The following is list of the activities effective leaders pursue. It is not a list of items to schedule throughout the day. The precise things you do should support the 9 tasks. Sound confusing? Well, it is easier demonstrated than defined so let’s step in.
Task #1 – Envisioning Goals
The challenge of keeping the future connected to the present is always there. Managers of necessity must focus on immediate tasks and make sure quotas are being met and processes are being followed. Leaders must focus on the ultimate objectives of the group and its role in the larger organization. Manager’s live and die by numbers. Leaders live and die by less rigid criteria.
Everyone knows that goals must be SMART – Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Relevant, and Trackable so I will not cover that ground here. Leaders neither ignore those goals nor sabotage them. They ENVISION those goals. They paint a picture of what it will be like when the goals are attained. More correctly, they have envisioned the end result BEFORE any goals were defined. Doing things is one thing. Doing the correct things, that is doing those things that will lead one down the path to the correct destination is another thing. In this setting the object is not to go there but to get there.
The task of envisioning goals you will fulfill as a leader is 3 dimensional.
First, you will describe what the group can be at its best and do your best to assure and inspire the group that they can indeed be that group. You will lead people with confidence, with uncertainty, with cynicism, with doubt, with fear. It is your task as a leader to inspire them to overcome their hesitancies, uncertainties, cynicism, and fears.
By clearly painting a picture of an attractive and realistic future. Don’t speak of goals without pointing out past successes, your appreciation of those past successes, and your confidence that the future goals can indeed be reached.
Celebrate incremental victories along the way without mentioning in the same celebration all the work yet to be done. Let victories be savored before throwing more work out there, before pointing out all that remains to be done. I wrote about the deflating effects of such poorly executed tactics here.
Second, point toward solutions not problems. Don’t ignore problems, but don’t focus on then either. The summary concept in the task of envisioning goals is FOCUS. What stands in sharp contrast in your word picture and what is in the foreground fuzz or background haze? FOCUS on the solution and its manifest resolution. In the world of digital photography and graphics, the concept of high resolution has come into common vocabulary. In that setting, high resolution is the inclusion of detail and sharp contrast making the photo or graphic more visible, more appreciated, more attractive. In your setting high resolution focus does the same thing. It brings the whole picture of an attractive and desirable future into focus because you made it so.
Third, define overarching goals that unite people and focus energy. The concept of teamwork and team function is everywhere, but not always well-executed. Comprehensive goals, goals that place one person’s contribution with another, one group’s participation alongside the others enables your team to see how the team functions. This cannot be done in a passing manner. I will address the means of communication very soon, but let me add here that your most important task is speaking with the people you work with. Email has its place, memos serve a purpose, general announcements do their job, but nothing, I mean NOTHING takes the place of a personal conversation with your staff. If you’re too busy to do this, you have allowed the wrong priorities to overwhelm.
The next post on Thursday will cover task #2 – Affirming Values.