Making Waves:<br />3 Secrets to Becoming a<br />Highly Paid Executive Faster<br />Chapter 3<br />www.managementcoach.caTM<br />Mary Legakis<br />Helping leaders and aspiring executives get personal, professional and organizational results – faster.<br />260350-3175<br />Secret #2: Find your Big Game<br />This chapter reveals the single most important secret for getting you noticed as a candidate for the next available executive role. <br />People who get noticed for results, get noticed for promotions. Business results matter, and are tied for first with you and your team. Provide business results, and you’ll be abundantly rewarded.<br />As a future executive, you have to show everyone that you can take current performance to extraordinary new levels. This means identifying an area of your role that has the greatest opportunity for improvement and value creation. I call this your BIG GAME. When you win the big game, you get noticed.<br />Like any game, your BIG GAME must have an objective, obstacles to overcome, strategies to win, and a reward for winning.<br />Before we get into how to find and win your BIG GAME, we must first address your mindset. <br />Results Thinking<br />Effective executives are laser focused on results. Most managers are laser focused on execution. It follows then that to distinguish yourself from most managers, you must demonstrate that you can be laser focused on results.<br />There is a significant and meaningful difference between a results thinker and an activity thinker. The activity thinker looks at the high volume and quality of work performed every day and says to himself, “wow, we’re doing great work!” Execution-focused managers tend to be activity thinkers.<br />The results thinker looks at the high volume and quality of work performed every day and asks one key question: “Does the great work we are doing matter to anyone other than us?”<br />Most of you will automatically default to: “well yes, of course the work we do matters to other people.” You will find every possible reason to substantiate why you and your team deserve a pay cheque and recognition for what you are doing. After all, the business hired you specifically for this work. So it must matter to someone, right?<br />Wrong. That is the thinking of the masses of managers who will never make it to the corner office. It is the thinking of the 80% of the company who maintain the status quo while the other 20% produce 80% of the organization’s exceptional results. Your job exists, not necessarily because it matters, but because someone decided it was needed to fulfill some purpose at some point in time. A rare few of you are in roles that still matter, and whose purpose is still relevant in its current form. Unfortunately, most jobs in existence today have outlived their purpose. They exist only because of inertia. Because the managers before you have been too engrossed in activities to see that the job should have somehow evolved or disappeared in favour of other strategic priorities or efficiencies.<br />Most managers do not realize that the volume of activity going ondoes not necessarily correlate with type of business results needed to advance their career.<br />The future executive digs deeper into the question “Does the work we are doing matter to anyone other than us?” He pursues two truths:<br />
“Are we focused on the right work?”
“Are we doing the right work as efficiently as possible?”
If you can answer “no” to either question, then you will have found your BIG GAME.<br />The rest of this chapter will show you how to identify potential BIG GAMES for your current role, and then use data to choose the game with the best impact for your career. <br />Identify the potential BIG GAMES within your role that others in the business care about<br />There are several ways to go about gathering information to be sure you choose the right BIG GAME. The two most critical pieces are:<br />
Knowing your Accountabilities <br />Results thinkers are able to describe the most important accountabilities of their role in less than five short 4-word phrases. These are (or should) describe outputs that:<br />
First think about what the organization relies on your team to produce. Ask yourself “why does my role exist?” And answer that in 20 words or less.<br />Here are examples of two lists of accountabilities. On the left you have the before list, and on the right the final list of accountabilities. Notice how the before list contains a whole bunch of activities meant to produce the outputs of the role. Your job is to be laser focused on the outputs (i.e. results) of the activities, so that you can honestly answer the question “Are we focused on the right work?” You want your list to look more like the right side. <br />Program Manager for an enterprise project<br />
Initial List of AccountabilitiesFinal List of AccountabilitiesProvide project resources to execute the workMeet with project stakeholders Oversee development of project plans, budgets and timelinesCoordinate across projectsHold project team meetingsCommunicate status and progress of the projectGather requirements and translate into functional specifications with ITManage, mentor and complete performance reviews with staffTechnical functionality aligned to business needsUser adoption of new functionalityEfficient and effective project outputs (budget, scope, schedule)Talented and skilled employeesAudit/regulatory conformance
Notice how the accountabilities are crisp, concise, and describe “why” the activities on the left are important. The final list of accountabilities represents outputs. The list is smaller, but the meaning behind the words is far greater than what you see on the left. <br />An executive knows how to distill the most important outputs of their role and communicate them concisely.<br />Here is another example.<br />Sales Manager for a Manufacturing Company<br />
Initial List of AccountabilitiesFinal List of AccountabilitiesIncrease company salesTrain sales staffMeet with prospective customersAssist in developing proposalsConduct customer visitsAttend trade conferencesManage sales staff – performance reviews, goal setting, etc.Role model safetySalesSatisfied customersBrand visibilityTalented sales peopleSafety
