I have spent 13 years reading business books and presenting synopses of these books to folks ready and willing to learn. It took a while (I’m not all that sharp!), but I think I am beginning to learn some things myself. In fact, I think I am ready to state, for certain, that there are 2 ways to guarantee mediocrity (if not outright failure):
1) Have a poor work ethic
2) Don’t have regular (team/executive team) meetings.
#1: Have a poor work ethic.
The sources are too many, but let’s start with the 10,000 hour rule (popularized by Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers). I summarize it this way in my presentation:
…centerpiece to this book is the 10,000 hour rule… — with much intentional practice!
“Practicing: that is, purposefully and single-mindedly playing their instruments with the intent to get better” (Outliers).
Or, to put it another way, putting in 10,000 hours does not guarantee that you will reach the pinnacle of success; but, not putting in the time practically guarantees that you won’t reach that pinnacle.
In other words, to remind us all of the obvious, it takes work, hard work, to be successful.
#2: Don’t have regular (team, management, executive team) meetings.
This is the one that has most captivated me. I am looking for this everywhere I speak, in every book I read, and everywhere else I can.
The insight hit home after reading the Verne Harnish book Mastering the Rockefeller Habits, but it took a while to see it in action. Now I am looking for it, and finding it, everywhere I look.
The Rockefeller “habits” are Priorities, Data, and Rhythm: an effective rhythm of daily; weekly; monthly; quarterly; annual meetings to maintain alignment and drive accountability (“until your people are mocking you, you’ve not repeated your message enough”).
In the book, Harnish points to this:
Mastering the Daily and Weekly Executive Meeting
(Structure meetings to enhance executive team performance).
• meetings overview:
• daily & weekly – execution
• monthly – learning
• quarterly and annual – setting strategy}.
This is the discipline, the habit, that I am looking for, paying attention to, and have become convinced is a (maybe the) critical key to genuine success. Assuming that a company or organization has hired competent, passionate people (admittedly, this is a big assumption), then it is imperative that these people get together in regular meetings to tackle those key goals/priorities for the organization. I wrote about this as practiced at Mighty Fine Burgers (see this post), and here is a clue from Zappos, from this article:
For instance, Zappos.com, the shoes and clothing e-retailer now owned by Amazon.com Inc., No. 1 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, has agents meet about once a week for hour-long, one-on-one coaching sessions in which a supervisor and agent each take a call. The two then discuss what the agent did well and what could be improved the next time around.
Of course, you need to pay attention to what occurs in such meetings, but don’t miss what comes first: weekly meetings! The rhythm of weekly, regular meetings!
As I said, I am asking around about this a lot. I find absolute consistency – excellent teams, excellent organizations, spend intentional, regular times in meetings. They do not skip those meetings. It is part of their routine, their ritual, their “rhythm.”
Yes, yes , I know… a lot of people sit through a lot of bad meetings. And that is a problem. So, yes, learn to run your meetings well. If you are a leader, learning to run a good meeting may be the next important skill for you to master. And, always, don’t forget to have an agenda, with something important to discuss/work on/accomplish. The most successful organizations meet about the same thing over and over and over again. It takes that kind of “long haul” attention to get really good at anything.
But if you want a sure fire path to mediocrity (or outright failure) just try getting by with no meetings. That is a guaranteed path to failure.
You accomplish what you meet about! Yes, you do!
Hold weekly or monthly status meetings to ensure that everyone is aware of what’s going on.
Jeff Cannon, and Lieutenant Commander Jon Cannon, Leadership Lessons of the U.S. Navy SEALS : Battle-Tested Strategies for Creating Successful Organizations and Inspiring Extraordinary Results
An effective rhythm of daily; weekly; monthly; quarterly; annual meetings to maintain alignment and drive accountability — “until your people are mocking you, you’ve not repeated your message enough.”
Verne Harnish, Mastering The Rockefeller Habits: What You Must Do to Increase the Value of Your Fast-Growth Firm
Mighty Fine Burgers (the one I eat at is in Round Rock) has some mighty fine hamburgers, and milk shakes – and a fun atmosphere, and a cool, space-age hand washing machine. They offer a really! good!! hamburger!!!, and an even better shake!!!! People tell me their fries are equally excellent, but I can’t vouch for those personally (I only have room for so many calories). They also have their Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award banner prominently displayed — see:
I talked to one of their managers, Steven, and asked him how they won their Baldridge Award. He said (paraphrased): “we decided to go after it; we won a “Texas version” one year (the Texas Award For Performance Excellence); we kept improving, and then we won our Baldrige Award last year” (Actually, the Baldrige Award was given to their parent company: K&N Management is the licensed Austin, Texas-area developer for Rudy’s “Country Store” & Bar-B-Q and the creator of Mighty Fine Burgers, Fries and Shakes, two fast-casual restaurant concepts. Read about their award here).
They absolutely focus on quality — from their web site:
Being from Austin means that the bar for quality is set very high, and we wouldn’t want it any other way. To us Quality is Everything, from our all-natural meat to our personalized bags, from our open kitchen to our world-class service. You might even say that we are a little weird about quality—in fact we are totally obsessed with it. We purposely limit our menu so that we can deliver the best food and best service to every one of our customers. We may only do a few things, but we do them better than any one else.
I kept after Steven, and asked this question: how many meetings did you have with your people about your quest for quality? The answer, as expected, was (paraphrasing again)– “daily, constantly, consistently… we meet all the time. We meet at the company management level, and with every shift team. We meet, we aim for quality, we discuss quality, we improve quality… we meet to accomplish our quality goals.” They send the message about quality all the way up, and down, and through, their entire team. What they discuss, what they decide, in top level meetings, is then distributed, cascading down throughout every shift team in the entire organization.
I have no doubt that quality, and all its related issues, are on the agenda day in and day out. The result – a great burger, a great shake, a great experience, and a Baldrige Award.
And one loyal happy customer from Dallas.
The point of all this: I have come to believe that the secret to reaching your goals is found through regular, well-run meetings. Yes, bad meetings — poorly run meetings — can be bad for everyone. But you cannot accomplish your goal(s) without talking about what people will actually do to accomplish the work required. In these meetings, they discuss what needs to be done next, by whom, by when, in regular, interactive meetings. Set clear standards, check progress, meet… then do; then meet, debrief, give out the next assignments, and go do…repeat,repeat, repeat. Over the long haul, you might develop better quality — you might even win a Baldrige Award.
“You accomplish what you meet about!” Yes, you do!