Train and subway stations often have signs that warn travelers to “mind the gap” (the space between the platform and the tracks) to prevent accidents. In business, owners and Visionaries should also “mind the gap” between their expectations and reality. Otherwise, that gap can frustrate other leaders and damage the team’s health.
How the Gap Happens
During every session, my business clients grade their prior quarter (or year). They also make predictions (Rocks and goals) about what they can accomplish in the future. Some clients are better predictors than others, but they still have a gap between expectations and reality.
In a recent client session, leaders of a successful, growing business struggled with big variations in their monthly and quarterly revenue forecasts. At the beginning of each month and quarter, they’d have rosy forecasts and high expectations.
Inevitably, month after month, the team missed ambitious revenue targets. Disappointed, they’d make excuses and rationalize their shortcomings. The tragedy was that the team had experienced impressive growth, but because of the gap, they didn’t get to enjoy their success.
In each of our sessions, we conduct an extensive issues-solving exercise called Identify, Discuss, and Solve (IDS™). During this particular IDS session, one leader became emotional.
The leader tearfully told the company’s founder and Visionary: “I feel that when I give you forecasts, they’re never enough. I try to tell you the truth, but you always challenge me to raise them. Over time, it became easier to just tell you what you want to hear.”
Only then did the Visionary realize they’d created a culture of “yes (wo)men.” How had things gone so off course?
Bridging the Gap
If you’re a Visionary founder/owner, do you have high expectations for your team? Of course you do! Every Visionary is naturally wired to see potential and opportunity.
The problems start when the rest of the team, wrestling with day-to-day issues, tries to explain them to the Visionary. The Visionary has to willingly listen to the team’s detailed and honest assessments of the business’s challenges.
When members of a team cannot (or will not) acknowledge the challenges facing the business, big issues get buried. This lack of acknowledgment often breeds other issues because the roots of the “Issues Tree” always grow branches. I often see a breakdown in team trust at the root of issues when leaders don’t feel they can speak honestly about them.
How can teams bridge this “trust gap?” In The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni describes how vulnerability-based trust is essential for constructive conflict and healthy debate among members of a team.
EOS Tools for the Gap
In annual planning sessions, companies Running on EOS™ learn how to use The Trust Builders™. This set of tools and exercises helps team members learn how to listen to each other and strengthen trust. Conducting a Trust Builder each quarter breaks down interpersonal barriers. This enables team members to be more open and honest with one another and tackle tough issues.
The Meeting Pulse™ discipline offers teams another way to “mind the gap.” During annual and quarterly planning sessions and in weekly Level 10 Meetings™, they strengthen their skills to openly discuss expectations that will hopefully close the gap.
Healthy, trusting teams find that any differences in expectations surface quickly. From there, they can IDS any issues that arise so everyone can be on the same page.
Does your team have differences in expectations for the business? The EOS Toolbox™ has many ways to help you mind the gap.