“Tis impossible to be sure of anything but death and taxes.” (Bullock, 1716), everything else is subject to change.
I wrote this article on the weekend of the 50th anniversary of man landing on the moon. It caused me to think about how that happened. There are lots of examples of leaders creating great things in government, business, and in social services after creating a vision of what could be dating back to the beginning of recorded history. As I study and apply leadership lessons, I found there are five principals of leaders who effectively lead change within their organizations. Those leaders set examples by living and enforcing organizational guiding principals, communicating a clear vision for the future, establishing goals and benchmarks, taking disciplined action to accomplish required tasks, and possessing humility.
Leaders establish guiding principals through their behavior. The old maxim, “Actions speak louder than words,” says it all; leaders who say respect is important and treat others respectfully are more convincing that those who treat others disrespectfully. Whether you are new to the organization, in a new position, or a veteran in a leadership role, you choose your values. Ensure they are aligned with the organizational principals, or advocate to changing them. It takes time to establish character, but even if you have been an angry, disrespectful, fly-off-the handle kind of a leader, you can change. Others will notice and your character will change.
In addition to behaving in accordance with your professed and the organization’s values, leaders ensure others also develop character. You cannot ignore a direct report’s violation of an organizational principal and fire a more junior person for the same behavior. If your organization values people’s time, then the person who is consistently two minutes late for work, meetings, and leaves five minutes early needs to be held to account. Not every offense requires firing. Not every offense requires a written reprimand or other disciplinary action. Often pulling a person aside and pointing out their faux-pas is enough to gain compliance. When misbehavior is displayed by otherwise compliant people it may signal trouble. Pulling that person aside presents an opportunity to address the trouble and become aware of their problem.
A few years ago I gave in and went to the eye doctor because I noticed road signs were not as clear as I remembered them. I needed glasses. Over time my vision dulled and I needed someone to help me see clearly again. An organization’s vision is the same. In the beginning everyone knows why they belong, where they are headed, what they are doing, and how to do it. As the organization grows older, the vision fades, just like people’s eyesight.
Leaders often think they only need to cast their vision before their followers once and they are good for life. They are wrong. There is a reason all major religions have services on a weekly basis. That reason is to refresh the soul. Face it, after ten years of church going, you probably have heard all there is to hear. Services keep your faith fresh.
Likewise leaders need to continually project their vision for the organization. Those who work in the organization need to see it so they can properly care for clients and customers. Clients and customers need to see it so they understand why you do what you do; it builds brand loyalty. Vendors and contractor need to see it so they are on the same page. Leaders, from each member of the Board of Directors, to the shop foreman, need to see it so they can magnify and amplify the vision for their followers.
Vision statements are not one and done. Leaders constantly need to proclaim their vision to inspire everyone they encounter. Leaders develop credibility when they not only talk about their vision, but take action to make it a reality.
Based on the leader’s vision, the leader and junior leaders establish goals to accomplish the mission and vision. Goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time bound, and task oriented. Many of you will recognize the SMARTT goal setting model. I added and extra tee for the task steps.
Task steps are important. They provide the directions to achieve the goal. The goal is your What. The task steps are the How.
Leaders should establish a plan for goal setting. Good goal setting happens in cycles. The first step is to assess. Your assessment establishes your starting point and destination. As you walk your selected path, you will encounter life and may find you stray from your planned path. Periodically check your progress and adjust course as necessary. As you move along, you learn; apply those lessons along your journey. As you near the end of your journey, it is time to assess again and establish new goals. Click here http://bit.ly/2YfQH0Y for a short lesson on the goal setting cycle.
Disciplined action ensures accomplishment of critical tasks for mission success. Discipline has several meanings. In this case I intend it to mean controlled behavior resulting from training (adapted from https://www.thefreedictionary.com/discipline). Action means activities required to complete the mission. Disciplined actions are planned and controlled activities that are scheduled, measured, supervised, and coordinated across all teams in an organization.
To be effective, organizations must plan. Planning includes scheduling, measuring, supervising and coordinating actions. Planning requires discipline. Planning also identifies key performance indicators. Controls are necessary to establish measures of performance and effectiveness (insert link to that blog). Supervision is only effective if supervisors know what they are looking for in performance and effectiveness. Coordination ensures things are going according to the plan across all teams. Coordination communicates the plan and status of activities to everyone.
