Leaders are built (Part 2)

I'm starting right in the middle so please read Leaders are built (Part 1) first

Stop Making All the Decisions

If you believe that you have communicated the company and teams goals properly. Give your team the freedom and permission to make decisions and bring them to you instead of the other way around. This allows you to focus on the decisions that are more impactful for your role. Overall, this will result in the entire team getting more done. There will be empowerment among everyone else and you will not be holding people up.

Communicating Goals

I have talked about communicating the goals of the company, team, and individual previously in Driving Your Bus

To summarize that here:

As a leader of a team or organization, you must communicate clear goals at all levels. This involves finding clarity and having difficult discussions to decide one top priority at the company level, department level, and team/individual level.

The Team/Individual level is the most important one in this context. The more clarity you can create the less lost people will feel when you stop making decisions for them and allow them to do their best work.

To best communicate the goals of the team?

When it comes time to communicating goals at each level, the people involved need to help create them. Without input from each group the passion to meet the goals will not exist.

Goals need to be simple, few, and internalized by the team. At any point, anyone within an organization should be able to answer the following:

  • What is the current company goal?
  • What is your department's goal?
  • What is the team's goal or your goal?

I keep coming back to this idea of communicating goals because it is such an important and powerful one. If the people in the company cannot tell you what they are trying to achieve on a day to day basis, the chances that they don't make it to where they want to be skyrocket. To get to where you want to go, you need to know your destination.

Wait for Action

Waiting for action is probably the hardest part for you and the management team, it is the most likely time for you to feel out of control. This sense of control loss can be compared to sitting in a slowly moving line of traffic where it is natural to feel out of control since there is not much you can do. Trying to take action in any way and do something "productive" you may leave the line of traffic and drive through the neighborhood. Though you feel more personally empowered and in control, you can not see at the moment that you have lost more time by creating a more circuitous route for yourself. A loss of 5 minutes from taking a different route driving is not a big loss. The parallel in business is not appropriately delegating work and allowing others the time to do their own work before interrupting, asking for the status, or reaching in to help. Your new leaders must experience their own path.

When you start tasks you should have delegated or make a decision that should be firmly within the responsibility of someone else on your team then you have limited them and their ability to prove their worth to you and the organization. You have taken away any chance they had of doing it right, feeling proud of their work, and taking further responsibility in their role. This effect compounds over time and will end up creating more complacency within your team.

Another example of improper delegation is group projects during school. We have all likely experienced a project where in a four-person group one person stood out and said they would do everything. This is the fastest way to have a complacent team with a single "hero", though the work will likely be of less quality than if the team had used the unique perspectives that everyone brings to the table and made decisions together. In some instances, delegation on the team does seem to exist, though if quality and goals are not appropriately discussed the "hero" may end up redoing everyone's work. I have seen and experienced similar things happen in organizations of which I have been a part. Instead of teaching, someone will silently redo other people's work. In addition to complacency, this will also create anger over time that was wasted. The collective mind when you have the right team will be greater than the whole when given a chance.

Any sense of control that you feel through these situations as you step in and act is ultimately not worth the negative impact you may have on the team.

Don't Abandon Them

At the risk of immediately contradicting myself, while waiting for action takes place you still need to participate in the work of the team. They need to see you still, though you have to keep it known that they are the owners of their domain and their problems.

So what can you do that supports them without overruling them?

  • Hop in to ask clarifying questions, questions that help understand the problem in the fullest way possible. From different viewpoints, try taking on the perspective of different roles throughout the company.
  • Don't become radio silent. Let them talk to you about anything and all their needs.
  • Encourage spending more time on the problem understanding before diving into solutions.
  • Finding a single solution too early often can mean they haven't searched hard enough. Push back and have them explain why they chose it over others.
  • Lastly, continue to return the ownership to them. Communicate your trust and belief in their ability.

Trust Your Team

Once you have explained the responsibility you are giving a team member and explained that you will hold them accountable for that, you have to trust that they will execute to the best of their ability. Without trusting them they will not truly be allowed to make the decisions that may be the right ones for that problem, and it will result in them coming to you for each decision in a series of decisions. Which will ultimately slow the team down significantly as they look to a single person to solve their problems instead of finding ways to solve their own. Since the team members directly working on the problem are closest to it and often have more context, they often have the ability to see solutions and decisions that leadership indirectly working on something, may not be able to see. Or they may be able to prevent and correct mistakes of anyone, including the leader if you have been successful in giving everyone a voice and embracing psychological safety.

