I've been speaking to a lot of founders in scaling businesses recently.

When they talk about challenges they face, they often talk about a common frustration:

"I can't get people in the business focussed on the right things."

It's a challenge that goes directly to the heart of companies. How to bring people together to work towards shared goals in a business.

And the solution lies in dissecting the problem into two parts.

Start with thinking about the "right things".

As a founder you could tell people what those right things are.

Giving specific direction is right for some contexts like a short term crisis.  Beyond that, telling people what to do limits their personal growth and doesn't scale well.

There's a better way. Make sure people know enough about what the business wants to achieve. Help them interpret how their role contributes to this.

Then let them work out what the right things are.

This builds their capacity, reduces founder dependence and is a lot more scalable. It also helps increase team engagement in their work.

In practice there are a few things you can do as a founder to help:

  • tell the company vision story...a lot. Find many different ways to explain. Ensure they resonate with different people, cultures and attitudes.
  • articulate clear goals for teams and individuals. Use timeframes that are right for those teams and individual. The more experienced the team member or the more mature the team, the longer the timeframe can be.
  • share information as transparently as you can. If you want people to make good decisions, don't keep information secret.
  • think about guard rails for people deciding on the right things. Start with tight guard rails.  Then incrementally pull them back as your trust in their confidence and competence grows.

And then the second part is about getting people focussed.

The truth is you can't do this. There is no way for you to force it.

Create a working environment that nudges people towards getting focussed themselves. For founders this means:

  • thinking about how to tap into intrinsic motivations. Don't rely too heavily on crude extrinsic motivators.
  • communicating and celebrating behaviours that demonstrate focus on behaviours and acheivements that contribute positively
  • taking away distractions and unnecessary "busy" work. Be laser focussed on what matters. Strip back relentlessly.
  • developing a culture of candour and give feedback often. Don't let interpersonal problems fester or pretend they don't exist.
  • ensuring roles are clearly defined with boundaries that are widely understood. Incoherent or overlapping role accountabilities cause a lack of focus.

Use the B3 framework® to help diagnose root cause issues that might be behind misalignment or lack of focus.

What I see most behind lack of focus in teams is either a lack of clear communication about the creating a foundation and making a business layers or an absence of adequate thinking by founders about roles, structure and governance.

As a founder you'll never stop iterating these things. Over time you can delegate and share the load of keeping people and teams focussed, but remember it's a process not a one-off task.

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