October 4, 2010 Executive, Leadership

Is Your Ship Adrift?

Paris Exposition: ship, Paris, France, 1900

Image by Brooklyn Museum via Flickr

As a leader, your team sees you as the captain of the ship.  Your team needs you to provide focus, direction and clarity.   However, the pressures of daily demands can force you to switch between various strategies or look for quick fixes to problems.  Giving in to these pressures can diffuse your teams focus.

Leader’s’ inconsistency leaves team members questions who is piloting the ship and in which direction it is going.  Inconsistency is, in essence, the anti-focus.  Employees wonder “why should I put the effort into this when something else will be the priority next week?”  Inconsistent focus is one of the quickest ways to undermine your credibility with your team.

So, what’s the solution for improved adherence and higher achievement? 

  • As captain of your team, set your course and stick to it.  Your business goal may be providing defect-free products; providing the fast service available; developing leading edge products; or creating long-term lasting customer relationships, etc. It doesn’t matter what it is, but this focus should be the guide to all your decisions and actions. I am not saying that from time to time the plan doesn’t have to be slightly altered based on customer needs, economic changes and so on.  But clearly communicate your change of course to all.
  • Surround yourself with competent people who are not afraid to push back on you and ask tough questions.  People who are willing to risk an uncomfortable moment for the sake of the entire group’s success are invaluable to you as the leader. 
  • Don’t be tempted to take on the latest trend or respond to a perceived business need or threat without examining all the facts as well as the long-term impact of your ultimate business goal. 

One important way to demonstrate your direction with clarity is to say “no” to activities that do not support your ultimate goal.  When planning your organization or team activities, create a “Stop Doing List” in addition to all the new work you must perform to execute your plan.  Identify those activities, tasks, reports, and meetings etc. that do not support your goals.  If you can’t remember the goal of the task, it’s probably not that important.  Interestingly, your “Stop Doing List” may have a bigger impact on your teams’ ability to focus on the list of “To Do’s”. 

The ultimate competitive advantage, organizationally or personally, is being the very best at implementing a plan.  Your greatest challenge is not creating a new plan.  Your greatest challenge is adhering to your current plan.

“If you don’t know where you’re going you will probably end up somewhere else.” 

 Laurence J. Peter.