Analyze the Teams Performance

This is not an original idea, after you deliver something have a retrospective with the team. Retrospectives often get overlooked as teams immediately start their next project. Hold each retrospective with small teams (No more than 10). Make a laundry list of things both positive and negative that occurred during the time or project being discussed, try not to rabbit hole into solutions or deeply discussing each one it will take too long, having a solution for all of them often means none will get done.

Retrospective questions to start creating your laundry list with :

  • What went well?
    • What should you keep doing?
    • You can use this as an additional opportunity to praise the good work of the team.
  • What went less well?
    • What should we stop doing?
    • Was there something that was slowing down or frustrating team members?
    • What can you learn from something whether it was a success or a failure?
    • Was there something that you should try that you didn't before?

Once you have your list it's time to pick one positive and negative to really focus on. To choose the negative and positive you should prioritize for the impact it will make on the team. How much will the items you have chosen reduce frustration or improve the team dynamic? Choose one of the positives that you want to specifically call out, what did the team do to make that happen and how you can continue to do it. Then choose 1-3 negatives that occurred, prioritize them, and dive in. It is okay if you deeply talk about one and do not get to the others.

Diving deeper into a single topic:


  • What did we do as a team to create this behavior?
  • Is there anything tangential or similar that could be gained by repeating this behavior elsewhere?


  • Why did this happen? (This will usually be a best guess)
  • How can we avoid this in the future?
  • Are there multiple ways to solve this problem?
  • Is this the root cause of the issue or a symptom of something else?

It is common, though not required, that there be fewer questions surrounding the positives. This is okay because there is often more to learn from a failure or mistake than there is from success.

Take Responsibility

This section of responsibility is most important during the transition from hierarchical leadership to leadership at all levels of the organization, once an organization has leadership at all levels responsibility and ownership is much more inherent. During that transition, this last section pertains mainly to the hierarchical leaders of the organization as they work to bring change.

As a leader, you want to ensure that you keep people accountable, this means reminding them of expectations and goals until they are inherent within them. It also means that when failure does occur it is laced with plenty of learning. Reprimanding and punishment should not be the first thing you turn to after you see a failure or mistake that occur with one of your team members. Even small punishments can have negative impacts. Let's say you have 6 people on your team. If one person makes a mistake and you lose trust and revert to making more of their decisions they will likely backslide to their previous position where they had a lack of responsibility. Seeing the current leader begin treating someone else in this way will lead to others on the team questioning where they stand for all of their actions.

Instead, it is important that you coach them through the problem, mainly by asking them what they could have done better and seeing if they can identify the failure themselves. When you give people the space to identify their own issues after a failure occurred you can be fairly confident that it becomes ingrained in them. There is no better way to internalize knowledge than to teach someone else, in this example you are putting them in a position of "teaching" you. The act of thinking aloud as you ask questions about the situation will make them analyze it more deeply than they had previously.

For individuals, a scenario we had talked about previously is complacency created by having one person who makes decisions and everyone turns to. That person has more responsibility than anyone else on the team. This is where each team member needs to take back the responsibility of their own distinction. Owning their fair share of the burden on the way to completing the goals of the company. What is happening on occasions like this is often similar to an over-functioning/under-functioning relationship. As person A tries to help person B, person B will pull back, causing person A to help more. Ultimately, this behavior creates a cycle that is very difficult to break. Breaking it starts with coaching the people who are being complacent to step up more and speak up, paired with coaching person A to encourage others to speak up and ask more questions.

Accept responsibility for any failures or bumps

After you have a retrospective, many of those failures and bumps that happened along the way will be known. If each person is open enough to share and you have created psychological safety then you will have a fantastic list to start working from and also a list of things that people may be upset about.