Notice that the accountabilities are a concise reflection of the most important outputs of the role. They also address multiple key stakeholders that the manager may or may not have direct contact with. Use the following list of stakeholders as a guide to make sure you are not overlooking key aspects of your role that the organization relies on.<br />StakeholderWhat They DesireShareholders Profitability and returnsCustomers Quality and valueEmployees Meaningful work and fair compensationRegulatory bodies/agencies Consumer and employee protectionBusiness partners within the company Achievement of their own objectivesVendors Repeat business at fair pricesIndustry Advancement and innovationYour superiorsEffective and efficient results<br />Try listing out all of the accountabilities (or outputs) of your role in only five bullets that answer “why” your team does what it does every day. Remember to take into consideration all the key stakeholders that are relevant to your role:<br /> <br />There is only one step left to ensure you know your accountabilities. You must verify your list of accountabilities with your boss. Make sure your boss agrees that these are the most important elements of your role. You need his/her buy-in before you get to the next step of finding your BIG GAME.<br />BIG GAME areas will fall within the accountabilities that need the most attention. If you can identify and win the BIG GAMES, you will catapult yourself to the next level of your career. Your list of accountabilities may start to give you some glimpses into what your BIG GAME might be. For example, if your team is doing work that is not aligned to your accountabilities, then you might have a roles and responsibilities issue that needs to be addressed. The efficiencies to be gained from clarifying their roles might just be your BIG GAME.<br />Find Peoples’ Pain Points<br />Becoming a results thinker is not hard. The hard part is figuring out which are the right results to go after. Once you have identified the most important outputs of your role, it is time to flush out the potential BIG GAME areas within those accountabilities. Find out potential BIG GAMES by finding peoples’ pain points.<br />Finding the pain points involves three essential tasks:<br />
“Most books on decision-making tell the reader: ‘First find the facts.’ But executives who make effective decisions know that one does not start with facts. One starts with opinions.” Peter Drucker, Management Master<br />There is a lot more you can do to identify your BIG GAMES. You could ask your external customers, you can ask your boss, you could analyze competitive forces, and you can crunch numbers. The truth is, 80% of what you need to know to identify potential BIG GAMES resides within the minds of your employees and your internal business customers. Don’t waste your time on the rest for now. Just listen closely and get moving on what these people tell you. After all, they will have a lot to do with helping move you into top roles. Best to start with what their interests are!<br />Your Employees<br />There is one very specific question you must ask your employees, and then you must take down every possible answer to the question. If you have not spent at least one hour with your employees on this question, you have not done the job.<br />Show your employees the accountabilities of your role, answer their questions, and then launch into the question: ”What are your pet peeves about how we do our work?” <br />Make sure you write down what they say, and probe to cover all types of topics, including:<br />
Your Internal Business Customers<br />For the vast majority of you, there are a number of people within the business that consume the outputs of your team. Now is the time to schedule one-on-one meetings with the key players and start listening to what they think about your team.<br />To get a good sense of the true and proliferating themes, you should identify anywhere between 5 and 10 people to meet with. Schedule a 45-minute meeting with each one.<br />The question to ask: “What are your ideal expectations of my team and to what degree are we meeting those expectations?”<br />Make sure you write down what they say.<br />Assess the themes and prioritize<br />Next, do some thoughtful analysis of the data. Look at commonalities and differences between what your employees said and what the users of your team’s outputs said. Find the most-mentioned items, or the items that came out most strongly. Pay particular attention to misalignments between the two groups. Those are clues to what the BIG GAMES might be.<br />As you read through the results of the interviews, you should be able to identify two or three issues or opportunities that, if resolved, would take your team’s performance to extraordinary levels. These will be your candidates for the BIG GAME.<br />It should become obvious what the candidates are when you can answer “no” to the two key questions:<br />
“Are we focused on the right work?”
“Are we doing the right work as efficiently as possible?”
Here are typical signals that a BIG GAME exists:<br />
Process activities that take too long or are onerous. This is an indication of a broken process that can be streamlined to produce more efficiency and greater capacity for growth.
Severe overtime or work-life balance issues. This would suggest lack of focus on a few priority issues and deliverables, which could be inhibiting extraordinary performance on those deliverables.
Slow response or poor communication between departments. This could be an indication of misaligned expectations, and poor collaborative planning. Addressing this big game would help you deliver key results faster.
Unclear roles and responsibilities. This is often an indication that team members are not meeting one another’s expectations of results. They are disappointing each other and conflict exists. When resolved, this game creates efficiency.
