When I landed my first TV job, I quickly noticed the entire team frustrated with our Newsroom Manager. Once we received our assignment, we spent hours enterprising, researching, interviewing, shooting, producing, editing and writing stories, only to hear that our final draft really wasn’t quite what she wanted. There wasn’t any direction from our leader, resulting in wasted time, energy, and resources. My reaction – to begin a quest to climb the corporate ladder. My thinking was along the same lines as the old adage, “I can do this better.” (Boy, was I naive). A few years later, I had my first position in middle management and from that moment, I gave my team players clear direction while efficiently communicating and always leading them down the perfect path – right? WRONG – so very, very wrong! I made the same green, inexperienced, novice mistakes. I, too, had to suffer the consequences of not concisely explaining expectations to my team players. Here are some humbling lessons I’ve learned along the way that I still struggle to implement:
A Leadership Global Positioning System (GPS) Guide
- Provide Road Maps – Before you hand out any assignment, cast the vision. As the leader, often you’re the only one who understands the big picture. Keep in mind, everyone is focused on his or her individual task so they need an explanation of the entire mission. “Vision points us in the right direction. It helps us get focused, get energized and get great results,” explains Ken Blanchard.
- Handout Clear Directions – Explain your expectations by expressing what you want, when you want it, and how you want it. If necessary, convey steps to get them from point “A” to point “B.” People can’t read your mind. I suggest after handing out an assignment, put it in writing. This can simply be a follow-up email outlining your aspirations.
- Stop for Direction – Don’t be afraid to check in with your teammates along the way. Then, if you notice someone is going astray, address the issue and give him or her the proper tools to get back on track. Offering suggestions and providing feedback is considered healthy dialogue. Address mistakes constructively and up front – don’t just drop little hints. I call that, “passive aggressive leadership.” You want to dodge this annoying behavior at all cost.
- Avoid the Scenic Route – The best way to avoid your team players from “taking the long way” is to merely communicate. I was recently reminded of the importance of communication in every environment while reading John Maxwell’s book, Qualities Of A Team Player. Maxwell retells one of my favorite Aesop fables called, “The Lion and The Three Bulls.”
Three bulls lived together for a long time in a pasture. Though they ate and lived side by side, they never spoke to one another. One day a lion came along and saw the bulls. The lion was very hungry, but he knew that he could never attack three bulls at once because together they would over-power him and kill him. So the lion approached the bulls one at a time. Since one bull never knew what the others were doing, they didn’t realize that the lion was working to separate them. The lion, who was crafty, succeeded in dividing them, and once he successfully isolated them, he attacked them individually. Thus he overcame all three of them and satisfied his hunger. Aesop concluded the story by stating, “Union is strength. But there can be no union without good communication.”
Use your Leadership GPS and you’re likely to send your teammates down the right path, time and time again, well before all of you get too far off course.