Some of the things on the list will affect the success metrics you are tracking (OKR's and KPI's), others may delay projects, and a various array of other negative things that may have happened as a result of these items. At this point, it is your job as the leader of the team to take outward responsibility for the actions of the team and protect the individuals. This does not mean that you are dropping the spirit of accountability that you have been working to create. You and the rest of the team members are still responsible for keeping everyone moving in a positive direction, focusing on what you can learn from the mistakes, and improving the team, and how you do things. When someone from higher above you on the hierarchical ladder tries to get down in the weeds of the team members and begin micromanaging, it is your job to prevent that. As an outsider to the team, they likely have not built the same culture of trust with all the team members. Until they have, or the culture of open non-judgmental feedback is inherent throughout the company the team should be analyzing the failures and road bumps on their own.

Praise their achievements (in all directions)

People need validation. It's that simple. What is important is that the validation is tied directly to the action for which you want to give it. If it is delayed by a week, month, or year the connection to that action, how it was performed, and what needs to be done to recreate that success is often just a faded memory. This is one of the reasons employee of the month and other awards fail.

Give validation to your team right away, try to keep it within 24 hours and make the praise they are receiving appropriate. Did they launch a huge project in record time? Take a moment to stop and be proud before moving on, have a team lunch. Did an individual learn something new and successful use that skill? Send them a thankful email (these go a surprisingly long way). Finding out what is the best reward depends both on the situation and on the person. For some people being recognized in a more public manner, to the entire team or company, is fantastic. For others that same situation can be terrifying and uncomfortable. Ask your team how they like to receive praise and tell them that you will give them praise when you believe that they deserve it. Another thing that can help you with this is decoupling praise from yourself. Allow the team members to give each other praise, kudos, or whatever you want to call it. Having the ability to congratulate each other in a meaningful and valuable way can be tremendous value on the team since it can allow you and the team to reinforce behavior as it happens for everyone. It is easy to see if the teams are abusing the system, you can take it away if needed, at this point though you and the team should have the trust and openness to call them out directly on it.

Teach the Team to Coach Others, Not Do For Others

The last pillar is the most indirect since the goal is not directly related to their work. Teaching to coach is important for the long-term health of any team. As it will allow the team to become resistant to changes in staff and reinforce behavior over time. As everyone around you is lifted up in leadership, you will be too since the entire team is becoming more performant within the organization.

The Backslide (Reverting to old ways)

It only takes one person to pull the team back into negative behaviors. If one person sees another doing it then the negative behavior and complacency could spread. On the flip side it also only takes one person to spread a good habit.

When one person becomes a non-conformist there is always a higher chance of people sticking to their own laurels. So we want to encourage this behavior when it comes to sharing ideas and speaking openly, meaning the leader should be open and questioning of basics regularly.

When it comes to behavior though everyone needs to be responsible for keeping the group in a strong place. If anyone is out of line, anyone on the team should feel comfortable telling them that directly. This is not a comfortable place to be, because it takes work and trust to address someone directly over a behavioral issue they are having. It is absolutely necessary to keep the team strong. Continue to ensure that you are focusing on the actions and outcomes and not attacking people directly, or generalizing and identifying them as their behavior at that moment.


- The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni

- Turn the Ship Around by L. David Marquet

- Extraordinary Relationships by Roberta M. Gilbert, M.D.

- The Dev Ops Handbook by Gene Kim, Jez Humble, Patrick Debois, John Willis

- Study on conformity within groups Asch Study Explained

Waiting room game show

Leaders are Built (Part 1)

Creating leaders is not an easy task, it involves trust, accountability, and responsibility (from both you and the leaders you are creating). One of the first aspects of creating and leading people to become leaders is to stop making their decisions for them. You have to increase their ability to make decisions, which means communicating goals well at each level and allowing them to execute. As you do that, you also have to tell them they are responsible for those decisions or they won't know and won't take on that responsibility.

What you should try to do here is not to create one leader and move someone "into management" or finding a "team lead", the true goal is to turn everyone into a leader of their domain. Every person on your team was hired for a reason, whether that was skill, culture fit, or any other reason you had at the start, you have to give them the ability to lead in their distinction within their team. Otherwise, they will likely be less satisfied in their work, under-challenged, and underutilized.

How do you start?

This is no easy task. Starting to build leaders will significantly change the way your team communicates. It will encourage people to lean into conflict and be okay being uncomfortable for a while, they will get used to it and will likely end up appreciating the honesty and transparency they can now bring to the table.

