S2E11: TRACTION | Rocks, Priorities, Accountability

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S2E11: TRACTION | Rocks, Priorities, Accountability
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Today I want to address a critical issue that affects the scalability of our businesses. Chris Naylor recently shared a statistic that only 20% of the population sets goals, and of that 20%, 70% fail to achieve those goals. No wonder it’s challenging to scale a company. 

The good news is, Rocks are your solution. Today, I’m going to explain why setting Rocks is the key to increasing traction and accountability within your business. So what are Rocks? In the world of EOS®, Rocks are big, important priorities that propel organizations forward.

They are 90-day priorities that act as our guiding lights. 

Just like a serene garden, Rocks are the solid stones we strategically place to build the foundation of our business. They are the must-do priorities that drive progress and push our organization toward its goals. It’s also helpful to think of Rocks like a construction project…

When you tackle one big task at a time, like pouring a solid foundation or erecting a sturdy frame, you make significant progress. But if you try to do everything at once, you’re going to end up with a chaotic mess. You have to use your Rocks to funnel your team’s energy and focus on your top priorities.

So let’s discuss the benefits of setting Rocks. If you’ve never heard the term, please know that Verne Harnish is the originator of the term Rocks. Stephen Covey popularized it, and we all benefit by having them. First and foremost, Rocks provide clarity and focus by identifying the most important priorities relative to accomplishing your annual goals. 

They align your entire organization toward common objectives, minimizing distractions and ensuring everyone is working toward the same thing. When you set specific Rocks, you also create accountability. Every Rock has an owner who takes responsibility for its completion. That person ensures that progress is tracked and results are achieved.

This sense of ownership fuels progress and keeps us on track. Additionally, Rocks create a sense of urgency and drive progress by setting achievable, yet challenging, 90-day priorities. This way, we maintain momentum and achieve tangible results within a reasonable time frame. 

Setting Rocks also fosters alignment among team members because it encourages cross-functional cooperation and ensures everyone is working toward shared objectives. Successfully completing Rocks boosts morale and provides a sense of accomplishment. It fuels motivation and increases confidence to tackle the future challenges as well. 

They are three-week to 90-day priorities, and when you’re setting them it’s a short enough period of time that we can stay focused and directed toward them, but it’s also a long enough period of time that we can accomplish something significant.

So, let’s say you’re ready to set your first set of Rocks. How do you do so effectively? 

First, identify your top priorities for your business this quarter. What projects or initiatives absolutely must be completed? What are those things that are time sensitive and mission critical? Those become your Rocks. In EOS, we recommend taking on three to seven Rocks every quarter. Any more than that, you won’t get them completed. You want to do less, better. 

Next, ensure your Rocks are SMART. SMART means specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. This framework sets you up for success. You create a clear, detailed action plan that allows you to track your progress and break down Rocks into attainable tasks, or – as many people call them – milestones.

Remember that only one person can be accountable for a Rock. When two people are accountable, no one is, so make sure that one person is driving everything to completion. That way, you can look that person in the eye and say, “We are counting on you to complete this.” Of course, you might need help and input from other people. Somebody’s name must be on the line should it be off track. You have to own it. 

Now, I like to digress a little bit because when I’m teaching people this concept, I will often say it like this, “Accountability can never be delegated.” If I’m accountable for something, it’s my watch, it’s mine. Responsibility, the roles, and the milestones (the progress) can always be delegated.

But if something doesn’t happen and that Rock is not complete, it’s on me, not the people who didn’t do it.

Once your leadership team has become good and effective at setting Rocks, you should hit and complete 80% or better every single quarter. You then roll out your Rocks to the rest of the company. 

The different levels of Rocks include company Rocks. These are the overarching Rocks that point straight to your 1-Year Plan. Departmental Rocks are really more tailored to one or another area within your company. And Individual Rocks might involve professional development. They could be something where that person sets a Rock to learn a new skill or to become a better leader or manager in a very specific way.

Setting Rocks throughout the entire organization at all levels ensures everyone is working toward the greater good of the company. As you bring Rocks into your organization, make sure you look out for the common pitfalls…

Accountability gaps can arise if Rocks are not assigned to a specific owner or they’re not tracked consistently in your Level 10 Meeting every single week. We have to communicate effectively to avoid misalignment and conflicting priorities. Sometimes when we each have Rocks, they actually overlap in some ways. So you have to plan them out and have clear communication to discover that early on. That’s where your EOS Level 10 Meeting comes in…

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You have to report on your Rock’s status every week, declaring it either on track, meaning it is where it should be as intended at this part of the process, or off track. Then drop any off-track Rocks onto your Issues List for discussion immediately. Why? Because Rocks are your biggest priorities for the organization, your team, or you as an individual during this 90-day period. 

You can’t get into discussions and debates about how much work you had to do. That’s because they bring your future into reality. Think of it this way, your work today was your Rocks yesterday. We have to get that clear with our teams because it isn’t additional work. It is breaking down our future goals and eating a bite of that elephant one bite at a time every 90 days. 

The next common pitfall is too many Rocks. They can overwhelm you. That’s why you never choose more than three to seven Rocks at the leadership team level. And I argue with my leadership teams to really keep them toward three because that’s plenty.

You still have the normal course of business that you are doing and all of your regular day-to-day activities. For everyone else in the company, they should have one, two, maybe three Rocks because they are heavily involved in transacting the business of your business. Prioritize and commit to the least number of Rocks that truly move the needle.

Again, less is more. Setting Rocks well is crucial for maintaining focus, accountability, and momentum within the company. It ensures everyone’s working toward shared goals, maximizing productivity, and driving tangible results. What it does is create a clear line of sight for every person in the company.

And when people ask me, “Oh, should a receptionist or a truck driver or a forklift driver or our customer service agent, should they have a Rock?” I say, “Yes, everybody should have Rocks.” Anyone with a Rock is a better employee when they can see that what they’re doing is really benefiting the greater good of the company, their team, or themselves as an individual. 

When they know that they helped move the needle, it gives them clarity. It also bolsters their confidence because many hands make light work. Your Rocks should cascade from company to department and from department to individual, so that there’s a waterfall effect, with many hands breaking down the company Rocks throughout all the levels of your organization.

I encourage you to identify your Rocks. Focus on them with unwavering dedication for the next 90 days and watch your organization flourish. It’s the right Rocks, set within the right time frame, that will take you to new heights in your business journey. 

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About The Strong in Six Podcast

Entrepreneurs face many of the same kinds of challenges. Many of these challenges fall into one of the five most common frustrations, but all of them center around one of six key components of entrepreneurial businesses.

The Strong in Six podcast encourages business leaders to have open and honest conversations about those pain points and brings their stories to you. Learn from the real-world experiences, practical wisdom, and timeless truths told by subject matter experts as they reveal proven systems and tools that can help solve those challenges forever.  

Sit down with Strong in Six podcast host and Expert EOS Implementer® Sue Hawkes as she answers real questions from everyday entrepreneurs and chats with experts. If you’re up for the challenge, join us and get strong in the Six Key Components™ of your business.

About Sue Hawkes

Sue Hawkes is a bestselling author, award-winning leader, Expert EOS Implementer, Certified Business Coach, WPO Chapter Chair, and globally recognized award-winning seminar leader who helps CEOs and their leadership teams succeed. Sue brings over twenty-five years of business experience to her clients, and as CEO of YESS! has designed and delivered dynamic, transformational programs for thousands of people. Sue’s passion is helping people design and live successful, fulfilling lives through powerful leadership, effective communication, no-nonsense coaching, and healthy teamwork.

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