This article originally appeared on Forbes.
Several years ago, I looked around my company and saw a lot of unnecessary drama and a lack of communication between departments. When I read Verne Harnish’s Scaling Up, I recognized a lot of the challenges facing us were actually very common and were major contributing factors preventing companies from reaching $10M+ growth.
Lawline is no longer a startup. We were nearing our 9th year of business last year and grew to be the largest provider of online continuing legal education. We worked hard at building a great culture and prided ourself in winning several awards in this area. However, something was broken and needed to be fixed if we wanted to be healthy and grow.
I wanted to impart all the knowledge I learned in Scaling Up to my company. However, giving the book to the entire company and expecting them to apply what they read would be like giving someone a French language textbook and asking them to become fluent. Just as it is helpful to have a teacher when learning a new language, I hired a coach to take the principles in the book and apply them to our company.
It has now been 4 years year since we have been working with Mark Green, our Gazelles coach, and the ultimate theme is one of transformation. We were able to move from a good organization to one with clear direction, purpose, open communication and transparency. Direct outcomes include our highest revenue year in our history, the launch of our biggest technology platform and record growth again forecasted for this year. Below is a brief recap of our story.
After the leadership team’s first meeting with our coach, it became clear why we were stuck. There was a lack of trust and an inability to execute effectively on project after project. The first exercise we did was a trust exercise and we rated ourselves 3 out of 10. The second was an accountability exercise where we had 3 people accountable for each function. When we did planning for 3 year goals, 1 year initiatives, and 3 month priorities it was clear what we had done in the past was not true planning.
The company was prone to drama. Our solution? Getting the right people in the right seats.
Our coach explained that in order for the company to grow, the best CEOS make tough decisions about people. There was a lack of trust in the organization and more specifically between my COO and I. Using our new language, we created four tools from Scaling to help us put the right people in the right seats and get rid of drama.
1.Core Values – We used our newly formed core values to have conversations with people when they were not following what we held to be most important to our company’s culture. For example, if someone consistently violated the core value “care,” we began to look deeper into whether they were the right fit for the organization.
2. Job Scorecards – We created job scorecards that help us focus on the goals and outcomes of the position and see does this outcome fit the right person in the right seat. Specifically, what my COO was hired for 2 years before no longer aligned with the outcome of his current role and it became clear to us both that he was no longer the right fit for the organization.
3. Quarterly Priorities – We set individual quarterly priorities for everyone in the company to hold people accountable to goals to see if they were the right person in the right seat.
4. Core Purpose – We used our newly formed Core Purpose to help inform what decisions we were going to make with clear direction and alignment with what the company was meant to do.
There was a lack of communication, so we aligned each department.
Before we tried anything new, our coach made the leadership team do it for up to 3 months on our own until we bought in and got through the kinks. We not only did this with core values and quarterly priorities, we also did this with daily huddles and weekly meetings. This helped the leadership team slow down, be thoughtful and get it right. When we expanded the daily huddles and weekly meetings to the entire company, real transparency and understanding began to emerge across all teams.
After a year working with our coach, I asked my team for feedback of the progression of the company. The overall consensus is that we have completely transformed by focusing on 3 major areas 1) transparency of information, 2) alignment of departments, and 3) active participation by creating a forum for employees to share their concerns or challenge without fear.
If you are currently going through a rough patch in your company, the right book or coach can move you forward much faster than you would on your own. I am grateful to have both as a resource and hope the above will provide you enough insight to take action today.