Line-of-Sight: How Great Leaders Get Everyone on the Same Page to Win
09 / 25 / 19

Line-of-Sight: How Great Leaders Get Everyone on the Same Page to Win

At a press conference in late October 2002, following a tough Week 8 loss to the Cleveland Browns, New York Jets head coach, Herm Edwards, gave his now-famous monologue.

When asked by a New York Times reporter about the team’s ability to win in the second half of the season, Edwards answered, "This is what's great about sports. This is what the greatest thing about sports is: You play. To win. The game. Hello? You play to win the game. You don't play it to just play it. That's the great thing about sports: you play to win, and I don't care if you don't have any wins. You go play to win. When you start tellin' me it doesn't matter, then retire. Get out! 'Cause it matters."

You see, in sports like professional football, the goal is clear to everyone on the team—from players and coaches to the owner and front-office staff to the equipment manager. You play. To win. The game.

There's no confusion about the goal. And each of the team's 11 players on the field, at any given time, knows their roles and responsibilities they must consistently fulfill if the team is to achieve its objective.

After the game, each participant knows exactly how they performed with key metrics—number of tackles and interceptions, completion percentage, rushing yards, turnovers, touchdowns, and so forth.

But, in the game of business, the goal is not always clear to everyone on the team. And many employees don’t know where they fit in their company’s overall mission and can’t tell how well (or poorly) they’re performing.

As the long-time venture capitalist John Doerr puts it in his bestselling book, “Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs,” “When people have conflicting priorities or unclear, meaningless, or arbitrarily shifting goals, they become frustrated, cynical, and demotivated.”

So, how can you create a winning dynamic, where everyone on your team gets on the same page—all focused on working together to win?

This is where you apply the principles from Breakthrough Workshop #4: Line-of-Sight, which we’ll unpack for you in this article.

RECAP: The “Collaboration Effect on Profits” Series

If you missed any of the previous articles in this series, here are the links and key takeaways to give you the context you need to get you up to speed. If you’ve already read these articles, feel free to jump right to the next section.

Intro to the Collaboration Effect on Profits

Article: The Collaboration Effect on Profits: How Great Culture Drives Business Results
Key Takeaway: When you create an environment where leadership and rank-and-file employees alike are all working together in their optimal roles toward the same vision, that culture becomes a force multiplier to achieve breakthrough profits.

Breakthrough Workshop #1: What’s the Why?

Article: How Bold Companies Turn Their Courageous Vision into Breakthrough Performance
Key Takeaway: Simon Sinek put it best when he said, "Vision is a destination—a fixed point to which we focus all effort. Strategy is a route—an adaptable path to get us where we want to go." Make sure that your Courageous Vision is a destination that you and your team are willing to work towards together. And then use the "Big 4" strategic business questions to help chart your course.

Breakthrough Workshop #2: Role Optimization

Article: Role Optimization: How Great Leaders Put Together a Winning Lineup
Key Takeaway: When you and your team have a clear understanding of your company’s Why, How and What, the next step: Evaluate everyone's roles and giftedness—to get everyone into their optimal position, all rowing in the same direction.

Breakthrough Workshop #3: Most Important Tasks (MITs)

Article: MITs: How Great Leaders Take Charge of Their To-Do Lists
Key Takeaway: MITs serve as a compass to ensure your work is moving you in the right direction—and guide you on which action items to delegate or cut altogether.

(To receive these articles directly in your inbox, click here.)

Today, we're going to discuss how to keep your company's mission and goals—and progress toward those objectives—in front of your team. This way, they'll be better equipped to prioritize their work and improve their performance.

Workshop #4: Line-of-Sight

Virtue: Attentiveness
Objective: Regularly review progress toward the vision

A common denominator of many underperforming teams is this: Employees have limited (or zero) line-of-sight to the company's metrics, goals, and targets that support the vision.

"Line-of-sight" refers to an employee's ability to understand precisely what the target is and how they, in their individual roles, can help the company reach that goal.

What often happens is that the owner or chief executive may have clear line-of-sight to the vision, but others on the team are left in the dark.

But when team members can see the goal, they are better equipped to take ownership of their role to make sound decisions that help the company, as a whole, to succeed.

As John Doerr writes in “Measure What Matters,” “Contributors are most engaged when they can actually see how their work contributes to the company’s success. Quarter to quarter, day to day, they look for tangible measures of their achievement.”

How do you create an environment that promotes line-of-sight?

The critical point here is to establish a meeting routine where all team members review the key metrics and progress toward the vision.

What should your meeting rhythm and routine look like?

4 Types of Meetings to Improve Line-of-Sight

Patrick Lencioni, in his classic bestseller, “Death by Meeting: A Leadership Fable...About Solving the Most Painful Problem in Business,” provides powerful frameworks for highly productive meetings. We’ve adapted Lencioni’s principles to fit our own internal meeting cadence and to help our clients improve their meeting effectiveness.

