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.






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