Leadership Plan

You’re leading a project, organization or team. Have you created a formal leadership plan based on SMART goals and objectives? Many organizational problems such as conflict, project failure, and lack of engagement and successors can be attributed to a nonexistent or inadequate leadership plan.

Dr. James T. Brown delivered a keynote on team building at PMI Chicagoland’s virtual symposium last weekend. He addressed many elements that should go into this plan with the ultimate goal of creating strong relationships, using everything and every activity to communicate, and creating a positive team culture. Here are a few thoughts on it.

Make a plan. Create a formal plan in a SMART goal format for how you will build a strong relationship with every individual on your team and how you will facilitate every team member building strong relationships with each other. Include communication and culture strategies. Incorporate check points and feedback loops to create motivation to implement and evolve the plan. Consider adding the elements below into the plan.

Create opportunities to find commonalities. Think of two co-workers of yours, one you work well with and one you find challenging. Which do you know better? Understand better? Relate to more? I frequently facilitate masterminds among strangers and teammates who don’t know each other well. At the start there are always one or two people in the group who just don’t seem to fit. However, within two or three meetings, as everyone starts seeing how much they all have in common and understanding each other’s history, an appreciation builds for what everyone is contributing. They start functioning at a higher level with members coming away with a deep sense of camaraderie, learning, and accountability. In this age of working remotely, virtual coffees and happy hours and phone calls can help with this too. What formal and informal activities can be added to your plan to encourage this? How will you measure their effectiveness so you can adapt as needed?

Anticipate conflict and build systems and culture to address it. Get two or more people together – teammates, family members, friends. As you spend more time together and stress increases, so do conflicts. It’s just part of the human condition, so plan for it and resolve it as quickly as possible. Conflict erodes trust, and it’s much harder to build and regain trust than it is to destroy it. Build expectations and systems at the very start of a project. For example, expect teammates to have the courage and respect to raise concerns directly and privately with each other. We do not talk behind each other’s backs or embarrass them publicly. Have clear next steps for escalation if the issue can’t be resolved by the individuals.

Clearly define roles, responsibilities, and accountabilities for everything and make sure your culture reinforces it. Dr. Brown does this for tasks, risks, issues, and assumptions. A manual that collects dust isn’t effective. These must be communicated and embodied at every opportunity: meetings, check points, and how you act. Culture can be defined as how we do things around here. If people say one thing and do another, a change is needed. Get curious to really understand what is creating the disparity. Is it inertia or are there reasons for maintaining the status quo? Once you understand that, determine what changes are needed and be intentional and comprehensive as you create the communication plan.

Set expectations around mistakes. Mistakes can be laziness or a sign that people are stretching themselves. When I worked with Procter & Gamble, we debriefed everything: what went well, what didn’t, what we would do differently in the future. It created a learning culture, constant improvement, and an expectation that no one is perfect. What types and number of mistakes are you comfortable with? What systems and managerial reactions can reinforce this and ensure learning, so mistakes aren’t repeated? How will you measure the effectiveness of this system and evolve it as needed?

If you’d like a thought partner in how to incorporate these ideas or would like to join a mastermind focused on this topic, let me know. It’s amazing how thoughts move from being interesting ideas to getting implemented simply by working with others. Feedback from others helps ideas get fleshed out more fully. What you think is possible expands as you see what others are doing. And a little supportive, healthy competition and cheerleading is a wonderful motivator!

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