Four ideas for creating a team of leaders:

  1. Give everyone a voice
  2. Stop making all the decisions
  3. Take responsibility
  4. Teach them to coach others, not do for others.

Give Everyone a Voice

The first step is ensuring that everyone on the team is allowed to speak equally. Often some personality types assert themselves and are more vocal than others. To flip the script we often need the most vocal person on the team to be the one that helps begin the process. We have to ask more questions of every person and be willing to listen more.

There is an intricate balance between stopping the people who are currently the most vocal, in a hopefully positive way and encouraging others to speak freely, and getting them to speak without fear. The fear of being wrong is always present and must be removed so that non-judgmental discourse can take place and everyone can grow together.

As we work to balance out the voice of the team, people will are likely to be hurt if they don't understand why. Vocal people will feel the change the most because the facilitator of the change will on occasion have to actually stop them from speaking. The facilitator of the change will also need to introduce conflict, a good way forward is to use initial conflicts as a protection mechanism. Begin addressing moments where one person has been judgmental, aggressive, or overbearing toward another and eliminate that. Explain to them and the group why that kind of language can't be tolerated. As an example, if people are presenting ideas and someone states that an idea is "Ridiculous" the facilitator needs to jump in and confront that statement.

Conflict is an important part of everyone having a voice. Often it is also the most uncomfortable part (at least at the beginning). Once a team has learned to speak without judgment, real conflict can begin. What I mean by real conflict is that the conflict is occurring over ideas, not over a dissonance between people.

Removing the fear of wrong

How do you feel when you have been wrong?

How did people around you react?

Do you think they still remember that you were wrong?

Do you think they are holding it against you?

On both sides of someone being wrong reactions and responses have to be controlled, whenever a person is wrong there needs to be a response to fix the information and avoid linking that incorrectness or failure to the person directly. Why did they have the wrong information in the first place? It is often a result of a miscommunication somewhere else along the line.

For example, with a complex task, if it takes you an hour to understand a complex task. Then you share a summary or high-level overview with a coworker who will be the executor of the task for five minutes, which clearly will not be enough for them to do it correctly. Don't try to speed through important information, it will cost more in the long run if the task has to be redone, or worse is incorrect and unnoticed silently affecting the organization in the background.

On the other side of being wrong, is the person who stated something incorrectly. When they are presented with the fact that they are wrong they have to think critically about the new information and adopt it. If they lash out, then the team's ability to think critically and callout mistakes are hindered. Since trust is built slowly, this kind of reaction can harm a team for a long time because it quickly destroys any trust and connection that the team has. In the beginning, the facilitator or leader of the group needs to curb the lashing out by addressing it in the moment, over time the entire team will be able to address it as they collectively work to create a strong accepting environment.

Don't have a "hero"

As an example of something that would hinder a team and is all too common. We will start with a guy named "Kevin" (not a real person, sorry Kevin's of the world). Kevin is very smart and very vocal, he helps the entire team with their problems. Leaders identify him as "the" team leader so they want him to be in everything. You may restructure meetings because the team believes it needs Kevin's input. Kevin does not dissuade people of this idea either, from his point of view if he is going to help everyone with their problems he needs to know about everything. He also values being needed and asked for help.

If you begin to see this, it is a warning sign that responsibility is not evenly spread throughout a team. All the responsibility is increasingly and unfairly being directed into a single person. This is not sustainable for a team of any size and especially for a team that is growing. As more and more work turns to Kevin there will be symptoms that you may begin to see in other team members, for now, let's dive into one, complacency. Team members may become complacent in learning the systems, directing real decisions to Kevin since he knows what to do quickly which is faster than researching, thinking, and learning on your own. Once this kind of complacency sets in, it is extremely hard to break and will often only be broken as a result of something drastic, like losing Kevin (he didn't die, he just quit).

As Kevin's workload increases, often as a result of an inability to say no to requests for help. He can no longer handle the tasks he was primarily responsible for in the first place often resulting in longer hours, missed tasks, and failed projects. This is not healthy or sustainable for Kevin or the business and the feelings continue to compound as the problems aren't removed or reduced. Kevin will most likely leave the organization.

