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The 4 Disciplines That Will Make You Win In Business

Interview with Chris McChesney

Episode Description

Does running your business feel like you’re caught in a whirlwind?

That ringing phone, the unexpected appointment, the stuff piling up from last week? Urgent matters keep popping up. All the while, more important things like growing your company gets pushed aside.

You know the answer lies in getting help from your team, but trying to get your team to do something new in the midst of the whirlwind is extremely difficult. To be successful, you’ll need more than compliance; you’ll need commitment. You must find a way to rally your team’s hearts and minds together so they can execute in the midst of the daily grind.

Today, you’ll discover the solution to that problem. I sit down with Chris McChesney, co-author of The 4 Disciplines of Execution (4DX). He and his team implemented and refined these disciplines with over fifteen hundred companies before writing this book so they’re very confident these strategies will work for you.

Trying to change the behaviors of the people around you is one of the biggest challenges you’ll ever face. With the 4 Disciplines of Execution, you can rest assured you’re implementing a proven method. Once everyone is moving together in one direction, you and your team will no longer be tending to urgent matters only. Instead, you’ll be achieving goals and moving the company forward in exciting ways.

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Discipline #1: Focus on the Wildly Important Goal (WIG)

As a business leader, you’ve probably encountered this principle:

The more you try to do, the less you accomplish.

That’s why your WIG is not this year’s version of your goals.

“This is not a shotgun,” Chris says. “Nor is it a process for managing your whole operation. It’s a rifle to aim at your strategic bottleneck.”

It’s one endeavor that, if everyone applies the four disciplines to it, will transform your company, Chris explains. If you create a graph with your x-axis representing how strategically critical a behavior or activity is, and your y-axis showing how at risk it is of failing, then the plot point in the upper right-hand corner is a really good candidate for your WIG.

By intensely focusing on one wildly important goal, you’ll see far more results in your company or team than you ever would by simply working longer and harder.

The important part to remember is to choose just one. Chris cautions it’s better to choose the wrong WIG and go after it than choose three or four good things and lose momentum.

“It’s about getting narrow and it’s about getting clear,” Chris says.

By intensely focusing on one wildly important goal, you’ll see far more results in your company or team than you ever would by simply working longer and harder.

Discipline #2: Act on the Lead Measures

Have you ever received your child’s report card and been unpleasantly surprised?

Lag measures are like your kid’s grades at school. They do a good job of measuring your child’s performance at school but they arrive too late to do anything about them.

Chris calls it an “Oh, cool,” or an “Oh, crap,” measure. Those numbers are history. In business, lag measures are things like revenue, quality, customer satisfaction or profit.

It’s a rare parent who knows what Sarah’s current homework average is or how many hours Sarah spent studying last week, Chris says, but that’s where you should focus if you want to ensure Sarah’s grades are the best they can be.

In business, rather than trying to sell more or increase customer satisfaction, aim at something more tangible that actually delivers those results. They are called lead measures and they have two requirements:

In business, rather than trying to sell more or increase customer satisfaction, aim at something more tangible that actually delivers those results.

  • They are predictors of success. For example, in weight loss, counting the calories you’ve eaten would be a predictive measure because you know if you stay under a target number, you’re going to lose weight.
  • You can directly influence them. In a grocery store, weekly out-of-stock numbers would be an influencing measure because a manager would be able to work with his team to reduce out-of-stock items.

“The definitions around lead measures become very important so they’ve got to do both things,” Chris says.

We’re hardwired to fixate on the lag measures, he points out, but if you discipline yourself to act on the lead measures, you’ll influence your results.

Discipline #3: Keep a Compelling Scoreboard

After you’ve identified your WIG and you’re acting on your lead measures, it’s time to go live.

Create a scoreboard and let your team in on the score. Even better, let them design the scoreboard. At Franklin Covey, they have a web-based scoreboard with red, yellow, and green indicators for the lag and lead measures. Whoever sets it up should make it so simple that anyone can see in a glance what the score is in real time.

People play differently when they’re keeping score. If you want to get the highest level of engagement from your team, set up a winnable game they understand.

“For human beings, this is very important,” Chris says. The lag and lead measures won’t have much meaning to the team unless they’re able to see whether they’re winning or losing in the moment.

If players 1) know the score, 2) see they can influence the lead measure, and 3) know the lead measure moves the lag, then you’ve got a winnable game. You’ve created a system that will motivate your team to propel your business forward.

People play differently when they’re keeping score. If you want to get the highest level of engagement from your team, set up a winnable game they understand.

Discipline #4: Create a Cadence of Accountability

Disciplines 1, 2, and 3 are about defining the objectives and rules of the game. Discipline 4 is about playing the game.

“It’s everybody, one at a time, reporting on and making commitments this week,” Chris says.

Create a rhythm of regular accountability meetings that focus on your WIG. They should:

  • • Happen at least weekly.
  • • Be short — no longer than 20 minutes.
  • • Consist of team members holding each other accountable to their commitments to move the score.

Create a rhythm of regular accountability meetings that focus on your WIG.

In a shoe store, you may share how many kids’ feet you measured. Or if you’re a copywriter, it might be how many proposals you sent. Are you going to get 14 new candidate opportunities to call or are you going to go over the script with a team member?

In a truck parts department, you may commit to organize the salvage inventory because you’re getting a lot of parts out of salvage and losing precious time in truck repair. Or it may be to get the mechanics to wear a remote on their belt so they can order a part and keep working. These are real WIG commitments by the way. This company had the lowest truck driver turnover in their history and had the best financials in 12 years.

Discipline 4 brings results home.

If you create a rhythm that reminds your players of the objective and rules of the game, your team will play to win.

“Each team should feel like they’re in a winnable game,” Chris says.

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The whirlwind isn’t going away. But if you and your team focus your energies on these 4 disciplines of execution, those urgent matters will no longer shunt aside the important things that grow your business. You and your team will be playing a game that drives your company forward and helps everyone win.

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