Managing a team of employees is never simple, even when everything is going great. One thing many executives find is that their long-term vision for the company is often hindered by the lack of day-to-day direction. You can’t get from A to Z without connecting to every point in between, but sometimes teams get so distracted putting out daily fires that they lose sight of the goal.
What does this look like for an executive? Generally, it might mean that deadlines are not being met or that work/output does not meet the organization’s goals. Employees get so bogged down in daily tasks that they often derail the initial intention of the project (e.g. working on a software issue instead of focusing on project tasks, thereby delaying work).
When this happens, executives are often at a loss to find ways to “bridge the gap.”
So how do you get employees to target their daily tasks towards a larger goal? And how do you get employees to see the big picture without getting overwhelmed? The short answer is: you don’t. You can’t change the way someone works overnight, or sometimes ever. But what you can do is work with their styles and create goals that actually boost progress and confidence in a team or an employee.
Task Assignment to Fit Long-Term Goals
Any goal-setting guru will tell you that larger goals have to be broken down into “digestible” pieces; nobody can run a marathon without building up to it. Treat any long-term project for your company the same way. Focus on breaking your goals into tasks by employee or department and then making sure that those tasks are understood and delivered.
To break your long-term goals up into short-term tasks, executives should:
1. Focus on task delegation.
Early on, executives learn that it’s important to clearly and accurately assign and delegate tasks to the appropriate people. You can’t do everything yourself, so make sure someone else can do it just as well or better than you can. When you have a long-term goal in mind, this aspect of your position is even more important: you have to find people who will carry the torch to the finish.
2. Know the team.
You need to know your team’s work styles in order to accurately assign tasks (or develop a system that allows them to do their best work). Ask yourself: Does this person have a short-term mind or a long-term focus? Are they better with more precise tasks or can their delegations be more nebulous? Create a project task list (or have someone do it for you) that highlights what each team member is responsible for. Either you or they can break those tasks down more to fit their work style.
3. Tie it all in.
Hold occasional meetings to refocus people’s attention on the finish line. Not only will this be a great time to address any areas that are slowing down, but it also provides a “pep talk” to show people why they’re doing the work. They’ll go back to work knowing that their specific task will eventually lead to your long-term goal.
4. Keep checking in.
If there is a specific department or employee that seems to be the source of most delays, check in. Make sure that the department/employee gets their questions answered and that they have clear deliverables laid out. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of meeting their needs before they can meet yours.
Because executives are usually “big picture people,” they often have a different work style. They can see what’s not working in a company and what needs to change to get from A to Z. But employees are the ones doing a lot of the hard work to get the company from A to Z.
The best way to meet long-term goals, then, is by respecting their work and also creating systems that make it easier for them to do it. When you do that, employees will be able to fulfill your long-term goals. All you have to do is figure out how to break your goals down so that everyone can do their part.