If you have a list of top priorities for your company, add this to the top of your list: Make sure the team knows the top priorities.
It may seem obvious that if you announce the top priorities, the team will know them. Don’t assume that. Say you have a slide on top priorities on your beginning of quarter presentation. Maybe someone zoned out for the 30 seconds you spent on it. Maybe someone was confused about something and didn’t speak up. Maybe someone was sick that day and never got the notes.
There are many reasons why people may not know your top priorities. Repeat them. Repeat them. Repeat them.
If you want to see how you’re doing, try this activity we did at CodeHS. It is based on a talk Sam Altman gave at Startup School about company productivity and how alignment is the key to making a team productive.
You know a classic test that I love to give — I’ll ask the founders, “Like, if I walked around and pulled 10 random employees and asked them what the top three goals for the company are right now — would they all say the same thing?” And 100 percent of the time the founder says, “Yes. Of course they would.” Then I’ll go do it and 100 percent of the time, no two employees even say the same three top three goals in order. — Sam Altman
We decided to test this. We held a meeting with our entire team and asked them to separately write down what they think the top 3 priorities for the company are right now.
Then, we compared the results. We made a spreadsheet with the left column being a list of the distinct priorities people wrote. The employees had their own columns with a 1 in the row for each of the three top priorities they each picked.
We felt pretty happy with our results. Everyone on the team chose at least one of the top 3 priorities, and most chose at least 2.
Still, it became very clear that we shouldn’t take for granted that everyone knows exactly what we are thinking. We needed to repeat our top priorities more, so everyone knows where to focus their efforts. We had been giving weekly presentations to the whole team every Monday with general announcements and updates, so we added a slide that’s in there every week about the top 3 company priorities. This forces us to announce the priorities weekly.
It may feel awkward for a while, repeating yourself so often, but remember that it’s only awkward to you. Your team will hear it as reinforcing what is most important and clarifying anything they may have been confused about. And if the team thinks you sound like a broken record, at least you’ll know for sure that they know what’s important.
So, in summary:
- Make sure your team knows the top priorities of the company
- Repeat yourself because you should expect that someone didn’t get it the first time
- Repeat yourself again to be sure
CodeHS is a comprehensive teaching platform for helping schools teach computer science. We provide web-based curriculum, teacher tools and resources, and professional development.
Every Monday at CodeHS, we have a 30 minute team activity to help align the team across many different areas. They range from discussing the company mission and values to practicing the elevator pitch to brainstorming product features.