We all have been hearing too much about compounding effects lately. When it comes to pandemics, one would unequivocally want to see the doubling time increase. However, there are those who have been pursuing the magic of compounding for decades, and they are focused on lowering it.
My mentor, Alan Weiss, often recites his 1% solution: if you improve by a single percent every day, you will double your productivity within 70 days. Such is the ineffable efficacy of investing in your improvement.
In advising executives, I find that the most successful ones are those who keep vigil to pursue their teams’ improvement relentlessly. Working together to create teams that move the needle rapidly, it is apparent that one does not achieve that by mindlessly drifting from meeting to meeting. One of your daily meditations should be thinking about how you can tweak, adapt, and advance your people, your processes, and your tools.
This starts with focusing on the default cadence, reviews, and feedback you provide.
When a new hire is onboarded, how long does it take for him or her to receive guidance on their progress? When you kickstart change initiatives, how often do you hold reviews and syncs? Do you have annual performance reviews that seem to neglect anything not from the past two months, or do you provide feedback in a more timely manner?
When it comes to your own executive operating system, you should strive to see improvements at a fast pace and demand the same from your team. Instead of holding your mastermind sessions once a month, do it every two weeks. Set down personal goals for the next day or week, not the next month. These are the basics for positioning yourself to become an engineering force multiplier.
Reviews and Assessments
Merely increasing the frequency of reviews and assessments per the previous section is not enough. The actual retrospectives and appraisals need to focus on getting results and gaining that 1% improvement out of every iteration.
Hold post-mortems that seek cause and let go of excuses. Practice openness and invite some chutzpah to hear the truth from everyone in the room. Set action items with deadlines and hold people accountable to them. That last one is especially important when you are the one that commits to improvements.
Feedback for Improvement
I’ve written about the importance of candid feedback and letting go of cowardly practices, but let’s summarize the relevant parts here. First, ensure that you incorporate this section and the cadence section by sanctifying timely candid feedback. Stale feedback is worse than stale bread, in that you might find an actual use for stale bread.
Moreover, the feedback has to be focused on growth, exploiting advantages, and creating leverage. This can get meta very quickly but bear with me. You and your managers should provide your employees with feedback about how they provide effective feedback. No one has a use for the stereotypical techie cynic that spots everything wrong but has nothing to say about improvement. We’re not food critics and should strive to help each other improve.
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