I spend a fair share of my time each month working with emerging leaders. One of their challenges is how to build their team’s performance culture.
For instance, from the get-go, these next gen leaders buy in that they should establish a sense of urgency and a clear direction. Identify the skills they need and assemble the right team, and be sure to set the tone and expectations for behavior with their first meetings and actions. They are also comfortable with defining and achieving some immediate goals and tasks, such as the deliverable of a prototype or presenting an early design document. And going forward, they know they have to challenge the team regularly with fresh facts and information, and exploit the power of positive feedback, recognition, and rewards.
What many new leaders seem to struggle with however, is the idea that they should spend lots of time with their team. This step is challenging because likely they’ll have to do some of it virtually, but it’s so very important. Historians have learned that in World War II, the battle in Europe was not won by the generals but by the sergeants, second lieutenants, and captains at the front. Generals rarely came to the front and some of the worst wartime disasters stemmed from the fact that they didn’t know what their troops at the front knew all too well. Consistent wins amid the disasters came from small front-line groups with tight connections to their leaders.
Colonel John Boyd, the American fighter pilot that changed the way every air force in the world flies and fights and taught the United States Marines how to fight a war on the ground, gave us the basic tenant for small team decision making. Boyd’s thesis on decision-making was the OODA Loop – observe, orient, decide and act. Boyd’s OODA Loop is the basis for the modern conclusion that leaders have to be in close touch with their teams if they want to remain effective. The ability to decide and act based on observation and an awareness (orientation) of the current situation is fundamental to all next generation leaders.
So just when you’re sick and tired of spending time with your team, time with your customers and time on the ‘front line’ … spend more! It will pay off in the long run.