How to avoid having a "hero"

To avoid having a "hero", start the conversation of creating leaders with any current "heroes" you have. Address the "hero" directly and guide them into understanding the impact they are having on the team. It is hard for people to step back from their day to day work and analyze how they are affecting and potentially limiting the people around them.

Be on the lookout for gaps in responsibility and knowledge, they build quickly. When someone has more knowledge people will turn to them more and more. Seek to codify your knowledge, write what you do down, write down how you make decisions, write down how you work with others when people ask questions write down the answers. As you consistently point people to your collection of codified knowledge they learn to find information for themselves and will come to you with more impactful questions. The spreading of knowledge will create a stronger culture of learning, seeking out information, and thinking critically.

It is very hard to identify if you are the "hero", you may see yourself as helping others and learning about things as you go. A few things to look out for that will help you identify if you are becoming a bottleneck for the team you are on.

  • Are people asking you questions that are easy to find (on google, or in your documentation)?
  • Have people thought about solutions and drawbacks before coming to you?
  • Are you the only one proposing ideas?

There are many more questions that can help you identify whether or not you are the "hero" for your team. The ones above are an excellent starting point.*

  • If you are working with people new to the team, ensure you are guiding them through your thinking process and look out for these scenarios still happening regularly after 3-4 months.

Continued in Leaders are Built (Part 2)

Think about the process

We don't often think about the cost of a process or cost of the flow of information as we are engaged in the act. Day to day we do the work we are taught or the work we created the first time we needed to solve this problem. As creatures of habit, we don't change the way we interact with our daily tasks. Passing our process down to coworkers and people new to the job we continue a habit without thought that often outlives our tenure.

Much of what we do in our current roles involves the flow of information and communication. These are the processes that end up being the most costly as they are often two-sided. Passing the information and receiving/parsing the information. The simplest example is one person speaking to another, as words are said the other person must listen with intent and ask questions if they want to capture the full meaning of what is being said, often people are summarizing the full story. While this example may be extremely simple it is poorly executed daily. Even in this simple back and forth of speaking we have the ability to make mistakes, each additional step added to the process of passing and receiving introduces even more room for error.

Take a step back from your role, look at how the solution that you are enacting came about. Think about what could be done to change it or improve it. When you are creating a solution that you know will have to be done repeatedly over the years, take the time to invest in understanding the problem, and understanding how the process will be repeated and by how many people. Do your best to reduce errors, adding steps for validation along the way is a great way to start. Eliminating steps all together can be even better.

As a longer example, sometimes it is simple tasks that start losing their effectiveness when they are taken to scale. At Life Time, there is was a summer camp that takes place at 230 clubs every year. Each location had a similar process because we all shared the same built-in scheduling system from the '90s. For every kid, there were paper forms galore, each week of camp they wanted to attend they got to fill out a new set. Every class, every birthday party, every event that was hosted at Life Time included a new paper form. Since parents were often filling these out without guidance, there were often errors or missing information. Some of the missing information makes sense, I personally don't want to write my credit card number on a paper form and hand it to a stranger to process later either. This first step has already introduced a high potential for error.

Step two involved people doing data entry into a very unintuitive system, mixed with the turnover rate at Life Time there was a decent amount of information being entered incorrectly because of unfamiliarity with the system. This was also a validation step of sorts since it was where the team was able to identify errors from step one. I say team because there were often 2-3 people spending 8 hours per week transcribing these paper forms into the system.

Step three involved calling parents to get any missing information. Mostly during the day, with an answer rate of maybe 50%, there were some parents that I had to call more than 5 times to get a hold of them. When you are holding a stack of 20 paper forms this can be extremely annoying and time-consuming.

Step four involves filing all the forms. Since the system mainly contains names, payment info, and little other information. The forms are still the source of truth when anything is needed and they are referred to often. It was not uncommon to find a form that was never input into the system, missing from filing, never paid for the camp, and other errors that would need to be corrected. This does give us a second validation step, which is good.

When we think about the scale of this process and start with actual numbers it starts to get pretty clear that it would be worthwhile to build a more robust system, a system that could also be used to replace paper forms that aren't directly related to the summer camp entry process.

What are our variables?