He recommends four types of meetings, each with a unique objective, duration, and agenda.

#1. Daily Check-Ins
Think of this meeting as a daily "huddle." Everyone is standing; you don't want anyone sitting down and getting comfortable. Keep the meeting only about five minutes, where you share daily schedules and activities. And don't cancel even when some people can't be there.

“[The Daily Check-in] provides a quick forum for ensuring that nothing falls through the cracks on a given day and that no one steps on anyone else’s toes. Just as important, it helps eliminate the need for unnecessary and time-consuming email chains about schedule coordination,” said Lencioni.

But keep in mind that the Daily Check-in won't necessarily work for every organization. Said Lencioni, "Teams should commit to doing Daily Check-ins for a set period—perhaps two months—before evaluating whether or not they are working."

#2. Weekly Tactical
These meetings run 45 to 90 minutes, where you and your team review weekly activities and metrics and resolve tactical obstacles and issues.

But what’s counterintuitive about the Weekly Tactical is that the leader does not set the agenda until after team members have each given their 60-second report.

“The agenda should be based on what everyone is actually working on and how the company is performing against its goals, not based on the leader’s best guess 48 hours prior to the meeting,” said Lencioni. “Trying to predict the right priorities before these critical pieces of information are reviewed is unwise.”

Lencioni recommends this structure for a successful Weekly Tactical meeting:

Lightning Round
Each key team member gives a 60-second report of what they’re working on that week. “What are the three things you’re doing this week?”

Progress Review
“How did you do last week?”

The Weekly Tactical is designed to give you and your team better visibility—that is, line-of-sight—to ensure that everyone is making progress on the right things.

In a previous article, “MITs: How Great Leaders Take Charge of Their To-Do Lists," we discussed how your most important tasks (MITs) should align with your role and the company's overall vision.

At our internal weekly leadership meetings at Legacy, we go around the table. If you fulfilled all your MITs, you give a thumbs up. And if you didn’t get to all your tasks, you give a thumbs down.

The purpose of this Progress Review portion of the meeting is to create an environment where you take ownership of your performance. After all, you don’t want to arrive at the meeting having to give a thumbs down if you can do anything about it. And excuses will only compound the problem.

But if you’re encountering bottlenecks impeding your progress, the Weekly Tactical can also be a productive forum for collaboration to help solve these challenges to get you—and the entire team—back on track.

Real-Time Agenda
Use the information gathered from the Lightning Round and Progress Review to help you set the agenda in real-time. Limit the conversation to topics that have an immediate impact on tactical issues and goals. So, when a new strategic topic comes up that does not fit the Weekly Tactical, move that to the Monthly Strategic meeting.

#3. Monthly Strategic
Plan on these meetings to run about two to four hours—or as long as a full day, if necessary. Unlike the Weekly Tactical, you should prepare an agenda, limited to one, two or, at most, three topics. The purpose is to discuss, debate, brainstorm, and decide upon critical issues affecting long-term success.

"What is important is that these strategic meetings occur regularly so that they can serve as a timely 'parking lot' for critical strategic issues that come up during the Weekly Tactical meetings. This gives executives the confidence to table critical issues, knowing they will eventually be addressed," said Lencioni.

#4. Quarterly Off-Site Review
The purpose of these meetings is to take one or two days to step back from the daily, weekly, and monthly grind, and review things from a distance.

Possible topics:

  • Changes in the competitive landscape
  • Employee morale
  • Executive team dynamics
  • Top and bottom performers
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Everything that has a long-term impact on the company.

“Executives should regularly assess themselves and their behaviors as a team, identifying trends or tendencies that may not be serving the organization,” said Lencioni. “This often requires a change in scenery so that executives can interact with one another on a more personal level and remind themselves of their collective commitments to the team.”

The Bottom Line

You play. To win. The game.

But, in your business, what does “winning” actually look like?

If team members don’t know what their role or business unit is working towards, how do they know whether they’re making progress? They don’t have a clear target to help guide their decisions—what they should say “Yes” or “No” to—on a day-to-day basis. So, they get distracted by unproductive tasks, turf wars, and office politics, taking their eye off the ball because they don’t know what that “ball” is.

But when employees have clear line-of-sight to the company’s targets—and know what’s expected of them to help reach that goal—they’re better equipped to block out distractions, make good decisions, and focus their efforts to help the team succeed.

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About the Author:  J. David Harper, Jr. serves as CEO and principal of Legacy Advisory Partners, an Atlanta, Georgia-based firm that provides total retirement plan advisory services that give clients a greater competitive advantage to attract and retain top talent. David is also the author of the book “The Great 8: A New Paradigm for Leadership” that teaches business leaders how they can tap into eight timeless “virtues” to expand their influence and achieve sustainable success for their organizations.