leadership incorporated blog

January 23, 2011

INSPIRED TO SUCCEED: Is your drive to create results getting in your way of achieving them?

Have you ever been so driven to reach your vision for growth so quickly, that you skipped steps?

Have you ever looked back to realize that you hadn’t even seen all the essential little steps along the path that you missed — and then had to compensate for?

It’s often in the nature of leadership to focus so much on scoring the home run that you neglect to touch all the bases. People who are driven to achieve results can create incredible forward motion only to arrive at a somewhat different destination than they intended OR show up to the performance only knowing half of the song. They want to start pitching business before writing (or revising) the business plan. They want to execute on ideas that excite them without exploring how (or whether) they fit into the mission. They want to execute new initiatives before they’ve fully explored (and planned for) all the potential pitfalls. They want to jump in and land their next gig without spending a lot of time or energy on knowing exactly what they are — and aren’t — looking for.

If this describes you (and it sometimes describes me) this story is for us.

I recently facilitated a workshop with the management team in a manufacturing company. We began with an activity designed to surface the challenges of communication between teams in remote locations. The task was for one person to build a structure using colored blocks then communicate to a partner how to build the same structure with a matching set of blocks, without either person being able to see what the other was doing. Two of the teams jumped right in and started directing their partners through the building process. The third team began by cataloging their blocks into colors, shapes and sizes. They made sure they each had matching blocks. They hammered out a common language to describe the various pieces. They created a strategy for working together.

I was beginning to wonder if they would even begin building before I called time. But then an amazing thing happened. They did begin to build and although they were second to finish, the total amount of time they spent in the actual building was about 1/4 of the time the building process took the other teams. They made no mistakes in the building, needed no time for corrections. And their result was a perfect replica. One of the other teams also created a matched copy, however, the third team demonstrated breakdowns in understanding and quality control that made for a hilariously mismatched structure.

Although this was a fun and harmless exercise, we only have to read the news to see that these kind of breakdowns happen in business — with much more at stake — every day.

So what’s the takeaway? Besides taking extra care to create trust, common vocabulary and other agreements among team members, the big learning is that being in a hurry to get to results doesn’t necessarily get you there faster — or get the job done right.

It doesn’t get you clients faster. It doesn’t grow your business faster. It doesn’t get you your next job faster. And the hurry can — and often does — lead to disastrous results.

What I observed with my client is totally consistent with studies that show that every 15 minutes of planning saves an hour. Perhaps this story begins to illustrate how that works.

We may feel that the time it would take us to get really clear about the results we want to create, to design a detailed and strategic path to our goals, to get others fully on board, and to prepare for breakdowns, will slow us down — but that’s just how we feel. It’s not what’s real.

Consider shifting your focus FROM the hurry to reach your vision TO making the time to create the conditions that will result in your vision. You’ll save time and breakdowns much faster than you think.





January 9, 2011

Inspired to Succeed: Get Your Team Onboard for Growth in 2011


If you want to grow from point A to point B in 2011, you can’t get there alone. You need to get your team onboard.

I’m coaching several leaders who are confronting the many challenges of creating engaged buy-in. These challenges take many forms, but ultimately boil down to one or more of the following:

  1. Team members can’t see the destination or the benefit of getting there
  2. They want to go somewhere else
  3. They don’t understand your way of getting there
  4. They see their own way to get there
  5. They don’t see their part in getting there

Remember that your team will come from their own perspective. But only 100% of the time.

Your opportunity to manage the change you want to see, is to make your destination and the path to it very clear and show your team WIIFT (What’s In It For Them).

It can be tempting to take the path of least resistance and try to create the change you want to see by yourself, or  by engaging only a few key team members. But true leadership involves leveraging the power of your entire organization. That’s where you’ll create your greatest growth.

Here are 8 strategies for getting everyone on-board to create effective business growth:

1. Invest in understanding what’s important to them. Get into conversation and ask questions that will illuminate what they want — and what they don’t want. You need to understand how your goals and objectives align or misalign with your teams’ personal and professional goals and objectives. It’s impossible for people to focus effectively on your needs when theirs aren’t being attended to. The act of taking an interest and striving to create win-win scenarios will take you far in surprising ways.

2. Connect the dots. Don’t expect them to figure out WIIFT themselves. Engage them in the conversation and help them to identify ways your vision for growth is an opportunity for them, as well. Don’t hesitate to ask them to define the benefits and detriments for themselves. Find ways to create alignment or expect to create intentional and unintentional sabotage of your objectives. Remember, not everyone has to share the same benefits to commit to the journey.

3. Make sure that WIIFT is positive. Avoiding negative outcomes is not nearly as powerful as real benefits. To be effective, WIIFT should not sound like “you get to keep your job.”

4. Be specific. Do the work of identifying the contributions you need and from whom you need them. Invite your team to find specific actions they can take to make a difference. They may come up with things that hadn’t yet occurred to you.

5. Ask for their involvement. Ask for their best work.  It might seem like it should go without saying, but don’t let it!

6. Share progress. Connect them with the results they are creating.

7. Create a positive pressure to perform. Schedule regular progress meetings. Make these positive, celebratory — and mandatory. Have the team lead the meeting. Let them know everyone needs to speak. Find little ways to celebrate progress as you go.

8. Appreciate often. Notice what people and teams are doing and acknowledge it.

To lead successful growth focus on the greater good, not just WIIFY (What’s In It For You.)

Their buy-in begins with you.

Here’s to your growth in 2011!

Blog at WordPress.com.