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Fast Growth Etiquette – The Pulse Check

During a recent lunch conversation with a start-up entrepreneur, he asked me to share what were the most common trends stopping brilliant start-up ideas from becoming great scalable ventures.

He was obviously a curious chap looking for some “quick & easy take-aways” from our lunch, and so being the generous &  practical guy I am, 😉 I grabbed a pen & drew the following diagram on a napkin for him…

I’ll make it short & simple for anyone who wants to stop reading this post here, and maybe check back later.. just like on a road trip to a place you haven’t been before, “you can’t get where you’re going unless you know where you are at”. Every journey has a “start”, “mid-point” & “end”, along the way, you should also have intervals at which you check your pace & requirements for refueling, but it’s not really rocket science, and it applies to any type of venture, be it entrepreneurial or corporate.

I asked him when had he last been to the doctor. Now, the first image get when I think about a doctor’s visit, is how the quickest and most immediate assessments they make are typically based on the simple pulse check. It’s a “status update” of sorts, to see how you’re doing, whether you’re running too fast, too slow or just about right. Whilst it’s only a momentary picture in time, this information combined with your medical history can tell him allot about how much longer you’re going to live without some sort of intervention.

Back to my journey analogy, how can you accurately predict any refueling requirements unless you can compare your current location with where you started vs. where you want to get to? So I then proceeded to expand on this biggest hurdle I’ve seen of late. Within the last 2-3 years, pretty much across the world, regardless of industry vertical, the general missing link is an understanding by staff (in general) as to what (and when) they needed to do to contribute toward their company getting from A to Z.

Did you expect a more profound & intellectual response? There are obviously varying stages of complexity around this issue whenever I find it, but generally it’s due to one of the following Top 3 things not being done

  1. Lack of appropriate articulation from the Founder/CEO/Leader as to “the why” driving their day-to-day activities
    • Mission (purpose), Vision (dream) & Core Values (rules for the road) based engagement & enrollment
  2. Lack of alignment between theoretical plan & practical measures put into place
    • Strategies communicated aren’t consistent with actions put into place
      • i.e. NOT “walking their talk”
  3. Lack of rhythmic processes that will allow you to measure progress toward achieving a predetermined strategy
    • Lack of follow-up, measurement & the necessary adjustments required along the way to get things back on track

Somewhere along those simple three areas are where I typically have to start my own engagement process within a new client, obviously after I’ve completed a discovery process to understand the depth of the challenge at hand. Now you may have noticed, as did my lunch companion, that I was using words like “engagement” & “enrollment”, in his case allot, and these weren’t by chance.

  • Engagement, “in my book” requires a two way conversation, give & take from both sides until they both agree on a common understanding, otherwise you won’t get the necessary “emotional involvement or commitment”
  • Enrollment, when borrowed from academia, the word “voluntary” stands out as a means of getting someone to do something. By “enrolling” someone (you get a voluntary commitment for attendance or follow-through on an activity, generally attending class & doing the required homework)

These two words are possibly the most powerful words in the “strategic execution dictionary” when you want to execute on any strategy. Whether it’s an entrepreneur trying to get his business off the ground or to the next level, or a CEO of a multi-billion dollar enterprise trying to keep shareholders happy, far too often we “talk to” rather than “converse with” our staff. That’s where the engagement & enrollment process starts, and once you’ve covered those steps, than in order to keep people, business and/or strategies “on-track”, you need routine follow-up with measures to check “where you are” at any point-in-time since you started, and “how much effort” is still required to get you to the finish line.

To-date, some of the best tools I’ve found to overcome those Top 3 barriers I mentioned are

  • Simon Sinek’s “Why” process for getting to the crux of your Mission or “purpose”
  • Cameron Herald’s “Painted Picture” process for articulating the true essence of your Vision or “dream”
  • Verne Harnish’s Gazelles “Rockefeller Habits” for the rhythmic processes required to super charge your growth strategy

In many instances now, I have personally worked with the consequence of these tools to then adapt practical solutions to the unique culture of organizations, or, leveraged the outcome of these tools & subsequent clarity to help organizations get to the levels everyone knew possible.

Where are you or your organization stuck? What practical measures have you taken on-board within the last week, or will be taking on-board as a consequence of this reminder?