As you gaze intentionally into 2019, you might be crystal clear about where you’re going and what you want to achieve. The kind of people you want around you, the numbers you want to hit, the time frames, the possible obstacles.
Right now it would be easy for you to slip straight into solution mode, telling people what to do and how, making sure the mistakes of the last quarter or year are not repeated.
You’re the expert with years of experience up your sleeve, you’re already 10 steps ahead. With your predetermined path guiding your focus, a level of success is likely.
But what of those around you?
Have they bought in? Will they keep up? Or will you be pushing some of them the whole way?
As a leader your challenge is to see the future before others do, move toward it with belief and certainty, inspiring your people to come with you. Empower them to step onto the path of growth and achievement, leap toward the future and in the process become more than who they are today.
If you’re doing your job right, they will eventually stand on your shoulders and surpass anything you’ve ever done.
But if you stop to check too soon, if you’re looking behind you more than you’re looking ahead, you risk extinguishing the fire before it’s been stoked. If you judge the potential of a blaze by how quickly the kindling is catching on, you risk your people giving up before they really get going.
It damages their confidence, and erodes trust in you.
As a leader of people, your job is to remain under the influence of your compelling vision so that others want to buy-in, find their own connection with it, gather the resources they’ll need and get some speed up to catch you as you bound toward it.
Eventually, passing you on their way to that future.
To influence others,
you first need to be under your own influence.
A senior leader I coached recently wanted what many leaders want…for her team to make more independent decisions, take some risks and embrace greater responsibility.
She was exceptional in her area of expertise, but the company needed her to take her eyes off the short term, and focus more on direction and strategy.
As we worked together, she realised that improving the capability of her team meant she had to get out of the way. She had been slowing them down by jumping in too quickly, checking to see if they were on the right track or tackling obstacles in the best way.
Like a pot on a stove trying to boil, she was continually removing the lid to check if the water was bubbling and in the process not giving her people a chance to create some heat.
Her intention was well-meaning, she just didn’t realise that by turning back to check too soon and too often, she was slowing her people down.
Some resented her for her constant meddling, but they had all come to rely on it as a crutch, a safety net, that made doers out of them rather than thinkers.
It also suited her to be in control – it was much more comfortable and familiar to focus on the here and now than look ahead into the uncertain future. While she knew where she wanted to take her team, the path to get there was a little daunting.
As she chose let go and trust her people, giving them more responsibility for the future they were creating together, a funny thing happened…her people began to flourish in ways she had been trying to make happen for months.
When you’re taking score too soon, head down in the trenches all day, you lose sight of where you’re going, and so do your people.
If you take your eyes off the vision and turn around too often to see if they’re coming, they will emulate your behaviour and stop to look behind them too.
Instead of digging so much into the detail, you need to dig deep. Let them see you passionate about, and connected with, a future that thrills you and calls you forward. If you’re consistent and authentic, your people will buy in, build momentum and begin to run with you.
Just don’t stop to check too soon. Let them reach, fall, grow and reach again. While you remain under the influence of the vision that inspires you to grow too.