The natural progression of a leader’s career will see them faced with a number of challenges, and opportunities as they steadily build their business. One such challenge is likely to be getting things done through people by shouldering the responsibility of directing a team and developing strategies to ensure goals are achieved and deadlines are met.
Such a proposition can be highly overwhelming, especially to someone who has built their own business without any formal training. Bob Bradley, Chairman of MD2MD, offers the following five tips for some useful guidance on how to avoid the stumbling blocks and get major strategic activities completed successfully:
1. Avoid the procrastination trap – when faced with a large or seemingly impossible task it is natural to stop and think rather than act. As a result it is easy to lose time vaguely thinking about something and putting off action. Often the best approach to a difficult challenge is to quickly take the first step. That of clarifying the objective and plan with the team. Bring your team together to discuss the task, agree the end goal and identify the quickest and most economical method of achieving it. Solidifying ideas, defining objectives and developing sub-goals are all crucial activities that will help you move on and avoid being ‘trapped’ by uncertainty.
2. Focus on the ‘end goal’ – it is also often the case that when presented with a big project there is a feeling of a need to make progress, which in turn leads to a tendency to rush in head first and start ‘doing things’. This too is likely to lead to problems. There is much evidence to suggest that the most successful projects are those where the leader takes time to develop a clear understanding of what the real desired outcome of the project is. And it is critical that everyone keeps a clear focus on this end goal throughout the project. With the hustle and bustle of ‘doing’ it’s all too easy to lose sight of this bigger picture and forget the ultimate objective. So when managing a route littered with ‘sub-tasks’ and activities the good leader maintains clear focus on the ‘end goal’.
3. Keep it manageable – a large task can be a challenge to achieve and therefore very daunting; the solution to this is to break the end goal down into smaller bite-size goals that will ultimately deliver you to your desired outcome. A diagram is a useful way to map out a route to your end goal – a sequence of smaller goals to be ticked off one at a time will illustrate a clear pathway to achieving your overall goal and make the whole thing seem far less intimidating.
4. Ask the right questions – when organising a project the primary focus is often on ‘what’ is to be done and ‘when’ it is going to be done. These are important questions but the real questions that will ensure results are ‘why’ and ‘who’ –why are we doing this overall project; what is the eventual outcome we desire to achieve, why are we doing each activity; what outcome does each activity achieve and how does it contribute to the achievement of the end goal; and who is going to be responsible for ensuring each activity achieves its goal? Once these are understood the what and when naturally follow.
5. Make sure your success is measurable – nothing is more demoralising than investing a great deal of time and effort into a project but being unable to measure your progress and show what you have achieved on the way. A good manager identifies at the beginning some clear milestones that enable progress to be measured and achievements demonstrated objectively. And note the word objectively; try to ensure there is a black and white definition of whether the milestone has been achieved. A vague ‘specification written’ is less useful than the precise ‘specification agreed by the client’ as it may be that it takes a lot longer to get it agreed than to write it! Having clear and demonstrable objectives and milestones will enable you to keep focused throughout the project, and by helping you deliver the desired outcomes provide you with a platform to progress to newer and bigger challenges!