By Elizabeth McCormick
Whatever the project or initiative, a successful outcome requires focused leadership. Here are five tips to assure that your leadership and team directives match the 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 move your team to your goal. Assume nothing, clarify everything, and have it in writing. If some aspect is open to interpretation, close that loophole, 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 restate the goals and desired outcomes in their own words. Confirm and clarify often. This 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 will help jumpstart the comradery as your group begins working together as a team toward a common goal. It will also enhance the collaboration necessary to ensure that proper communication can take place from beginning to end.
3. Plan Your Work and 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. Make sure 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 team and their strengths. Don’t randomly dole out tasks; be strategic in aligning tasks with specific gifts and skills, allowing team members to take control 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. 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 direction 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 assignment isn’t strong enough to keep them engaged. If this is happening, recognize it and take some time to clarify your purpose and destination. 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 don’t achieve the intended results. 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 some 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 plan.
5. Share Your Progress: For most people there’s (hopefully) an effective boss who helps ensure that 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 affect, and who needs to know about the progress of your company, your goals, and your overall destination? Stakeholders? Staff? 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 is underfunded.
Include progress updates to those 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.
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 to increase productivity. When the path is clear, your direction is plotted, and your plan is in place. You and your team can achieve success.
Elizabeth McCormick is a keynote speaker specializing in leadership, sales, and safety presentations. She is a former US Army Black Hawk pilot and the author of The P.I.L.O.T. Method: The 5 Elemental Truths to Leading Yourself in Life! For more information, please visit www.yourinspirationalspeaker.com