Avoid Leadership Pitfalls: Direction Versus Speed

On a Fast Train to the Wrong Destination?

By Elizabeth McCormick

Elizabeth McCormickHave you ever had a day where your wheels spin a bit slower? Have you noticed your team not putting the usual miles in at the office? Could it be burnout? The need for a vacation? Or is there something more underlying the malaise?

Many have experienced a much bigger drag on resources by giving the orders for your team to take off flying at full speed, only to find out later that the course was in the opposite direction of your desired goal.

Then, there are other times when a project is well underway and everything seems aligned properly, but there’s just no lift. The wheels just won’t leave the ground. Although tasks are getting completed and checked off the list, there’s no altitude allowing the project to accelerate. What’s happening? When started with a laser-focused goal in mind, the direction can change quickly if the proper guardrails and benchmarks aren’t set in place to keep everyone on target.

There’s a world of advice on staying productive, but those activities don’t mean anything if your coordinates are off, and that may be one of the biggest wastes of time (not to mention energy drains) you and your organization could experience. Assume nothing, clarify everything, and have it in writing. Click To Tweet

Here are five tips to assure your leadership and team directives match the end result you envision.

1.  Know Your Destination: When you begin with the end in mind, you have a distinctive vision of your desired direction and destination before instructing your team to launch. It doesn’t matter how big or small your project is—if the direction, intention, or desired outcome isn’t clear, it will be tough to fly your team to the dream. Assume nothing, clarify everything, and have it in writing. If some aspect is open to interpretation, close that loophole up, or better yet, ask your team to contribute to the ownership of the project by being open to their quest for clarity.

2. Engage Your Team: Once you have communicated the objectives to your team, start by having team members re-state the goals and desired outcomes in their own words. Confirm and clarify often. This quite naturally highlights any variance between intention and perception. You can also use this opportunity to start fleshing out the project, brainstorming with the team, and adding detail to the project. This type of activity will help jumpstart the comradery as your team begins working together as a team toward a common goal. This will also enhance the collaboration necessary to ensure proper communication can take place from beginning to end.

3. Plan Your Work, Work Your Plan: Once everyone is on board and the team is headed in the right direction, be sure you have established the proper safety devices, benchmarks, and signposts for you and your team, so that if there is any drifting off course, it will be recognized and realigned quickly without much time or effort wasted. Ensure that work is broken down into manageable, measurable, short-term goals to aid in motivation and increase productivity. Work organized into logical segments also aids focus and self-management of direction.

Complex projects lend themselves to digressions and diversions. Spelling out where you should be and when keeps efforts centered on the essential goals originally intended.

Another way to encourage motivation and productivity is to take the time to get to know your ‘flight crew’ and their strengths. Don’t randomly dole out tasks; be strategic in aligning tasks with specific gifts and skills, allowing team members to take ownership of their part of the project.

4. Own Your Results: As a leader, it’s your attitude, stamina, direction, commitment to the project, and work ethic that establishes the environment and culture of your team, as well as the success of your project at hand. If you are unclear of your destination, you can be sure your team will have a tough time understanding the purpose of the project and the directions you are trying to communicate.

One of the biggest reasons people drift, get distracted, and are taken off task, is that the purpose for their task isn’t strong enough to keep them engaged. If this is happening, recognize it, take some time to clarify your purpose and your destination, and then let your team know you wish to communicate better as you share your vision more clearly and effectively with everyone involved.

Sometimes the best of plans just don’t have the results intended. It happens. Maybe it was due to misinformation, miscommunication, not enough research, too many agendas, a drastic change in the economy, or an unexpected shift in trends to name just a few of the ever-changing facets of being a leader in business. Regardless of why it happened, own the results. Empower your team to help you assess what went wrong, develop the proper benchmarks and guardrails to prevent that from happening again, and then map out a new flight plan to a better destination.

4. Collaborate—Share Your Progress: For most people in corporate positions, there’s (hopefully) an effective boss who helps ensure there are proper reports on progress, with the responsibility to follow up. What happens, though, when you’re the boss? Who does your project most effect, and who needs to know about the progress of your company, your goals, and your overall destination—your stakeholders? Your staff? Your clients? Other departments?

Regardless of who your project affects most, it is important to communicate, collaborate, and share your progress. Your strategic plan very well could be a thing of beauty, worthy of a business textbook. The marketing department, however, may have new information that invalidates an initial premise or puts your data out of date. Informing them only at completion risks the success of your entire project. Or, your biggest clients may be ready to sell their business and retire, which now means your project underfunded.

Include progress updates to those who your plans will impact, so that changes can be incorporated along the way. Sure, detours are inconvenient, but navigating them minimizes backtracking and maximizes the effectiveness of your efforts.

Leadership On Course and at Full Speed: With the direction of your project embedded in the planning and with contingencies made for changing conditions, you’ll soon see that the extra work in project planning serves productivity. When the runway is clear, your direction is plotted, and your flight plan is filed, you and your team can attain top speeds as you soar to success.

Elizabeth McCormick is a Keynote Speaker specializing in Leadership, Sales and Safety presentations. She was recently named number four on the list of Leadership Experts to Follow Online.  A former US Army Black Hawk Pilot, and author of “The P.I.L.O.T. Method; the 5 Elemental Truths to Leading Yourself in Life;” Elizabeth teaches instantly applicable strategies to boost your employees’ confidence in their own leadership abilities. For more information, please visit: www.YourInspirationalSpeaker.com.