  • 2 people at $9/hour
  • 8 hours per week for data entry
  • 2 hours per week calling parents
  • 2 hours of filing and referencing paper forms
  • 230 Locations

(2 people * $9/hour) * (8 hours data + 2 hours calling parents + 2 hours filing and referencing) * 230 Locations = $49,680 weekly spend

10 weeks of camp * 49,680 = $496,800 Annual spend on summer camp data entry across all the locations. This number isn't actually that big in comparison to the size of the company and since the Life Time Locations are run almost as separate entities in terms of their numbers it is very difficult to spot things like this. Since with one location, it is less than $200 a week.

So what do I propose? Embrace technology, a simple online form, Typeform would probably be best to experiment with first since it looks great and accepts payment. If you put the results into a spreadsheet it becomes searchable, serving as an easy filing system, and the form itself should limit errors significantly (though there will always be some). Even if you wanted to build this all into your proprietary system you could afford multiple software engineers to replace this annual half-million-dollar process and build something that would likely be able to be used across more processes, departments, and definitely across all the locations. Ultimately saving much more than the conservative calculations here.

This example is a symptom of saying "this is the way it's done", it is an example of not questioning how things are being done after you are taught, and believing that change isn't possible. We owe it to ourselves to improve the way we do things, to use the tools that are available now that may not have been in the past. By looking into and fixing this process we are not only saving time and money. We are reducing frustration and error for both employees and customers. And we are taking 55,000 hours every year and reallocating it to be more impactful.

Driving your Bus


Driving your company means ensuring that the team has a clear goal at every level.

The teams within a company generally follow these lines:

  • Executive, the team that drives clarity throughout the rest
  • The company as a whole entity
  • Departmental teams
  • Small cross-functional teams / Individuals

Executive Team

As described in The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni, organizational health and clarity are some of the most important factors of this idea. To create clarity, the executive team needs complete alignment on the following questions:

  • Why do we exist?
  • How do we behave?
  • What do we do?
  • How will we succeed?
  • What is most important, right now?
  • Who must do what?

If the answers between executives are not aligned for the team deciding the direction, there will be no direction picked. You will have people who are getting off the bus and getting tickets elsewhere, people complaining about where the bus is going, along with an endless array of other cracks in clarity that originate at the top. What your executive team does and the habits that they build, end up being infectious throughout your company whether they are positive or negative.

The Company

Once the executive team has answered and debated over the 6 questions to the point there is nothing left unsaid and they are all committed to the answers (not necessarily in agreement) then the company goal is already defined. Now you have to communicate it, which is done best by showing the value that accomplishing it will bring.

What is most important right now?

This is your 3-12 month near term goal.

By having a single direction you know exactly where you are headed. Most importantly, you know where you are not headed. The ability to say no to ideas that are usually beneficial in some way is a powerful one. When saying yes to every idea the company loses the ability to do the most impactful work that reaches toward the goal that has been set by the executive team.

For example, a new product idea might add value for customers. If that new product isn't directly linked to the companies current goal then you should say no to working on the product. Despite the slight value, the effort will be more effective if targeted somewhere else.

At this company level, after communicating the goal it is important that everyone walks away with a deep understanding of the same goal and begins to move in the same direction.

Then we tumble down to the next level of departmental teams.

Departmental teams

As we get down to this level the executive team has split up and headed toward their own departments. Only by laying out how to communicate the ideas and writing them down can you be sure that everyone is still on the same bus.

Who must do what?

At this point, we will create a singular goal for each department. With their written down answers the executive team can guide their departments in creating a single goal that is highly correlated to the overall company goal.

This singular goal does not mean that you cannot do things that do not directly move the goal forward. Some things need to be done to keep an organization running or indirectly impact a goal. Having the goals and referring to them regularly lets you know you are spending the majority of your time on the most impactful work (which is almost never checking your email).

Small cross-functional teams / Individuals

Arriving at the last step, we begin to start seeing more tactical ideas and even some large tasks showing up as our goals. That is totally fine, the key is that you can use the 3 goals to evaluate all your tasks for the next 3-12 month period. Though if you narrow the scope of your goal too much then evaluating tasks for fit may become impossible, it may seem like many aspects of your job fall outside of your main goal. In the opposite direction if you broaden the goal too much there may be little difference between the departmental goal and your individual one which will create dissonance and lack of clarity since they end up being on the same level.

