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Last month, I explored the idea that leadership development involves inspiration and implementation (Thanks, Jack Tester!). As a leader, it’s important to clarify your values (what you always do or never do) and your goals (“to have by when” statements). Most importantly, consider your mission, your purpose for being in business. Simon Sinek suggests you “Start with Why” (also the name of his terrific book, and TED talk).
When you paint the picture of what you really, really want to be, do and have, you can set about making it happen. Even better, you can magnetize people who are inspired by your vision and see it as a worthy pursuit. You can converse with the people who work with you and prospective new hires. Share your vision, and ask about theirs. Together, you may find ways to help each other journey in the same direction. That, for me, is the best part of being in business.
At some point, lofty thoughts and the discussion of purpose need aligned action. As Henry David Thoreau said, “If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put foundations under them.”
The mundane work of leadership development is successfully completing projects. Inspire and implement.
Here are some meat-and-potatoes tips for getting organized and getting stuff done. (Note, if you haven’t read my column from last month, Leadership Material – Part One, you can get it online.
In Leadership Material – Part One, I suggested assembling a master projects list. As you and team members find “rocks in your road,” you can transform the problems into projects. Park projects on the master projects list. By now, that list could be quite long.
Now, pick a few projects and energize them; call them top projects. I used to recommend having no more than 10 top projects. Working with my ZOOM DRAIN partner, Al Levi, I have discovered that 10 are just too many to focus on at once. Levi suggests no more than five top projects. You may select two or three. The concept is that you “greenlight” a few projects that are going to get done. Leave the rest on the master list; you can’t do everything at once. As a project gets done, another project gets energized.
You might have your team weigh in on which projects should take priority. As the owner, you have veto power, however it helps to pick projects that team members are passionate about. Why? Because you will have much better success delegating when employees buy into the need to solve the particular problem the project can fix.
Let’s say, for example, that you have elevated three projects from the master projects list to top projects status. For an example, one of the projects is “Creating a Safety Program.” Here are a few ways to engage your team and successfully complete the project:
Put the project meeting on your calendar. Create the appointment and invite people who you’d like to be involved in the project.
At the project meeting, refine the scope of the project and delegate it. Ask the basic journalistic questions: What? Why? Who? By when? How much? How? What? “Create a safety program.”
Note that 90 percent of the time, a completed project means you have a procedure. A procedure is a list of to-dos that make sure something good happens. So, for this project, you might determine that, “We need a written procedure for our safety program, regularly scheduled meetings and agendas. We need to determine which position on the organizational chart will be responsible for using the procedure.”
Why? “We want to keep people safe. We’ve seen our team do some dangerous things. We have had accidents and injuries that may have been preventable. Our insurance rates will go down with a formal safety, too.”
Who? It makes good sense to delegate this project to someone who is really concerned about the issue. “Mary has agreed to lead this project. Sue and Kanye are available to help.”
By when? Establish your timeline. Set your team up for success. Be generous on the due dates. Schedule project work time on their work calendars (Don’t expect people to do projects on their own time). Schedule the next follow up meeting.
How much? Discuss and establish the budget of time, money and resources.
How? Let Mary, Sue and Kanye come up with the plan. You don’t have to be the sage. This project is an awesome opportunity for your team to develop project leadership skills. You will, too, if you will let go of the “hows” and give them some rein. What I have found is that your team will fix everything! Delegate — don’t abdicate — projects and help them win.
Attend the follow-up project meetings. If something is way off, you can coach them, however, don’t take the project back. Work together to get back on track. As you work through a project, you may find other rocks in the road. Put those projects on the master projects list. Just keep chipping away at the list.
If a project stalls, it may make sense to step back and look for inspiration. Recently, I got stuck with a project. The team members I was working with had different ideas for how to get it done. Neither of them was wrong; we just couldn’t get consensus. What we all agreed on was that it needed to get done. Our mission is so much bigger than this one rock. Once we reminded ourselves of the bigger picture, the details of the project took their proper scope. We decided to get some help and found an awesome vendor to do what had been tripping us up internally.
So often we take on more than we need to because we don’t ask for help. Your team wants to help you achieve your goals, if they are inspired by them, and they can move towards their goals in the process. You can use this approach to lead family members and vendors, too.
In 2017, commit to a formal systematic way to get projects done. Leadership can be developed at every level of the company with clarified vision and systematic implementation.
I wish I’d learned leadership skills in grade school. I didn’t pick these tools up quickly, even once I’d been exposed to them. Be patient with yourself and your team; you are leadership material.
And, we are too old to waste any more time. If your burnout has reached carbon black, crispy levels, remember that you don’t have to do any of this. You could walk away. You could sell your company. You could work yourself into a health crisis and let someone else pick up the pieces. All of these are legitimate options; consider them.
Or you could dream. You could pick a worthwhile point on the horizon; your biggest yet sales goal. A turnkey company. Bonuses, career opportunities, ownership for team players who get stuff done. Develop their leadership chops.
Inspire. Implement. And layer on the love. May 2017 be your best year yet.
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