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Putting your team "under the microscope"

I recently blogged about the problems that business owners have as they grow and move into the "in-between-zone" (see previous blog posted 6/16/14). If that sounds like your business, maybe it's time that you put your team "under the microscope"?

A couple of the common symptoms of those "in-between-zone" businesses is that they have good management but by their background they have not been trained to manage - combined with - great people but they don't always pull together as a team.

Unfortunately, the business owner is often "blind" to these issues. More accurately, the owner has got so used to working with and around these people that they just accept their behaviors as the norm ("that's just the way person X is").

Often by taking a new strategic approach we can provide the business owner with the opportunity not only to:

- clarify their business vision and build an effective change plan

- but also to simultaneously put their team "under the microscope" and identify the "desire" issues in their business 

We achieve this by separating out the "left hand side strategy" from the "right hand side strategy". 

Working with the business owner on Vision (their "right hand side"/ creative strategy) allows the owner to clarify what they want their business to look like into the future. It also allows them to identify the key ("strategic thrusts") change areas required to move the business forward in the shorter term.

The next step is to focus onto those detailed change areas ("left hand side" / practical strategy) with their mangement team, and build a detailed action plan. Once you have done that, individual areas of team accountability will become much more obvious (at least in so far as they relate to this particular strategic project).

At this point, rather than leading the change process (as they normally would), the business owner is better advised to just step back and watch their team in action on this particular project. Imagine you as the owner are just a "fly on the wall" or watching your team in action through a "secret curtain". What do you see?

The key question is - are your team all equally bought in? It's normal to see some of the team much more "engaged" or "enthusiastic" than others. It's also normal to be able to clearly see those at the other end of the spectrum - the "actively disengaged" (or "cynics" as I often call them).

In any change exercise I would expect to see a relatively small percentage of "zealot-like enthusiasts" and "cynics", with the majority of your team falling somewhere in between those extremes. 

The key aspect that the owner needs to understand is the "dance" that happens between these groups will determine your speed of change. If the owner lets the "cynics win" / determine the speed of change, that will demonstrate to the rest of the team (those in the middle) that nothing really is going to change (and they will quickly revert to "business as usual" and the change process will stall). 

However, the business owner with a strong desire to maximize their business value will recognize that they need to identify the "cynics" (having put them "under the microscope") - and then work with those "cynics" more closely to actively drive the change process. 

Sometimes those "cynics" just need more help, guidance, training etc - and they will grow their skills and levels of motivation (ideal outcome). 

Sometimes, the owner will come to the conclusion that more drastic action is required (operating under the principle of "3 strikes and you are out"). 

Importantly,(and either way) the rest of the team will recognize that the owner is serious about implementing necessary change. They will recognize that this is not going to be yet another of those projects that we start but don't properly finish (classic "in-between-zone" behavior).

By using the pretext of "we are working on business strategy" it will be much easier for the business owner to put their team "under the microscope". Essentially they will be able to clearly "see the wood for the trees" and this will help them to make the right decisions for their future business growth.

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