Leading with Agility
Alex Raymond is CEO and founder of Kapta, an enterprise goal management software that helps teams communicate goals, track progress and improve customer-vendor relationships. Given that Alex has worked and lived in 8 countries, I decided to ask his advice on how global leaders can unite and motivate dispersed teams. Here are his thoughts.
Alex, thanks for joining me today. Let’s start by talking about CEOs and other leaders, who are often levels removed from their employees. Creating a sense of connection can be a challenge when those employees are scattered around the world. How can leaders ensure their workforce feels heard – and how do they model accountability?
Agile methodologies are the answer here. As most of us know, “Agile” began as a software development practice and now it’s been adapted to business management practices as well. One of its chief tenets is listening to the customer. Well, that same concept applies to employees internally. The frontline needs to be heard by the decision maker. Obviously this creates stronger morale but it also empowers the leader to make smarter budget and resource allocation decisions because they have better information.
Another aspect of Agile that’s relevant is modeling responsibility. Employees need to feel personally responsible for their work and that’s something the leader can model by accepting feedback and advice. Show you’re listening. Be transparent. Offer employees visibility into company developments. By modeling that, you instill that responsibility and accountability in your workforce.
Thanks. That was very insightful and it actually leads into my next question. We know that employees are more engaged when they have a clear mission and purpose – both on a company level and in their specific job duties. How can managers ensure that employees feel valued even in an geographically dispersed corporation? How can leaders keep the mission clear in a company that spans continents and cultures?
One way is with goals. I’ll talk more about this in a bit but let me say right now that it’s vital to create big ambitious goals. Work with management to ensure the message is relevant to employees. Otherwise it becomes a mantra or slogan devoid of personal meaning. Managers need to frame the goals and the mission in a way that’s practical, something meaningful in the context of the employee’s day-to-day life.
This is especially true with scaling challenges. Leaders involved in global expansion are trying to maintain a cohesive company culture even as the company begins spreading into other cultures and languages. So the vision needs to be translated into daily work life. Employees care about what’s happening in their office, with their boss – not a distant corporate headquarters. So that translation needs to happen: “How does this vision manifest in my team?” Training is also a big help in keeping cross-cultural workforces on the same page, using the same processes.
You brought up goals – let’s dig into that. I know setting goals can feel obligatory and kind of dry in many companies. How can global leaders set goals that get employees excited?
As I said, don’t just do operational goals. You need major, ambitious, meaningful goals that galvanize your workforce. You only want to do a few – no more than 3 – and you want them to filter your work decisions. Do your daily tasks fit your goals? Do you need to reprioritize? Goal setting only works if the goals make you say no to something else.
A common mistake many leaders make is fixating on numbers. In fact you’ll benefit far more if you focus on growth and the lessons learned along the way. Hitting a number doesn’t necessarily indicate success or enlighten you. It’s also important to evolve from annual planning to rolling out 90 day plans. Your forecasts will be based on accurate information, the data sets will be shorter and fresher, and you’ll make smarter decisions. So it’s important to monitor your progress and revise goals once a quarter.
You mentioned Agile earlier. That’s a hot buzzword right now, but many leaders still aren’t sure how to inject agile practices into their leadership.
We see that in global business all the time; someone up top makes a bunch of plans without any input from the frontline, and then the project kicks off and the plans fall to pieces. Agile helps with that because the leader empowers employees close to the action to make decisions and removes roadblocks so they can act. The shift from annual to quarterly planning also ensures teams stay flexible and responsive to current input.
Thanks, Alex. These insights are invaluable. Readers, if you’d like more information on these topics, feel free to check out Kapta’s resources. In the meantime, please share how you’ve used goal setting and agile practices in the comments.