I’m often asked to identify a single “blind spot” that keeps leaders from growing their businesses aggressively. There are actually a number of these … but one that’s particularly common is the failure to collect best practices and assemble them in a regularly updated “playbook.”
This could be a playbook that managers use for the most important recurring activities, such as holding meetings, coaching, conducting performance reviews, or handling difficult conversations. It could be a playbook new hires use to get a documented, accessible summary of the best practices of the top performers in their specific area. It could be a playbook that outlines, in detail, the specific process that your sales team uses when executing its sales process with a target company in a particular industry sector. There are countless variations.
Without such playbooks, critical “tribal knowledge” walks out the door forever when you lose a key employee. With these playbooks, the least experienced people in any area of your business can quickly reach a state of mastery, so that they ramp up to a position where it seems as though they have been on the job for decades. And you can always improve the playbook as your team updates what is working in the field.
If for some reason you aren’t capturing and recording the way you want things done in a given area, you are minimizing your team’s potential to achieve. Unfortunately, many leaders do just that.
EASE THE TRANSITION TO MASTERY
There is often a very long list of skills, resources, and procedures that someone who wants to contribute to your organization must master within a given role. As a leader, you must recognize that it’s sometimes going to be a challenge for any one individual to master everything that’s necessary in a short amount of time. And you must make the transition to mastery as easy as possible.
You can’t answer every question personally, and you shouldn’t try. Your goal as a leader must be to create and support teams are self-sufficient. That means you must give your people the tools, resources, and insights they need to become as productive as possible, as quickly as possible.
Begin by setting aside self-deceptive talk like, “We only hire bright people who can figure things out for themselves,” or “So-and-so will hit the ground running.” They won’t hit the ground running, and they shouldn’t be expected to do so. You don’t want them taking months or years learning from making mistakes that could have been prevented. You want them to capitalize on other people’s previous successes, people who have been doing the job at a superior level and/or have experience that they can share and transfer to others. So enlist the help of your top performers. Create a playbook … and update it regularly!
An inescapable reality of the working world is that we can’t expect our people to be great at everything. It’s virtually impossible for everyone to become an expert, a black belt, in all the areas that our organization hires for – and even if they somehow could, it would take them far too long to reach that point. Here’s another inescapable reality: At some point, if people don’t have experience or guidance as they enter a new situation, and can’t get it, they will make up the best answer they can. It won’t always be the right answer.
Yes. Your people want to do the right thing … but if there’s no playbook for them to look to, if there’s no experience that they can rely on, and no one to turn to, they will improvise – or not do it at all. While improvising is sometimes necessary, it’s not really an effective daily strategy when it comes to growing your business!
BY DEFINITION, THE TEAM NEEDS A PLAYBOOK
This is not a new idea. Consider that professional sports teams have playbooks that they provide every single player – whether those are players who are brand new to the organization, or players who are being paid tens of millions of dollars and who have years and years of experience. The team gives them all the same playbook. Why? To make sure that they’re all (literally) on the same page when it’s time to execute.
The veterans use the team playbook to ensure that they don’t get stuck in a comfort zone, to practice and lock in what they know, and to pick up little tricks of the trade and plays that they don’t execute frequently. Newcomers use the team playbook to learn make sure that, when game time rolls around, they can execute a certain play as if they had been in the league for years. All that is as it should be.
Here’s the bottom line. Sports management spends immense amounts of time, effort, and energy putting together the right playbook and ensuring compliance with it. Effective business leaders must follow their example! Failing to do so means setting your team, and your business up for failure.
For more on blind spots that can hold back your business, see my book THE ROAD TO EXCELLENCE.