With the notable exception of Double Stuf Oreos, the middle is the worst part of most things.
Consider the middle of your body — your waist — which acts like a billboard advertising “This person has not done a sit-up since high school.”
How about the middle seat on an airplane? Neither a view out the window nor easy access to the aisle do you get.
Picture the middle of your favorite tie, which is so often the landing spot for your mashed potatoes’ gravy, your spaghetti’s sauce and your hotdog’s mustard.
Consider the middle of a community race. “Bang!” goes the starter’s gun. You blast off the starting line in a rush of adrenaline and optimism bolstered by the camaraderie of your fellow weekend athletes and three cans of Sugar-Free Red Bull.
But your kick-ass attitude starts to fade when you realize you haven’t inhaled for three blocks. Your friends speed ahead or fall behind.
Now you’re one-quarter of the way into the race. But that big fat MIDDLE section is ahead. Self-doubt creeps in, and the self-talk turns negative: “Why did I sign up for this?” “I’ll never make it.” “I hate this.”
But just a few minutes later, you enter the final stretch and can see the finish line. The energy and enthusiasm that disappeared starts to download from your personal iCloud again. You cross the finish line tired, but happy.
The Middle for Your Organization
The performance of most companies and non-profits also tends to be the worst in the middle — the middle of the fiscal year, the middle of their growth spurt, the middle years of their CEO’s tenure.
The excitement of the start-up has worn off. The Christmas bonus is forgotten. You see a zombie-like expression on the faces of staffers. Everyone settles into a mediocre tempo far below their capability.
Meeting in the Middle
At this point, you need to hold a “half-way to next year” meeting to get the mojo and the momentum back. But what should you do at this meeting?
Do NOT fall back on the management mindset of listing goals and creating SWAT charts. That won’t move you out of the middle.
Instead, use a Marketing Mindset and start at the beginning again. The beginning of any endeavor starts with “Why?”
Ask your staff a series of Why Questions:
- Why are you in this line of work?
- Why are you working in THIS organization?
- Why are you serving this group of customers/clients? Why is the organization better with you in it?
- Why is the client’s life better with your firm in it?
- Why is the community better with your firm here?
These questions remind everyone of the reasons they’re showing up every day. You’ll notice a little enthusiasm, interest and energy returning.
Now ask “What?” What must be done to move forward? What can we do to improve the process? What’s my part?
Verbalize the Visuals
Lastly, discuss what things would look like if you did what you set out to do, improved the process, served those who needed serving. Use words to help everyone visualize the finish line.
I know it sounds simple. You may feel more comfortable with goal-setting. But I promise you the Marketing Mindset is much more effective.
Use the Marketing Mindset to get past the middle, and you’ll propel your organization toward the finish line — and once again feel the excitement that got you into the race in the first place.