Leadership is about influencing a variety of people in a variety of situations towards a variety of outcomes. So if you’re leading yourself, your people, and your situations towards an unclear outcome, how do you know if you’re even leading at all? Likewise, if you’re clear on an objective, but people and situations are tending towards a mix of objectives that are conflicting, then are you really leading at all?
Lesson: by thinking about outcomes, you increase your tendency to be a good leader.
Here’s the how and why of using the four parts of leadership framework and a short story:
Self – Always Think about the Outcomes. Here’s a story that’ll help explain why it’s important to think about outcomes. The other day I was invited to a meeting by a senior military officer in order to resolve a project fraught with endless disagreements and confusion. I started off by asking each of the attendees, “what is your objective?” I spent the next twenty minutes actively listening to each stakeholder around the table. It quickly became evident that different people had different goals and concerns in mind, causing the project to lack direction. In other words, people didn’t have a common objective – therefore, they couldn’t conduct OODA Loops together as a team. They were Observing, Orienting, Deciding, and Acting in ways that weren’t cohesive. It is always important to think about outcomes so that you have a compass that guides your efforts.
People – Create Shared Objectives. Throughout the next twenty minutes of conversation, I facilitated discussions focused on coming to an agreement on what the objectives should be. Whenever the discussion veered off course, or somebody complained, I listened carefully, and then asked the question of what we can do about what they just said in order to better achieve the objective. Very quickly, the project team laid out a broad plan of how to achieve the end-goal and were happily smiling because they felt that this was finally a positive sign of progress. Ensure you are able to get people to agree on objectives and have a shared sense of purpose.
Situations – Understand When to Set Objectives and When to Let Others Set Objectives. In the above scenario, I was like a consultant coming in to help the project team. Therefore, it wasn’t my job to set objectives for the project team. Rather, I let them come to their own agreement to ensure that they don’t feel like I’m an outsider trying to influence them. In other cases, it would make sense for you to set the objective and then to figure out how to get people onboard (the reverse of what I did in this situation). A prime example is if you are responsible to execute a specific project, and you are the project manager. Make sure to know when to set the objectives, and when to let others set the objectives.
Outcomes – Ensure Objectives Are Good. This is something that takes too long to explain in detail because it depends on every conceivable factor that applies to you, the people around you, the situations you are in, and the outcomes you are trying to achieve. In a nutshell, just understand that even if:
- you think about objectives consistently;
- you ensure people buy-in and are working together; and,
- the appropriate person/group with the authority or influence has set the objective,
It’ll all be for nothing if you have a bad objective. Basically, it’s hard to be an effective leader without a good strategy. The only advise I can give to you is to be strategic – always question why you do what you do.
How will you think about objectives in order to be a better leader?