Thank you for continuing to share the Effortless Leadership journey with me. This month we are up to our seventh pillar. We continue to build the skills and qualities you need to possess as a leader who is seeking to influence teams and others to achieve desired outcomes.
From the title of this Pillar, you know we’re talking about action! Specifically, about the implementation of knowledge, decisions and strategy (see last month for Creative Strategic Thinking). When you think back to leaders that have inspired you, I am sure that you will identify an action-focused attribute that earned your respect. They lead with energy and decisiveness!
In fact, one of the qualities I know I am strongest at is taking action. However, over time, I had to temper down the rate and pace at which I would do so. In my earlier days as a leader and business owner, action equalled 100% go for 18 hours a day, and equivalent expectations of my team! You can imagine that wasn’t sustainable long term, right? Effortless leaderships is about the long game. If you think the turtle and the hare, then be somewhere in between and use your intuition to gauge which animal to be.
Implementation is the key to success. Having ideas, vision, dreams, communication skills, integrity etc are essential qualities. However, without action and implementation, you can’t get your desired outcome. And one of your first challenges is to conquer one of the biggest enemies of action, and that is procrastination (and fear which I will talk about next month).
To be effective at hitting the apply button, you need to know when enough data, analysis, thought, comparatives, talk, opinion and debate have been collected and it’s time to GO. Yes, an effortless leader cannot suffer analysis paralysis.
Without going into it in much detail here, this does follow from the build-up of our past pillars. When you build yourself and skills round having integrity, healthy mind, awareness, knowledge, heart/values connection and creative strategic mindset, you can apply much more effectively. Procrastination is simply the result of not being aligned. Your compass is broken because you may be disconnected from your values or true identity. Therefore, you need to work on aligning your head, heart and gut in order to be effective at confidently taking action, ALWAYS!
And by the way, this doesn’t just apply to the more significant strategic decisions. This is a day to day, minute to minute skill. Your staff, team, clients, suppliers and stakeholders will be subconsciously more motivated to work with you when you are sharp at decision making. The quick or the dead may be too aggressive a saying, however within it lies some truth for leadership.
Having said all that, let’s focus on building a simple and repeatable framework to make decisions and implement them. Using these consistently will boost your decisiveness and give your team clarity and confidence to work for you.
WORK ON NOT IN
One way to improve your “taking action skills” as a leader is to focus on working-on rather than working in the business or department you’re in charge of. Have a vision of the top down and down up. Don’t meander in the wash pool of tasks. The best leaders are like an Eagle, always floating high but when it’s time to strike, they swoop in with precision.
You need to become a fantastic time manager and become somewhat ruthless at enforcing your timetable. Sadly, some managers and executives fill their time with tasks and busy-ness, however as a leader they are ineffective. Set up your day broken into timeslots for staff, clients, strategy, development, exercise and contemplation.
IDENTIFY WHAT’S IMPORTANT
Become better at focusing on the important strategic decisions, and less time driven by the urgent and often unimportant tasks. The Eisenhower decision making matrix (look that up and you’ll find it) is a fantastic tool you can use daily to become better at assessing where to direct your energy. And if you don’t waste your energy on unimportant tasks, then you will be more empowered to make fast and effective decisions where it counts. Become a prioritisation machine!
Although we don’t want to get stuck here, it’s essential to gather information. Going by gut is not alone a good strategy. Assess market, competition, options, opportunity cost, risk etc. To ensure that your time spent here is effective, specify the date that this stage ends. And when it arrives, use the information you have, combined with your intuition, to make the decision.
ENGAGEMENT AND COMMUNICATION
Ensure that you effectively communicating your decisions, small or large, to your team. Share with them the vision or value behind the decision. Get their feedback and use it to improve the plan. Also, remember to communicate from the heart which we covered in a previous pillar.
ACTIONS AND STEPS
Now, this may be your forte or maybe not. One decision you have to make is potentially to hire a good “manager” if you’re not one. If details aren’t your thing, find someone who loves detail. Either way, design the steps and actions that will take the decision to its destination.
KPIs AND REWARDS
Aside from using effective communication, you are going to achieve more successful implementation when you engage your team by sharing the upside of the outcome. Ensure that your team have clear key performance indicators to measure their input into the decision and link a reward (financial or other) to that KPI.
It’s essential to establish a reporting system to measure the results of your decision. This is especially required for any strategic plan. Identify the information that you need to analyse during and at the conclusion of the project. Then establish a tracking system of the data and appoint the correct personnel to be in charge of those reports. Remember, you started with analysis. And in order to get better at not getting stuck in analysis, ensure you use data from your projects to give you information to better make future decisions confidently.
Every decision has a myriad of likely consequences. To avoid getting frozen at analysis stage, become flexible minded and see yourself as someone that can find solutions for any issues or hurdles along the way. If a wall comes up, you’ll find a way around. In conjunction with scenario analysis at step 1, this is a great way to become comfortable with innovation, creativity and entrepreneurialism.
CELEBRATE THE WINS
Whenever a decision or strategy goes to plan (or close enough), make a point of celebrating it. Too many leaders communicate in detail when there’s issues, however glaze over the wins. That’s not effortless leadership. When you and your team have succeeded, create a memory of that victory. Prizes, lunches, parties etc. Have fun, its motivating and inspiring and will help you easily get engagement for the next decision you’ve made!
SCREW IT LET’S DO IT
And yes, let’s steal from the great Richard Branson who is a master decision maker! Sometimes you need to just jump at decisions. Go purely by instinct. Say yes now and work out how you do it later. And as with all things, if you do that from time to time only, you are using a balanced approach. Sometimes assessed, sometimes felt!
Well, that’s about it for an overview of how to Hit the Apply Button. Going forward, consciously notice your time to making decisions and your process for implementing them. And then use the techniques above, and any of your own ideas, to get better at it. Remember, one percent better a day means you’ll be three times better by year-end!
I love business and all that comes with it. The creativity, the building of family inside it, the bringing to market of your product and idea. Everything you see around you is the result of business. It’s the result of action. Don’t let your dream die with you!