Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Leadership by connecting the dots

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on October 23, 2011

I recently posted a brief note to this blog on Leadership as an Exercise in Clarity and I wanted to follow through on that with a continuation piece even as I first wrote it. Quite simply, when the members of your team are not performing to your expectations it may be because of them and their performance, but it might be at least in part because of your own too. This posting is not about second guessing yourself as a manager or leader, and I will simply note here that if you consistently find yourself second guessing and challenging your own judgment you might do better not having a team reporting to you. This posting is about developing a specific set of skills, and in both planning and communications so you can lead better.

As a team leader you are responsible for managing a concerted effort by the members of your team in reaching specific goals.

• This means developing a clear, operational understanding of where your organization is now with respect to the end points you need to work towards in reaching those goals.
• This means developing a clear operational understanding of what the end points you have to work towards would be, in a practical and day-to-day operational sense. In that, managers are often given general outline descriptions of the goals and priorities they need to reach, and it is up to them to fill in the functional details.
• And this means you need to map out the benchmarks and intermediate steps that you and your team have to reach as you develop towards fulfilling those tasks.

And you have to do this in ways that would make sense to and work for the various people on your team who are going to be responsible for working on and fulfilling those tasks.

This is all about analytical planning and it is all about understanding your team and its members – and their individual strengths and weaknesses and how they can most effectively work together and separately in completing their parts of the overall job. And this is all about communicating this vision and understanding, and in general outline to everyone and in appropriate detail to the various members of your team – so they know specifically what they have to do and how their combined effort fits together. And you need to avoid micromanaging while you do this – giving enough detail and offering the right levels and types of guidance but letting the members of your team exercise their own hands-on judgment too.

This process is easy and automatic to some people, and it can be very challenging to some – most new managers and leaders find themselves somewhere in the middle for that and face something of a learning curve.

The good news is that this is an area of management and leadership that can be learned and even by people who start out oriented by their innate tendencies and outlooks towards not planning the details, or not communicating them effectively.

• Meet with your team and both as a group and individually and ask them for feedback as well as offering them information. They will tell you where things are proceeding and where they need information or other assistance.
• Seek out a more experienced mentor and bounce ideas off them.
• And do not be afraid to make mistakes. If you need to clarify a point listen so you know when and where to do so, and then just do it. Even at its best effective leadership moves forward in stages, and calls for fine tuning and course corrections along the way.

You can find this and related postings at Business Strategy and Operations – 2 and also as the first page for this directory: Business Strategy and Operations.

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