What if the BIG GAME isn’t in my team’s authority or capability?<br />Very often you will find that conflict exists when expectations between teams and/or team members are misunderstood. The data you collect from your employees and your business partners may show a misalignment of expectations. That is, your team thinks you are accountable for one set of outcomes, and your internal customers have over time evolved their expectations to something else, or vice-versa. In other words, they are looking for you to play games that are outside your authority or capability.<br />Re-aligning expectations can in itself lead to a BIG GAME. Take the data to your boss and have a candid discussion about what the data says. Either or both of two things will happen:<br />
You will reset your accountabilities to align more closely with others’ expectations of your role – this creates a BIG GAME in that you have to realign your team’s work and training to produce different outputs
You will reset expectations to align more closely with the accountabilities of your role – this creates a BIG GAME in that you have to influence others’ to change their beliefs about your role allowing you to produce more efficient outputs
Both will bring you closer to your answer on the question: “Are we focused on the right work?”<br />What if the interviews fall short of a BIG GAME?<br />If there are few or no commonalities, differences, or big prevalent themes, this is also a very BIG clue to what your BIG GAME might be.<br />If everyone is comfortable, then you’re not playing a BIG GAME. Complacency is the enemy of advancement.<br />BIG GAMES are essential to your progression to an executive role. If you can’t locate a pain-point or problem to solve as a result of the interviews, then you must create one that nobody’s thought of yet. Your BIG GAME is to battle complacency. <br />To battle complacency you must go back to your short-list of important accountabilities and start gathering historical data against each one. Somewhere among that data you will find your BIG GAME. The next section will help you in understanding the kind of data to look for and what to do with it.<br />There is one last thing to keep in mind as you collect information. Gathering information in this way takes courage and patience. You will undoubtedly hear things from your staff and partners that are difficult to hear, and that may reflect badly on your past habits and performance. You MUST embrace this feedback, judgment free. Do not judge yourself or the people telling you the news. You must transcend the feelings of disappointment, rage and defensiveness. These feelings are here to serve you. They are reminders that you are playing a BIG GAME designed to move you outside of your comfort zone and quantumly into the next phase of your career and your life.<br />Choose the BIG GAME with the Best Impact<br />The most important part of your task is also the most complex. Choosing the right BIG GAME takes some specific knowledge of facts, and courageous decision-making. This involves:<br />
Collecting the data<br />At this point, the themes from your interviews should have surfaced 2 or 3 potential BIG GAMES that you can win so that you get noticed for results. Your next task is to figure out which game is most worth playing. It is akin to when you were in high school, trying to decide between hockey, basketball or joining the swim team. There will be one game in which you can shine the brightest. And that’s good, because we want you to shine brightly enough to get noticed for results.<br />“If it can’t be measured, don’t do it. Nobody will know anyway.”Dr. Bill Reddin, Management Guru<br />The first rule in selecting your BIG GAME is that the results must be measurable. If you cannot describe the object of the game in tangible terms, then it does not qualify as a BIG GAME. Tangible results come in the form of:<br />
For each of your potential BIG GAMES, eliminate any that are not measurable, and then start collecting historical and current data about the ones that qualify. <br />Let’s use an example. Let’s say you are a sales manager, and you have heard from your employees that for every 2 hours of sales calls they make, there is 8 hours of administrative work keeping them from making more sales calls. You spend one week observing your sales team, collecting data, and validating that in fact the team spends 80% of their time in the office sitting at their computers, and 20% of their time visiting with or calling prospective customers.<br />You also heard from your internal customers that the sales team isn’t providing the operations team with the right information to get the jobs installed efficiently. <br />You have collected your data, and you have figured out that the 8 hours of administrivia equates to $2 million in lost sales each month. You also figured out that the operations folks are spending on average 10 hours of re-work on each job due to information that was not passed on from your sales team. That is resulting in missed profits of nearly $50,000 each month. This would appear to be a very BIG GAME, right? What organization wouldn’t want you to find another $24 million in revenue for the year, plus incremental profits in the hundreds of thousands? Your team is clearly not focused on the right work, and not doing that work as efficiently as possible.<br />Compare the data to the themes raised during your interviews with your team and business customers. Are there any discrepancies? Do people have accurate perceptions of what is happening? Based on their suggestions, are there any opportunities to create extraordinary performance if the team were courageous enough to undertake some change?<br />The data you collect will bring you to the truthful answers to:<br />
“Are we focused on the right work?”
“Are we doing the right work as efficiently as possible?”
