my job to make sure we start every week with a strategic question for the team to be pondering for our check-in on Thursday. Recently, the question was this:
What do you see as Zao’s single primary strength, and what do you see as our single primary weakness?
This was one of my favorite questions – because I knew it would force us to face some hard truths! I’m a firm believer in the hard way being the best way. Creating a space for our team to be totally honest and bring to the surface the hard truths about our company is not painless – but it’s worth it! From this particular check-in, I was able to realize a common thread that tied everyone’s feedback together. A common strength we all recognized: We’re really good at what we do. We’re able to tackle really, really complex projects that the vast majority of agencies our size, in our space, are not capable of working on successfully. That’s the good news!
The bad news? As much as I believe that execution is everything – we all recognized our weakness in different areas of our company on that very thing. We each found a specific weakness that centered on our ability to execute. That doesn’t necessarily mean we were abject failures in each of these regards – it simply meant that though we might be executing at a level that was getting us by – it wasn’t good enough to get us where we want to be.
To me – this was a revelation. Recognizing that, as a leader, I had allowed us to operate in such a way that “good enough” was acceptable; that “getting by” was enough – this was a gut punch for me! In every area – internal communication, project management, documentation, systems and processes, client follow-through – we found that we had significant room for improvement. Naming this reality and accepting it – though difficult – has been one of the most freeing moments I’ve had as a business owner in recent memory.
To be clear is to be kind
To be kind is to be clear, and to be clear is to be kind. This is one my favorite business axioms. Often times, we can intend to communicate something – but by the time we’ve added all of the sugar-coating and politeness that we often add – we’ve lost any semblance of clarity. The kindest thing that our team could do for our company was to come to a place of clarity on our strengths and weaknesses. The outcome of this one hour meeting has been a level of accountability, transparency and clarity on our collective strengths and weaknesses that did not exist before. Because of that clarity – we’re able to grow into what we see ourselves becoming.
Execution is everything.