LEADING IS A PROCESS
Todd Dewett | May 24, 2021
Leadership isn’t just about making the right call. Ultimately, success is about execution. The right decision implemented poorly isn’t worth anything. So, it’s useful to think about leadership as a process. For every significant decision or project, think about the before, during, and after.
Before you make the call, there is plenty of work to do. Depending on the specific nature of the decision, this might include fact-finding, floating trial balloons, coalition building, co-opting, honing your messaging, and planning for possible contingencies. Remember, the goal is to collaborate far more than you dictate.
One of my favorite activities before you make the decision or launch the project is the pre-mortem. You and the team sit around the table and discuss the most likely ways this thing might fail. Assume it will fail! Then name the people, processes, and other issues that explain the failure. The faster you can predict the likely challenges you’ll face, the sooner you can start to address them.
Then in the middle, let’s think about the time immediately around making the call. This is where you acknowledge and validate all of the feedback you’ve received, prepare for rapid feedback loops post-decision, build a team to be deployed for quick interventions if needed, increase your messaging to clarify goals and expectations, and then begin to broadcast and celebrate your progress as the wins start to come in.
After the decision is made, it’s time to follow through with the implementation. All of your hard work so far could go to waste if the decision doesn’t stick, or the project isn’t embraced. Your work includes a continuation of feedback loops and interventions as needed, showing plenty of gratitude for everyone’s ideas and efforts, and more recognition of progress and wins. Remember to get out of your office and spend a lot of time wherever the decision actually has impact so you can be there to learn and help.
To complement the pre-mortem, it’s wise to wrap up with a quality post-mortem. This is a chance for you and the team to clarify what worked well, what did not work as planned, and what needs to change moving forward. Sure, planning and analyses take time but remember that they are an investment in not wasting time in the future. Be candid, make actionable suggestions, and assign responsibility to ensure it gets done.
Of course, as you work through these phases, you want to remember all of the basics about communicating effectively and managing a team. Get your refresher here: https://amzn.to/3hwWnkp.