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  • Sean Ryan

The Sticky Gear Gets the Grease: Aligning Goals and Creating a Culture of Communication

Updated: Dec 7, 2021

The Sticky Gear Gets the Grease: Aligning Goals and Creating a Culture of Communication


Recently, I had the utmost pleasure to have a great chat with Hanna Hasl-Kelchner at Business Confidential Now. We discussed many aspects of what makes things go wrong in organizations of all sizes and how to go about remedying those issues.

We had a chance to talk through all the gears outlined in my book, Get In Gear: The Seven Gears that Drive Strategy to Results and how each gear works together to keep moving forward. Hanna posed a question to me which gear gets jammed up most often. One gear that seems to cause the most trouble is the fourth gear, SET Result-Oriented Goals. It’s also relatively easy to grease this gear to unjam it.

A great way to find a solution to this common issue is to play a game of 5-on-5. You have the performers write down their top five goals; then have their managers also write a list of the top 5 goals for each of their team members. You would think (hope?) that these lists would be similar, but typically we have found that maybe only 2 out of the 5 match. And the performers are often more task or activity-focused while the managers maybe more focused on the goals of the organization: grow sales, drive down costs, improve quality, etc. And, as Hanna so bluntly put it “some goals are stupid!” You need to align your goals to what’s critical to the organization’s strategy and leave out the unimportant ones that get you nowhere. We cannot be afraid to rethink and revamp goals when needed.

We also dove into the gear regarding Creating a Culture of Communication. When you create a culture of communication within the workplace, you need to create an environment of trust and mutual respect. This doesn’t just magically happen! Leaders must create a foundation.

One of the most important parts of creating this culture of communications is moving away from sharing information on a “need-to-know basis” to one in which everyone asks, “who else needs to know.” Another very important communication aspect is clarity, being able to have the difficult conversations without making a mud filled Twinkie: being direct as opposed to hiding the foul-tasting tough feedback between two sides of delicious praise.

We discuss the pitfalls of “The marshmallow layer” in an organization that can hold everything up, a place where the information coming from upper levels cannot permeate down to the front-line team members. In turn, the challenges and everyday problems at the frontline of the organization don’t permeate their way back up creating a total disconnect.

Some of the actions you can take to penetrate this layer in your organization include:

  • Constantly communicate: once is not enough

  • Hear the question beyond the question, make sure you are really hearing what your people are saying.

  • Hold reoccurring roundtable discussions and take action based upon what you hear

  • Introduce a white board for jotting down issues and challenges that might be blocking success, hold discussions based around these points and quickly find solutions.

This teaches your team that they will always be heard and that their concerns will be resolved.

We also discussed that you don’t have to fix every gear at once. You can identify the gear in your organization that is the wobbliest, then work toward fixing that one gear. You can then move to another gear that might need a little grease.

To listen to the entire podcast, click this link:


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