The world is a constantly evolving place made up of constantly evolving people with constantly evolving expectations. What does that translate into? A world where your skills need to be constantly evolving (obviously).
But as obvious as the point sounds, that is a really hard thing for most people to achieve. Agility is a good thing, but it is indeed hard. We are creatures of habit, prone to preferring the comfort of muscle memory. And while the world requires that we constantly evolve, leaders also have to transmit consistency as well. If we evolve so often and so quickly, then we are no longer being agile. We are being inconsistent, impossible to predict, and infuriating to work with.
So, make sure you evolve, but not too quickly. Be agile, but consistent. Easy, right?
How do we do this? There is no one answer that will fit all leaders and teams, because as I have written before, each team is its own complex organism, the sum total of the various pieces of the team. A great leader will find a balance between her or his own priorities, and the needs of the team. A great leader will have a range of styles and behaviors from which to draw depending on the situation.
In my own case, here are some of things I strive for when leading and communicating with my own team:
- Be clear about goals, but be careful about announcing something and etching it in stone too early. Goal clarity is great. Most people love clear goals. But in your pursuit of clarity, if you move too quickly, and are wrong or change your mind, then you start to lose credibility. I prefer to share the idea, as a possibility, early, and then only etch it in stone when I am sure.
- Be available for input and feedback, but be clear about where the line is. We all want to surround ourselves with talented and hard-working colleagues. And talented and hard-working people almost always want their voice heard. You aren’t going to keep good people around you if you never listen to them. But, in your pursuit of being “open” you also have to be clear where the line is, and where you will no longer want input. At some point, a good leader will halt the input process, and make a decision. At some point, a good leader will halt the feedback process, and move forward. Do that too early, and you may miss some good input and create disillusion. Do that too late, and you will have created some analysis paralysis, and created an unsustainable expectation for the future.
- Be willing to share information, but be careful about sharing too much. When the good people around you want to understand a decision, and why you did something, a good leader will be tempted to share the exact reason why. In many cases, that is a great thing. Letting your people in on your thought process is empowering. But I have also witnessed and lived lots of examples where that instinct served me poorly. The instinct to share details on why a decision was made may nudge you down a path where you share something that you really shouldn’t.
Here is the walk-away for today… getting these sorts of decisions right all the time is really hard. Finding the right balance as a leader is a constant juggling act, and no one gets it right all the time. No one does. So, as you communicate with and lead your team, always remember not to be afraid to admit to and own your fallibility on occasion. If you have a good team around you, they will give you plenty of grace and space to make mistakes.
And most importantly, don’t forget to give yourself a break once in a while. That may be the hardest part of leadership… remembering to let yourself off the hook once in a while. I know that is, by far, the hardest part for me. Perhaps for you as well.
Have a great day, my friends.
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