Where are you on evaluation, planning organization, people and accountability
September signals a "back to school" mindset for many of us. For business leaders, owners and managers, we may not be literally heading back to the classroom, but the workplace is actually a wonderful living laboratory and learning environment in which to hone our leadership skills.
Whatever your level of expertise, it is always smart to revisit the fundamentals. As a leader, you have basic roles and responsibilities that are central to the discipline of management and leadership. Five basic functions constitute this discipline, and a strong leader's skill set includes them all. None are optional.
The first is evaluation, colloquially known as "taking stock." Evaluation involves thoughtful reflection, study, consideration, appraisal and assessment. This is perhaps the most neglected of the leadership functions, sacrificed in the service of the "just do it" mentality, the press of urgent demands and perhaps the unconscious fear of what the answers might be to tough questions.
Evaluation activities include market research, quality control, customer satisfaction surveys, employee feedback, peer reviews and other self- and organizational assessments. Major benefits can be gained by simply asking, "How are we doing?" on any important aspect of the business and then proceeding with integrity and honesty toward the answers.
Planning is the other side of the evaluation coin, and the second most-neglected leadership function. Planning can be for a specific task, project or situation, or it can be comprehensive and long-range. From a larger perspective, planning is the opportunity to envision your desired future, to ask what you want to accomplish and where you want to go as an organization, and then make conscious choices and decisions about how to get there.
Intelligent, disciplined strategic planning can profoundly set the course for an organization's future success. The work of leadership is to commit the investment of resources to a planning process. Clearly it requires time, thought and energy, but planning is the proven method for increasing the probability that your company will accomplish its goals and achieve its desired results. What better investment could there be?
The third basic leadership function is organization. Its purpose is efficiency, and it involves creating order by developing, improving and refining systems. It starts with the very structure of the organization itself, represented graphically in an organizational chart that depicts the logic and distribution of the work in the company.
Other aspects of the organizational function relate to the work environment, materials and inventory management, space planning, records management, information systems and time management. Good organizational practices control costs and preserve resources, both tangible and intangible, and create a stable foundation for the work of the enterprise.
The fourth leadership function has to do with people. This was formerly called personnel, then human resources, and now talent management. Recruitment, selection, orientation, training, performance management, coaching, supervision and mentoring are but some of myriad aspects of this critical function. If this responsibility is neglected or poorly performed, all other aspects of the organization will be negatively impacted. Weaknesses in other areas can be more readily compensated for than weaknesses in this one. A leader's predominant responsibility involves inspiring and guiding the people in the organization.