Something to avoid is choosing goals the individual is 100% confident they can achieve and won't stretch them in any way. This is both about delivering on an audacious goal for the company and becoming a better person. A person who can hit their goals at 100% every time is not growing or trying to improve, they are coasting.

As we continue to break down goals in this way, we get to a point where the skills and roles of individuals may not directly translate to the company goal at hand. Here we have to be okay with moving them to the correct role for the company that both supports their skillset and translates to the 3 goals (Company, Departmental, Cross-functional/Individual) that they are focused on in some way. Often reassignment will not be necessary.

Wrapping up goals

If the executive team has properly debated issues and decided the goals for the company and communicated them well the process of goal creation at other levels should take about a day, maybe less.

The Process:

  • Executives return from Quarterly offsite having answered the 6 questions and written them down.

  • 30 Minutes - All Hands meeting to communicate the singular company goal.

    Hearing from the Leader of the company is a powerful way to communicate the passion of moving toward the goal and the thought that went into the direction.

  • 2 Hour - Strategic Meeting with the heads of the department (Keep this meeting under 10 people)

    If your department is < 10 people, include the entire team.

  • 30 Minutes - 1 hour - Department Heads communicate the departmental goals and how they relate to the company goal.

    In a small company or department with < 10 people this meeting can be skipped since everyone was in the previous meeting.

  • Break for lunch, encourage small teams to eat together.

  • 2 Hours - Create the goals for the Small Team level

    If you are on a team of one, create individual goals for your "team".

  • 30 Minutes - All hands meeting with a couple of examples from volunteers (best if from different departments) who are willing to share and communicate how all their goals are related.

At this point, everyone should have all but their individual goals. This timeline is very formal because it does involve work from all the employees. In communicating ideas that will not involve as much work for each employee we can have a less formal communication structure, even still it is helpful that important information flows through the entire company in 24 hours from the executives making the decision. This quick communication will help maintain alignment overall.

Evaluating Tasks

In the end, when we ask any person, they will have a total of 3-4 goals to worry about. Since the human brain can keep 7 plus or minus 2 things active at any point in time having 3-4 goals allows any person to understand and more clearly visualize what they need to do next and where they need to go. They can create an in-depth understanding of their goals that will then affect everything they do. Using an example where a person has the ability to keep 5 things in mind, they can "load in" all the goals from each level and their current task. This allows you to evaluate each task against your goals and make the right decision on whether it will be impactful and move you toward those goals. After deciding that the task in mind has a direct or indirect (but highly correlated) impact on your goals you can "unload" the goals and focus completely on the task.

This is in contrast to having 10-20 goals for a single person during a 6-12 month period. With this many goals when you go to evaluate tasks against them it becomes impossible to understand all the goals at once and properly evaluate whether a task is worth doing. So as you go to think about all of the goals you have to prioritize them and will likely prioritize the same ones over and over again letting some fall to the wayside and never get done.

Moving toward goals

In your day to day actions you need to occasionally take a step back and ask yourself "Does this action move me toward my goals?". By asking this you move from working in the business to working on the business. It helps you be sure that you are using your time effectively and having the highest impact. Without regularly returning to your own goals to see your progress there will be little progress.

  • Patrick Lencioni's "The Advantage" presents a framework for organizational health that is further described through his leadership fables Four obsessions of an Executive, Five dysfunctions of a team, and Death by Meeting. I recommend you read the advantage as it dives deeper into the question of organizational health.

It's time to start


Today it's time for me to get started. I have been writing for months, wanting to write for years. The entire time crippled by what others would think. So today I need to open myself to whatever sharing my writing brings, whether people read it or not. I am excited to actually go and get started.

What can you expect of me and my writing?

Though I will not limit myself to the one topic, I will more often than not be writing about technology and extracting my past experiences to explain what I have learned through my mistakes and would do in the future with a chance to repeat it.

From where I am now it will also include

  • Things I am learning about, in trying to explain my process of understanding I hope it will help you
  • Poetry
  • Mountain biking and Rock climbing stories (when we are climbing again)

This list may grow and change as I evolve as a writer. I am posting this now in the hope that I keep running with this.