Is Your Leadership Style Like Making Sausage?
I’m a huge fan of sausages. Whether it be Italian, bratwurst, chorizo, kielbasa, or andouille, I love the seasoning and the snap of the casing when you bite into it. Now I know that the stuff that goes into sausage is of the most undesirable parts of the animal including organs, guts, head, and other parts that I prefer not to think about. I have never had the opportunity to see sausage being made, and as a matter of principle; I don’t want to because I know I’d be grossed out and it would ruin my appetite each time I enjoyed a banger. I choose to remain blissfully ignorant about the sausage making process.
As this relates to leadership, I’ve seen many leaders who are able to get things done but the process in which they do it is ugly. The end result may be positive, but how they got there was filled with unnecessary stress, drama, rework, and wasted energy along the way. In fact, I’ve even seen some leaders who thrive on the chaos; working around the clock, napping in a sleeping bag in their office, surviving on coffee, Cheetos, and Coke. With a successful delivery, the leader rewards and gets rewarded for their delivery heroics and the personal sacrifices made. Now sometimes there truly is a need for participants in a well-planned and run project to burn the midnight oil. It’s not those situations I’m talking about; it’s when the leader fails to deliberately plan and execute the work, resulting in wasted energy, lost productivity, and frazzled nerves. Let me be extremely clear on this: It’s not enough to consistently deliver results but leave a trail of dead bodies in your wake; you need to deliver results through deliberate planning and execution. Now it could be that planning needs to happen concurrent with some execution; I’ve certainly done that when having to work to tight mandated dates from my leadership. When someone says to me, “Well, we got it done,” I ask, “Would your team follow you into battle again?” The answer to that question is a direct reflection on the leader’s ability to deliberately plan and execute the work. I’d love for someone to challenge me on this.
Are you a leader who gets things done but creates unnecessary friction with your team, manager, or stakeholders? Give these four tips a look to help you be a leader who executes without the drama and stress:
- Deliberately plan work in what/who/when format – When outlining the work to be performed, be precise about what needs to be done, who needs to do it (no assignments to “team”), and when it needs to be done (no “asap” or “tbd”). If there is a tangible work product associated with the what, ensure clarity as to what the work product needs to include.
- Empower wherever you can – I wrote a book and an article on what I call Intentional Empowerment, which outlines four clear steps on what a leader needs to do to create empowered followers. Empowering your team not only enables more to be done; it also creates a happier and more productive workforce.
- Establish a clear communication cadence – Develop a communication plan for team members, your manager, and stakeholders to keep them apprised of progress and minimize work disruptions due to confusion or misalignment of work. Be clear about what is communicated, its frequency, and the mode (email, meeting, etc.) the communication occurs.
- Be available and responsive to requests for help – Things happen which can impact planned work, delivery dates, or participation of key team members or stakeholders. Whether they be issues (something bad is happening now and needs to be addressed), or risks (something might happen that you want to avoid coming true), your job is to be there to help the team when they can’t resolve something on their own.
A leader who gets things done without regard for the chaos he or she creates along the way won’t be a leader for long. Be a leader who deliberately plans and executes and you’ll establish a reputation as someone people will want to follow.