For many leaders, it’s fun and inspiring to create the future during a strategic process. New goals. New business practices, products and services. However, the problem arises when it’s time for the rubber to meet the road in a focused, tactical implementation of the Plan. This is the danger zone, the time when a great idea can become a bad idea due to nothing more than a leader’s (or group’s) indecisiveness. They may simply be uncertain as to how to close the gap between today’s circumstances and tomorrow’s goals. Or unsure how to handle the natural dissension inevitably caused by change.
The Plan will never be perfect while still in progress. Changes can cause apprehension and new challenges even if they create opportunities. Change brings out the fear in otherwise fearless leaders once everything is in motion. They may feel as if they can no longer control the outcome, or people’s perceptions. Team members worry about making wrong choices. Nay-sayers reinforce these doubts! The economy, community opinions and even natural disasters are often used as excuses for maintaining the status quo. Resorting to comfortable Band-Aid modifications rarely work long term. The key is to be flexible without taking your eyes off the end results. Create a step-by-step Plan. Elicit other’s ideas at the beginning and incorporate them as is appropriate. Communicate the Plan and walk people through it. Try it for thirty days and do not make any ad-hoc deviations; these variations will create unnecessary confusion and dissent.
Budget and time constraints are really an opportunity. To resolve an issue, get the team started by asking simple questions to get the team’s thought processes started. Stay away from conceptual or abstract questions since they tend to stifle creativity. When following a team’s recommendations, be sure to ask the right business questions of them and make sure they think through and answer those questions adequately. Do not focus on reaching group consensus; this idealism has thwarted many companies from meeting timely business challenges and making positive advances. Strive for alignment. This means team members can agree with the Plan even if they have some reservations.
Sustainable Plans require a team effort. Sole reliance on one person rarely creates lasting outcomes. Poor leaders quickly stifle followers if they micro-manage everything and everyone. Their team members only participate to dot i’s and cross t’s, then, blame failure on the leader. Unfortunately indecisive leaders make up the process as they go along, dismissing any structured plans along the way. They lose even the staunchest of supporters since the Plan cannot be replicated. Strong leaders trust their teams, working with and through them for results. Even if team members would not do it the same way, they have confidence in their leader! Decisive leaders know how to check in (verbally and in writing) with their teams to assess progress, the reality of reports and viability of solutions.
©Jeannette Seibly, 2011