An example of disciplined action are the steps required to make a widget and ship it to a customer. In the planning stage, leaders determine what needs to be done, what resources are required, what will be measured, how often, by whom, and how to coordinate across all the teams. The organization identifies the material, machines, and people required to make the widget. They order material and hire people. They schedule activities such as when raw material should arrive, when workers need to be at their machines, when product will be shipped, and the means for delivery to customers. Coordination is required so there is material on hand to manufacture widgets when workers are available; trucks are available when enough widget are ready to ship, and adequate capacity exists to meet deadlines. Coordination is an on going process. For example, if machine operators are sick, it causes reduction in production. The shipping team needs to know so they can adjust shipping schedules.
Much of this step is as much management as leadership. Management is an important leadership skill. People are involved in each part of disciplined action and that is where the leadership comes into play. Fail to lead disciplined action, and your organization may achieve a task, but it will not remain successful.
I remember reading in Seven Habits that Stephen Covey claimed to have studied great people for years before boiling down their secret of success to seven habits. I thought, “Why would anyone dedicate themselves to such work?” I found myself reviewing Good to Great a short while ago and read Jim Collins’ assertion that Level 5 Leaders are humble. That was not the first or last place I encountered that idea, but it struck me then how many times I learned that point from so many other sources including people I chose to follow. I now wonder if Covey stumbled across those seven habits the same way I found the five principals of leading change.
Humility is an important trait for being a good or great leader. Great leaders do all the things I present in this article, but they also recognize they lack certain skills, lack knowledge, lack connections, and other important resources to make things happen. Great leaders recognize they need to rely on others to help them accomplish the organization’s mission. If they are the smartest, fastest, most skilled person in the organization, they are leading the wrong group of people, and they know that. They seek out people who are smarter they them. They hire others with greater skills. They know these others are their superiors and they are blessed to lead them, or put another way, they know they are blessed those high speed individuals choose to follow them.
You can develop humility. It is a skill that can be learned. I saw it in action during my first General Staff meeting. In a General’s staff meeting there are standard scripts everyone follows to ensure the General receives the information he needs to lead the force and make important decisions. According the script, other staff sections presented their canned information to the General. Then it was my Colonel’s turn to present.
At the time, Shawn O’Brien was the Director of Logistics and a Colonel. On schedule, the slides with the logistics information were projected on the screen. COL O’Brien hardly noticed. Instead he looked at the General and said, “Sir, I know you’ve seen my slides and our information is pretty good this month. If you don’t mind, I want to tell you about the great work that Kris Skinner has done this month with our surface maintenance program.” The Colonel went on about LTC Skinner’s accomplishments that month. At the end of the story COL O’Brien asked the General if he had any questions about his directorate’s data. When the General said he did not, O’Brien introduced the next staff chief.
I was impressed. I thought it was a one time thing to bring some attention to the boss about good work done by his followers. The following month however, COL O’Brien had another story about the good work another member of the section. Again at the end, instead of getting into the data on the slide he moved onto the next speaker. COL O’Brien had someone every month he highlighted at the staff meeting. Now of course none of those workers acted independently. Col O’Brien knew what each was doing and used all his leadership ability to encourage them to do the greatest job they could do. Each individual responded by regularly exceeding the standards and expectations.
Shawn O’Brien was promoted to Brigadier General. He is a very confident and competent leader. He has accomplished plenty of big things in his own right. Yet when ever he talks with someone, he learns about them. He shares what he learned in a recent book he read. He asks what he can do to make things better for lower-level leaders. He practices humility.
Change is inevitable. Leaders must navigate future changes. Even choosing to maintain a certain level or quality of business without growth or shrinkage requires organizational change. Laws change. Customers change. Demand for products changes. Organizational staff change. Leaders who do not lead change will find there is no one left to lead. Leaders effect change by creating a desired vision of the future. They set and help followers set specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time bound goals with task steps. They plan and manage disciplined action to accomplish the mission and change. They are humble people who understand they still have much to learn. Change is coming. Are you leading to adapt to that change?
/ —- Photo Credits —-/
- Coins by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay using pixabay license.
- Eyeglasses by Skeeze ibid
- Fortune Telling by Tumisu ibid
- Agenda Calendar by Rawpixel.com from http://www.pexel.com using pexel license
- Man Outdoors Snow no attribution available from pxhere.com using 0CC license
/ —- Reference —-/
Bullock: https://www.mightytaxes.com/death-taxes-quote-history/ retrieved 7/31/219