Blog by Sherri Baldwin with LeadAdvantage, Inc.
Pilots spend most of their flight training preparing for what can go wrong. What are the various obstacles that pose the greatest risk? How can I mitigate those risks? Attorneys prepare for trial by anticipating the questions from the opposing side and preparing a strategy to overcome any damage a line of questioning might cause.
In that same way, leaders attempt to mitigate problems by going through various scenarios with their team. What are the situations that can get in the way of their success, or worse, create the “knock-out punch” in the implementation of their plans, projects and tasks? Leaders approach these issues by addressing something that we refer to as, “tapping the unknown.” We have three tips that help tap into the unknown, making it known, leading to a greater probability of success.
First, share the leadership role:
Share this responsibility not only for mundane tasks but for major projects, tasks or decisions. When it comes to something big, a “make-it-or-break-it” type project or idea, most of us want to maintain control. There are many reasons for this; we want the credit and the spotlight, ego, power, we don’t want to give up control of our destiny to someone else, we can do it quicker and more accurate on our own, and the list goes on. But leaders know that in order to develop those around us, we must share the leadership role with someone who may have more time, focus or expertise in a particular area. That means they have authority to make decisions around that project or task without having to come to you, unless it is a safety or budget concern (or whatever your defined parameters would be). Delegating to another person helps provide bench strength to be more prepared to tackle the unknowns.
Second, show support:
We must share the leadership role, but not delegate and disappear. Stay connected and involved, even if that is only as a cheerleader on the sidelines. Be visible and available to roll up your sleeves and help if needed. Ask questions throughout the process. Ask them to think through options and why they feel one option is better than the other. Make sure they understand that with responsibility and decision-making authority also comes accountability. They must be accountable for the success or failure of that project. You are there to help them achieve success. Coaching, mentoring and supporting allows us to have more confidence in the person responsible tor a project or task and still remain involved without controlling the process. Asking questions will help identify the unknowns.
Third, strategize as a team:
To minimize risk, go through “what if” scenarios with the team; “what if ____ happens? Then we need to do ____.” Make sure there is a plan B or an exit strategy. Always be willing to turn around and go another direction if needed. Often times we get so stubbornly entrenched in our point of view or in a project, that once time has been invested, our ego won’t let us redirect. Don’t keep going down a wrong path and keep throwing money at a bad investment. Having a plan B or an exit strategy provides that new direction when confronted with the unknowns and helps us uncover some of them before they arise.