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Les McKeown's Predictable Success Blog

  • November 20, 2022
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The 4 Hidden Steps to Achieving Real Change 

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A version of this article first appeared in Inc.com

Listen to Les McKeown read this blog post:

One of the most enjoyable aspects of running a small, fast-growing organization is the direct correlation between thought and action: a chance 90-second morning elevator ride with a colleague produces a decision before the doors open, action before lunch, and results to discuss in the elevator ride back down that evening.

With a small, tight team, the organization grows to the rhythm of ‘think it, do it, done’.

But as the organization grows and complexity creeps in, the ability to link thought to action, and action to results seems to wilt.

If I had a dollar for every time a leader has said something to the effect of ‘When I put my foot on the gas pedal, the car doesn’t go forward any more‘…well, you can complete the cliche as well as I.

The main reason leaders in a growing organization lose the ability to translate their decisions into real change centers around the growth of that dreaded institution, the meeting.

Here’s why that happens, and four steps to fix it: 

1. A meeting isn’t a decision.

Remember the days when ‘meetings’ were chance encounters in the hallway (or in elevators)? When you couldn’t have gotten five people in one room if you’d tried, because the team was so small – and too busy actually doing stuff?

And now…well, now it seems like your agenda is utterly dominated by meetings. Formal and informal, virtual and in-person, postponed, rescheduled, overlapping and above all, interminable, meetings appear to have become the very bedrock on which your organization sits.

And in the midst of these endless meetings, it’s easy to believe that just by having them, by the very act of getting through them, we’ve accomplished something. Which of course we haven’t – because a meeting isn’t in itself a decision, it’s just a meeting.

Keep a log for the next week: how many of the meetings you participate in produce clear, agreed, meaningful decisions? 

More to the point, how many of the meetings you sat through could be abolished without harm (and perhaps great benefit) to the organization’s overall decision-making ability?

"The main reason leaders in a growing organization lose the ability to translate their decisions into real change centers around the growth of that dreaded institution, the meeting." - Les McKeown, Founder and CEO, Predictable Success

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2. A decision isn’t an action.

Getting meaningful decisions out of interminable meetings is so difficult – and so rare – that on the few occasions it does happen, guess what happens next?

Yup – giddy at the triumph we’ve just accomplished, the participants (especially Visionary leaders) rush to the next meeting, carrying with them an inner glow of achievement.

Except that, at this point, nothing has yet been achieved. And until the decision is translated into action, nothing will.

Pull out that meeting log again: How many of the decisions you’ve been party to this week were translated into delegated actions, with a specific individual held accountable to report back on implementation in an agreed timeframe?

3. An action isn’t a result.

Here’s the dirty little secret of decision-making in a meeting-dominated environment: our schedules are all so crazy-busy, in order to make our lives easier we make a subliminal pact with each other.

It goes like this: In our world of over-scheduled overwhelm, actually completing delegated actions on time is deemed an achievement.

As a result, reporting on the completion of actions equals success. So relieved (and surprised) are we to hear someone report back on real, honest-to-goodness front line activity, that little time is spent discussing whether or not the actions produced a result.

Back to your meeting log: In how many meetings was time spent dispassionately analyzing actions taken, to better understand the actual results of those actions?

4. A result isn’t change.

Finally, how often have you watched a group of people in a meeting fall on a documented result (an increase in customers, say, or a reduction in inventory) like an oasis in a parched desert?

And yet a result is just that – a single event, one which may or may not be sustainable and repeatable.

The purpose of meetings – those that actually have a purpose, that is – is to effect change, and change can only be measured over time. 

Yet, buoyed by the rare sense of having accomplished something with just one result, so often we allow our meetings to drop items off the agenda because we managed to make one thing happen, one time.

How often can you say in a meeting ‘Looky here – we effected real, material change in our organization by doing this‘?

You may need to keep your meeting log for somewhat longer than a week to measure that one.

What About You? What steps have you instigated to achieve real change within your own organization?

Let Me Know In The Comments Below!



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    1. Thank you for reaching out. In brief, I am interpreting my organization as my personal (family, lifestyle) and career as an organization.

      I have painstakingly made a decision (not a quick process for me) to reside in my hometown as opposed to NYC where the bulk of my career experience was acquired. My reasoning for this is the proximity to family. Nevertheless, the job market (for my field) is sparce.

      I understand that patience is key, however, the projection for an increase in jobs isn't strong. I have resorted to taking jobs as an Uber driver, etc. My main concern is that my skillset is wide, however, despite applications to jobs outside of my field there has been minimal interest.

      I have children here, they were also here during my years in NYC where I served primarily and a financial figure. Of course, there so remains many opportunities in NYC, but at this point to my delayed maturation as a father, it would not be ideal to leave. This has been the most troubling aspect for me seeing my focus on my career. Prior to now the career has come first.

      As it stands now, I am demoralized and now pessimistic with the possibility of a continuation of my career which has been instrumental in the future college interests of my eldest son. There is a irregularity in my schedule, which I personally think is unhealthy for me seeing my personal struggles with self acceptance and use (which has declined from where it use to be) .

      Now to your question, my was steps for real change and success has been the following:

      1. Try to remain physically active (can reach a excessive level)
      2. Try meet the needs of family (something I personally think I'll never be satisfied with regarding my ability and
      3. Continually apply for jobs with those related to my skillset and experience being primary. It could be interpreted as pride or laziness seeing that I don't apply to any job, however, my experience has been rejection for those positions where why qualifications exceed. Companies would rather not invest in someone that could potentially leave for a more relevant opportunity. As of recent I have applied to Craigslist labor/gigs and am awaiting g responses; al the whole jobs outside of the my state tricke in daily.

      Yes, this I not an ideal situation and extremely frustrating. This could explain the lack of a lengthier list; having a job since age 14 my foundation has started with that as money is essentail to providing and enabling others.

      Sorry this turned out being a little more lengthy than I intended, but I can provide me color in the future.

      In short, I am at a point where the question is what can I be, will an opportunity come that can cover my expenses and debt and will it continue to catalyzes those around me. If you asked me who am I 2 years ago 90% would be from my schooling and experience afterwards; it shaped me, defined me and now…… I am just looking to be utilized while figuring out what it is to be a present father and person outside of the position.

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