Once a target is set in a business, for most leaders it’s a natural tendency to jump right into the business of hitting it – in other words, massing the effort and “push” needed to achieve what Jim Collins (“Good to Great”) called the “Flywheel Effect“.
I’ve always liked the flywheel analogy, because it’s a great mental image of how a business gets from Point A to Point B. Getting a flywheel started takes a lot of effort – you push, and you push, and you push. Then, it becomes a little easier to turn it. And finally, it starts to generate momentum all on its own, and suddenly, what once took so much effort becomes effortless, and self-sustaining. You’re “in the groove”.
We all understand this concept, whether we picture a flywheel or not – how we start a goal-hitting process is critically important.
Because of this understanding, we often just want to hit the “go” button and start pushing, immediately focusing on execution. That is, getting your team to start “doing” their assigned tasks, all the way down the line. It sounds elementary enough – that’s how the flywheel gets pushed.
But there is another element that should be considered – something that, if done at the outset, will provide a lot of “grease” to help the flywheel get up to cruising speed a heck of a lot faster.
It involves the essence of good leadership – in fact, it’s inspired by the very definition of the word “leader”: Showing The Way
It’s the process of:
- Connecting the goals with the values of the business
- Distilling that connection into a simple message
- Pushing that message down to EVERY person
- Reinforcing the message, relentlessly
Here’s another way to look at it: Going from just “do this” to “do this, here’s why, and here’s what’s in it for you“
Imagine the “grease” effect of everyone knowing what the main goals are, how they are connected with the core values of the business, and how the achievement of those goals will positively effect them, well beyond their paycheck. That’s total enterprise alignment.
The Flywheel Effect will be so much easier to achieve.
But here’s the kicker – it takes time to “inject” the grease. And time is valuable. So even if you just KNEW this process needed to be done, you still might not do it.
“Not enough time to focus on the ‘soft’ stuff”
“We’ll just have to do that later, and push ahead now”
“Go, go, go go – or else”
Don’t succumb to this strong temptation. The grease is worth your time. It is worth the extra effort. The time you spend now will be paid back to you many times over, when the flywheel is moving effortlessly much faster than anyone thought, and those goals that seemed so hard to get are being hit, surpassed, and re-set again.
All because you decided to lead, instead of just manage.
This was a valuable lesson for me, and I can tell you from first-hand experience, it really does make a difference. I’ll be getting more specific about how “grease” and the Flywheel Effect worked for me in future posts.