I’m not a big fan of going to the dentist, but there is one thing my dentist does that leaders and business owners can benefit from, and that’s having a “watch list.”
When I go to in for my six-month checkup, the hygienist always lets my dentist know which teeth are my “watch” teeth. Those are the ones where there might be something wrong—the ones he probes with his sharp, pointy tool to see if there is a crack or decay. Thankfully, most of the time I pass this test and get a clean bill of health.
Incidentally, I have a watch list of plants in my garden that never seem to do as well as I would like. They are the ones I have to check on to see if they need extra water or a dose of fertilizer.
Are you watching your business the same way? Or are things just on autopilot? I would advise creating a list of items to watch on a regular basis. And on that list should be the things that you suspect may need extra attention.
It might be employees who haven’t performed at the level you would like. It might be a business unit that has slipped a little on meeting its goals. It might be projects that are behind schedule. It might be a board member who seems out of touch. Or it could be you aren’t following your strategic plan the way you should.
The same goes for your personal business plan. My little solo venture is still new, but even I’ve reached the point where I know I need to start checking up on myself.
A watch list isn’t the same as a checklist of procedures, like the kind a pilot goes through before takeoff. Nor is it benchmarking or reviewing the goals you’ve set. No, a watch list is for those problems that you aren’t yet sure really are problems. It’s more of a hunch, or maybe you don’t have all the data yet but you’re nonetheless concerned. It’s your chance to nip problems in the bud and stay on track before there’s any slippage.
One piece of advice, though, for managers: Make sure your employees understand your reasons for the watch list. Engage them in creating it. There’s nothing worse than a manager or CEO who has a secret list of problems or asks a lot of pointed questions without any explanation. Don’t kill morale with your watch list. Use it to share concerns and jointly problem-solve. Better yet, teach your team members to create their own watch list and give them the support they need to be forthright about bringing potential problems to your attention.