Checking your mindset<br />It can be tempting to look at the data and decide that this is the best it’s going to get. If you have reached that conclusion, you can stop reading now. You are not qualified for an executive role.<br />Managers who make it to the top are never satisfied with the status quo, and always believe things can be done better. They continuously push the envelope, even if they don’t know exactly what they’re going to find in the envelope. They stir the pot until something new bubbles up. This is the best way to figure out where your team truly stands in the potential games that you can win on your journey to the corner office.<br />Your job is to take the potential BIG GAMES that you found in your interviews, and size up the data. Look carefully and courageously at what people have told you, and what the data actually says. Get to the heart of the matter and the truth of the situation for each potential BIG GAME.<br />What if my interviews didn’t surface any BIG GAMES?<br />You can still apply the above techniques if your interviews did not produce any insights. The difference here is that you will consider each of your Accountabilities to be a potential BIG GAME. You will gather tangible data against each one, and figure out which one lends most nicely to battling complacency and creating extraordinary performance. In this case, your guidance should be to find the opportunities that you can most get people excited about.<br />Choosing the BIG GAME with the Best Impact<br />Once you have a few alternatives to choose from, you must courageously decide the BIG GAME you are going to pursue. There are 3 rules to choosing the BIG GAME with the Best Impact:<br />
Choose a game that is within your accountabilities to play
Choose a game that offers the most interesting results to the business
Choose a game that can be won within six to nine months
Choose a game that is within your accountabilities to play<br />Responsibility – Authority = Frustration<br />Make sure that any game you choose, is at least 40% within your authority to make decisions on. Review your accountabilities from earlier in this chapter, and ask yourself if any of the BIG GAME alternatives can be at least 40% influenced by you. To do a thorough job of this task, use the following template. Record the key stakeholders that would have to play the game with you in order for you to win. Assign a % influence that they would have in the activities of the game. Note that influence does not equal effort. For example, your BIG GAME might require >50% effort from technology to automate a process, but you might find that technology has <50% influence on the decision to go forward.<br />Example:<br />Player% InfluenceMy Team40%Technology25%My Boss35%<br />Many of you might be wondering why I went with 40% and not 70% or higher. This is because the only influence you require in winning your BIG GAME is the highest amount among all the individual players. Everything else can be managed through influence and negotiation, which will be discussed in the final chapter of this book.<br />Choose a game that offers the most interesting results to the business<br />Business results matter, so you must look for a game that is strategically aligned to what the business wants. If you are not clear on the business strategy of your leadership team, now is the time to find out what it is. There are three important signals that will tell you whether your potential BIG GAMES would be of interest to the business:<br />
The organization’s Vision and Key Strategies: Check your company’s website, intranet site or the Management Comment’s in your company’s annual report. These will usually delineate the most recent decisions made by the leadership team in terms of strategy.
The organization’s Key Metrics: Most well run organizations have a performance management system that allows employees to see the key metrics being watched by the leadership team. Find out where to find the key metrics, and see if any of your potential BIG GAMES will help the organization surpass expectations on those metrics. The metrics will signal whether the organization has prioritized sales growth, efficiency or customer retention. Lean towards BIG GAMES that will produce results for the organization’s key metrics.
The priorities of your internal business customers or business partners: If you can, find a BIG GAME that does not conflict with the objectives of your internal business customers or business partners. Better yet, find a game that would be of interest to them instead. Look at the data and see if there is any spin-off that can be of benefit to your internal constituents.
Choose a game that can be won within six to nine months<br />I have figured out that the average attention span for a typical organizational culture when it comes to change is about 1 year. If you cannot demonstrate extraordinary performance on a BIG GAME within that timeframe, people will become tired and bored of your story, and you’ll lose their interest.<br />YOU, however, are trying to get to the corner office faster. Therefore, you must win your BIG GAME in six to nine months. That is what it will take to have you stand out as a High Performance Player.<br />You do not need to know how you are going to win the game to know how long it will take you to win the game. Many of you will be tempted to jump to the how before you decide the what. That is natural instinct. All our lives we’ve been taught how to walk, how to read, how to cook, how to ride a bike, etc. Very few of us ever had to consciously think about these activities in the form of health and survival as the outcomes. Today however, if you want to “be healthier”, you make that decision first, figure out what “healthier” looks like and by when, and only then do you figure out how exactly you are going to get there. THAT is the type of thinking required here.<br />First identify the what, then worry about the how.<br />Taking your Game to the Next Level<br />Being a results thinker is really about upping your game. While others are getting noticed for their big egos, bad attitudes or career limiting moves, you’ll be distinguishing yourself by winning BIG GAMES that take performance to extraordinary new levels. Since business results matter, getting noticed for results will set the stage for your accelerated rise to the top. First find your BIG GAME, then play it to win it. In the next chapter you’ll learn how to play to win your BIG GAME. <br />What to Remember<br />Find Your Big Game<br />
People who get noticed for results, get noticed for promotions. You have to show everyone that you can take current performance to extraordinary new levels.
The future executive digs deeper into the question “Does the work we are doing matter to anyone other than us?” He pursues two truths: