Going through some notes I made after a few team meetings a few years ago. I now understand something that puzzled me. On that team I had people with the skills needed. They were sold out to the mission. There were just two people whose potential I somehow failed to extract, in the context of the mission.
It is not that there were incompetent, they had all the skills, in fact more than needed. We had many meetings about what we, as an enterprise were working toward. So, it wasn’t that they were clueless about what we were trying to accomplish.
The challenge was that they either didn’t understand what the calls meant for them. They could not translate what each change in strategy meant for them; their area of responsibility. To be a high performance team, all must translate implications for areas of their responsibility.
High performance teams have players who understand what each strategy change means for their area of responsibility.
For effective leading, leaders must check in with those they lead. They need to ask simple questions like, “What do changes “x” and “y” mean for you and your department?”, or “what do you understand your contribution in the context of project “z”?”
Every team player must be able to translate the implications for areas of their responsibility [Click to Tweet]
Such questions and their derivatives can help shed light on how well teams understand their contribution. This is not to do with whether they know that they are, for instance, the finance team, it has to do with what they need to be doing in particular instances.
Take budget cuts for example, can each department or team member understand what it practically means for them, and not just the enterprise?
Team members need to take a time out and, in a focused way, actually think about what “x” or “y” actually mean for them. They must be able to translate, in context, what they need to be focusing on. They must check in with oversight or leaders if they understand their particular role the same.
This may reveal different perspectives. It is not that different perspectives necessarily bad. Sometimes they are healthy. And, at other times, can be the detriment and death or crippling of mission.
Teams can be ineffective when they can’t contextualise or focus their general responsibilities into specifics for particular instances.
The function of leadership has to do with bringing many parts together for the purpose of mission. So, a leader does not and cannot work alone. Like Maxwell suggests, if you think you’re leading and there’s no one following, you’re only taking a walk.
Leaders cast vision and pull many strings together. They make sure that puzzles pieces fit perfectly to create the picture they set out to do from the start. Even the blank puzzle pieces matter…
Leaders can point the direction. They can be as vivid as they can be about the vision for their enterprise. None of this really matters unless those they lead can translate what that means for them, practically, and in context.