Across the nation, there seems to be a new mantra, “Stop all action!” Leaders and their teams are hunkering down and discontinuing all the basic actions necessary to move businesses forward – producing, implementing, innovating, traveling, hiring, training, rewarding, etc. This lack of movement is stagnating everything from the market to our own businesses. One thing we’re forgetting is that cutting back doesn’t mean holding back, it means focus.
Why the temptation to play it safe and wait until the coast is clear?
For one, it feels safe and feeds into our widespread illusion that we should wait for clarity and help before we can or should act. But true survivors often credit their survival to the fact that they were committed to their goal, made a plan in their minds, and acted on that plan.
We also mistakenly attribute our past failures to quick action, bad ideas, poor judgment and/or inadequate plans. When, in fact, our past failures were caused by lack of compelling vision, shaken employee confidence, placing personal motives overlong-term organizational goals, and our lack of openness to the feedback from our employees, customers and the market.
The way forward is not to stop acting and wait for things to improve. The way forward is to create a clear and compelling vision about what we want, to create a core of believers, act in focused ways, and to enter into an iterative process of feedback and adaption.
It is easy to adopt a mindset of retreat to a smaller world and simpler times. Many organizations are reverting to past and exclusionary approaches, returning to the basics, to the easy stuff. Reality-based leaders work instead to adopt a mindset that seeks to maintain the progress and innovation of recent years, the expanded footprint of the business, while conserving resources.
Here’s how to resist the urge to retreat and keep your teams moving forward:
The clarity you and your team are seeking is not clarity of “What should we do?” but clarity about “What is it that we are trying to create?”
To get your team staged for success, communicate a clear and compelling vision about what is possible and call people to greatness. Our past failures were in part due to the fact that the visions we laid out were not compelling as they called for short-term financial success rather than calling the people to be part of something greater than themselves, creating a better place for all.
Whether your team believes the vision possible or impossible, either way they will be right.
In order to survive and thrive, team members need to be believers not only in the possibility but in the real probability of success, even in challenging times. Keep the vision alive and long-term so that individuals don’t revert to using their own motives as their guiding principles. Work on building the confidence of your team in the future and, most importantly, in their ability to deliver that future.
Know that clarity does not come to you through thought alone – it comes from action followed by reflection.
Many are adopting avery dangerous and faulty belief: that action should follow clarity and inspiration, when, in fact, it is action itself that generates inspiration and leads to further clarity. Reality-based leaders first create believers and then they insist on action.
To even become aware of the risks that need to be mitigated, the leaders and their teams need to eradicate the “I know” mindset and open themselves up to the feedback coming their way on a daily basis – not about how great their plan is, but feedback indicating the need for adaption, potential issues, and unwanted effects.
All plans need to include a process for iteration – not abandonment of the plan but real-time improvement of the plan. All leaders need to be on high alert for learning, which is very different from the usual actions of collecting evidence to prove ourselves correct.
So I am calling all leaders to get moving. Be wary of those wanting to stop the action, falsely believing it to be a safe and a great survival strategy. Move forward, listen intently, believe the results when you see them, rely on the talent of the team to mitigate risks and adapt to your course. You will either get the results you sought or a great deal of learning for future actions.
Remember, Cy rocks and you rock!
Lead on my friend.