Sunday, October 05, 2003

4qtr2003 - Feature Article: How's Your "Two-Minute" Drill?

"It's the 4th quarter ALREADY?" she screamed. "Oh no - I've got waaaay too much to do! I'll NEVER finish in time!" These were the words of one harried executive who lost track of time somewhere between the end of summer and beginning of autumn. (Hmmm, might that be why they call it 'fall' - as we're in for a big one come review time if we don't get cracking?! ) No surprise then that the mantra for so many this time of year is "So much to do and so little time." Fortunately there are some lessons-to-be-learned from the goings on around us, especially now that football season is in full swing. That's right, the keys to success can be yours if you can just develop (and run) a really crisp Two-Minute Drill.

Simply put, a Two-Minute Drill is a bold, accelerated series of plays that are designed for those urgent moments when you realize it's almost over. Let's look at what they do it on the gridiron.

They Watch the Clock - Football players know how much time is left in a game - right down to the number of seconds. And they know how to use the clock to their very best advantage. Maybe it's by calling a time out, or the quarterback spiking the ball, or running the ball out of bounds. They realize that to be successful they must execute an effective drive within the time available for them to do so. Scoring a touchdown after the game is over simply doesn't count. It's a notion that can be generalized. General George Patton did exactly that when he said, "A good plan executed today is better than a perfect plan executed at some indefinite point in the future." Time DOES matter. Two business examples further illustrate the point:
  • I was scheduled to give a Board-level presentation but needed some key data from a direct report. He had a firm 1:30pm deadline … and missed it. That he had the data ready for me by 2:05 was no help whatsoever because the meeting had already started and I was first on the agenda. Afterwards, we talked.
  • I was subsequently scheduled to attend another Board meeting and needed some key data from that same direct report. He was again given a firm 1:30pm deadline … and missed it. But before lunch he told me he might not be ready so he wanted me to have some related information that might be helpful in its stead. It was - incredibly so. File that one under: a lot of the time, something is a whole lot better than nothing.

They Play Smart - With less than two minutes left in the game, a set of quick passes to the sidelines is often what's best. But other times, there's nothing better than a run right up the gut. Leveraging the entire playing field, and all the options available to you, is an essential 4qtr skill. Who on your staff is ready for that breakout play? Remember it may just be someone you wouldn't ordinarily suspect. Too, a straight line may be to shortest path between two points, but in business - as in football - your ability to zig and zag around the obstacles is what ultimately determines your success. Don't be afraid to take risks; manage them.

They Know the Score - In the last two minutes, every player on both teams knows what's needed. If they're behind, they know how many points they need, whether it's a touchdown, that and a two-point conversion, a field goal, and/or any combination thereof. So too in business, it's imperative that you know the score - that you know what's needed to win. And it's not always about smash-mouth football, either. Sometimes it's about precision and finesse:

  • When you're asked for a crisp, one-page memo, don't turn in a beautifully detailed report instead. Sure you can offer that up as an extra, but if the request is for a "crisp ONE-PAGE memo" how is NOT providing that a good thing? What does that say about you knowing the score?
  • When you're asked for a "detailed assessment" of a situation, don't just throw together some random thoughts. Sure they're intended as conversation-starters, but again, look at what you were asked for and play the game accordingly.

At year end, there's typically a big push to finish things up (or in some cases, get things going). Be sure you understand what's expected and what's being requested from you. (And be sure that what you're expecting and requesting from others is properly understood, as well.) If you're not sure, ask. That way you can appropriately calibrate your work effort and they can appropriately calibrate theirs. You'll be amazed at the time everyone can save and the appreciation that flows from clearly communicating. And remember, if a field goal is all you need, bring in the kicker. And if it's a touchdown, go for it with everything you've got!


4qtr2003 - Ask the Coach: Better Employee Feedback

Question: I know that feedback is important for employees. How do you know how much feedback to provide?

Answer: What a great question! At its crux, it's a function of whether the message you intended to be received by an employee is the same as the message the employee actually received. Think about how you could determine that. How do you know that you know? Don't just rely on your 'gut instinct' to tell you - that's not a good litmus for these types of things. Try this instead - ask and then listen. "You know I'm not sure if I said that right," you could say, "What did it sound like I was saying?" It can be as simple as that!

I remember one time I met with an employee and thought my message was crisp, clear, and to the point. But when I checked in with him about it, he heard something entirely different! (I thought I was complimenting him; he thought I was nit-picking.) Another time I didn't even open my mouth before an employee said, "I know what you're going to say, Barry, so you don't have to say it." I didn't know if she did or didn't, though, so I asked her to explain it to me. She then proceeded, without hesitation, to explain EXACTLY what I was thinking, why it was important, and what changes to her behavior were warranted as a result. And she did it in a way that was far more articulate than anything I was planning on saying to her!

Bottom Line: You know when you know when they tell you so.

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4qtr2003 - Great Things I Didn't Say!

  • "The fearless are merely fearless. People who act in spite of their fear are truly brave." - James A. LaFond-Lewis
  • "There are two ways of spreading light; to be the candle or the mirror that reflects is." - Edith Wharton
  • "You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing that we call 'failure' is not the falling down, but the staying down." - Mary Pickford
  • "Real development is not leaving things behind, as a on a road, but drawing life from them, as from a root." - G.K. Chesterton
  • "Having a good time is the most neglected aspect of good health." - Julia Child
  • "If in the last few years you haven't discarded a major opinion or acquired a new one, check your pulse. You may be dead." - Gelett Burgess
  • "I think the one lesson I have learned is that there is no substitute for paying attention." - Diane Sawyer