Leadership without action is nothing more than cheerleading. It’s a rah rah speech. Stuff has to happen. Results count. The seventh Leadership Principle is “ensure the task is understood, supervised, and accomplished.”
I know some of you are conjuring up visions of taskmaster bosses when you hear those words (hopefully none of those bosses have been as bad as The Taskmaster comic book villain pictured here – although it would be very cool to work for him because that would mean you’re a cartoon which carries all sorts of possibilities along with it…). I’m not advocating that. This principle is all about mission definition, articulation, and accomplishment. There’s a lot loaded into that very short statement of principle so let’s break it down.
Ensure the task is understood
Seems simple, right? Make sure people know what you’re asking them to do. And exactly how many times have you or your boss skipped that critical step this week alone? We assume. You know what happens then (bad things). I screwed this up this very morning:
Me (to pre-teen son): “Clean your room.”
Result: two empty Gatorade bottles and a plate brought down to the kitchen. Laundry remained on the floor, bed went unmade and playing xBox resumed. Clearly I failed as a leader because I didn’t ensure the task as I understood it was understood by him. The better answer would have been “clean your room. When you’re done I want no plates or bottles in here, laundry in the laundry room and/or put away and your bed made. After that you can play xBox again.”
This portion of the principle simply requires you to articulate your vision of the endstate then have your team say it back to you as they understand it. Doing so prevents misunderstanding and tasks not being accomplished properly.
I’m not talking about micromanaging here. I’m advocating knowing the milestones in your own mind and checking in occasionally to see if things are progressing according to your expectations. If they are, step off. Get out of your team’s way.
If they’re not progressing as expected, understand why, problem solve to figure out how to get things back on track and reset your milestones. If they need resources, get them resources. If they need others to stop meddling, protect your team so they can get things done (be the project version of the human crapshield). Supervision doesn’t mean being the Taskmaster (although it is a basic hero power. Get it? “Super Vision?” Nevermind…).
As a leader, it’s not done until you say it’s done. One of your jobs in the organization is setting standards. If something’s not accomplished to your satisfaction, you have an obligation to send your team back to correct it. If it is completed (according to the standards you articulated in the “understood” phase), let your team know they’ve completed the task (don’t just expect them to know they’ve gotten over the bar – tell them they have and praise them for it).
Execution doesn’t just “happen.” It requires active (but not over-active) participation from you (especially in the opening phases of the work). Point your team in the right direction, ensure they’re staying on track, and let them know when they’ve crossed the finish. As a leader, that’s your job.
What challenges do you face as a leader with respect to task execution? What prevents or hinders you and your team from successfully accomplishing your missions? What do you do to mitigate these issues? Tell us what you think!
- Mike Figliuolo at thoughtLEADERS, LLC