Have you ever had a day where your wheels spin a bit slower? Have you noticed your team not putting in the usual miles at the office? Could it be burnout? The need for a vacation? Or is there something more underlying the malaise?
Your team may be dragging because—even though you gave them clear orders for your latest project and they took off flying at full speed—you plotted a course in the opposite direction of your desired goal.
Then, there are other times when a project is well underway and everything seems properly aligned, but there’s just no lift. Although tasks are getting completed and checked off the list, the project isn’t gaining altitude and accelerating. What’s happening? Your team might have started with a laser-focused goal, but everyone’s vulnerable to drifting off course if the proper guardrails and benchmarks aren’t 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 and energy you and your organization could experience.
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 distinct 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 restate the goals and desired outcomes in their own words. This will quite naturally reveal any variance between what you intended and what they perceived.
You can also use this opportunity to start fleshing out the project, brainstorming with the team and adding detail to your ideas. This type of activity will help jump-start your team’s comradery and communication as you all begin working together toward a common goal.
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 to keep you and your team on track. That way, 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 that is 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 and work ethic that establish the environment and culture of your team—and, ultimately, 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 directions you are trying to communicate.
One of the biggest reasons people drift is that the purpose of 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 deliver 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.
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.
5. Collaborate, Share Your Progress
It is important to communicate, collaborate and share your progress with the people that your project will affect most. That might be your staff, your clients or other stakeholders.
Your strategic plan very well could be a thing of beauty, worthy of a business textbook. Your marketing department, however, may have new information that invalidates your project’s initial premise. If you tell them what you’re working on only after you’re done, you risk the success of your entire project.
Give progress updates to the people your plans will impact, so that changes can be incorporated along the way. Sure, detours are inconvenient, but they’re better than a dead end.
Leadership on Course and at Full Speed
If you embed a sense of direction into the planning of your new project—and if you include contingencies for changing conditions—your extra work will enhance your team’s 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.