Act now to stop a reactionary roller-coaster work style

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Our company’s management style is very reactionary. We end up working late at night to fix things that got out of hand during the day. We jump from one crisis to another. We tell ourselves, “Don’t worry, it will turn around.” And we hope for the best. But that makes the business a roller-coaster ride. How do we turn it into smooth sailing?

THOUGHTS OF THE DAY: Urgent doesn’t mean important. People build habits, good and bad. Take back control. Lots of reaction comes when there’s not enough communication and coordination upfront. Be realistic about what resources are available and how much time is involved. Lower stress: make that your mantra.

Stuff comes flying at us all day long, demanding attention. Doesn’t make it right or worth attending to. To get where you want to go you need goals, a good filtering system and the discipline to say on point.

Take a good look at the habits in your business. Which ones are working for you? Do you have an organizing meeting at the beginning or middle of the day to brief everyone on what’s coming up? Does everyone have goals they live by and report on? Do people make plans to achieve their objectives? Does everyone have time to think during the day? When things fall apart, does the team step back to re-prioritize and organize their efforts?

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And which habits need to change? Whatever comes in via email gets attended to first? Customers call with last-minute requests and everything that was planned gets shelved? Someone doesn’t show up for work and others jump from what they planned to work on because there aren’t enough resources to go around? No time to meet, too busy pitching in?

What do people do to shift focus and rebalance? Exercise? Meditate? Get together with friends? Get away for a day, a week or longer?

Separate what’s important vs. what’s pressing. Get to the root of the problem instead of treating the symptoms. Think before acting!

Of course customer requests are important. Ask how often customers submit last-minute demands. Plan extra time into the schedule.

When things go wrong on a job, of course they have to get fixed. But why did things go wrong in the first place? Ask the team to meet to discuss problems and propose permanent solutions.

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Watch how you react. Tell people to schedule time to meet with you, rather than tolerating a steady flow of interruptions. Close your door to give yourself time to think. Don’t look at emails first thing in the morning. Make a quiet room where people who don’t have doors can go to think and plan.

In a crisis, instead of jumping in with suggestions, step back, watch. Resist the temptation to be a hero. Let your people learn how to deal with challenges. Direct them by asking questions.

Open up avenues of communication: more access to data, more support to understand the data, more cross-department meetings to share information.

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Make sure people meet regularly to discuss what’s possible. Ask everyone to focus on what’s easiest, most profitable and most likely to lead to a healthy future for the business.

Get departments to plan the resources and headcount they’ll need six to 12 months from now. Start searching for new hires now so you have the luxury of being selective about the candidates you consider. Build and stick to a budget to upgrade equipment and acquire new tools. Turn away unprofitable clients.

Adrenaline rushes can be addictive. Focus instead on peoples’ well-being. Build a steady paced environment with few disruptions, where all participants are clued in to the daily, weekly or monthly plan, and have information they need to do their jobs well.

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LOOKING FOR A GOOD BOOK? Try “Lead Inside the Box: How Smart Leaders Guide Their Teams to Exceptional Results” by Victor Prince and Mike Figliuolo.

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