Are you planning for success?

Here’s one thing you should stop doing: telling other people what to do!

Reggie James
September 24, 2018

Whoops, I just violated my own rule.

People generally don’t respond well when they are told what to do. Why? Because people need to feel heard and listened to before they can accept your influence.

I was recently a part of a series of workshops for a company going through a transformation. The working group was discussing the company’s core processes for how it develops and ships its products. The session was fantastic; it was both interactive and collaborative.

The problem? The people in the session only represented one part of the business. The session didn’t include anyone who would be impacted by the changes.

The situation reminded me of a key principle: plans discussed and created in isolation are destined to fail.

You may know your business domain inside and out. You might even develop a brilliant strategy and plan for execution. However, when it’s time to implement, if done in isolation, there’s unlikely to be much enthusiasm for your plan.

So how do you get people to follow? Here’s one simple rule: bring people on the journey.

What does it mean to bring people on the journey? Start by laying out your vision for where you want to take your team. Paint a clear and inspiring picture of the future that you see.

In addition to establishing and articulating your vision, begin to lay out a series of objectives that must be hit along the way.

Now with your constraints firmly in place, you have set the stage for the invitation. Invite your team to build the pathway to get there. This invitation will likely involve conflict.

In Patrick Lencioni’s famous fable The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, the character Kathryn explains the magic of conflict, “When people don’t unload their opinions and feel like they’ve been listened to, they won’t really get on board.”

This necessary conflict serves two purposes:

  1. It uncovers your blind spots. Every leader has blind spots — it’s impossible for us to know everything. The process of bringing people on the journey is a humble approach that in essence requires you to own what you don’t know everything and accept influence from your team.
  2. It allows your team to build the pathway for the journey you’re going to take. When your team contributes their ideas on how to reach your vision, they are much more likely to commit and willingly follow.

Here’s a top tip for bringing people on the journey:

Build a habit of asking and listening. Like, REALLY listening. In Michael Nichols’s The Lost Art of Listening he says, “As soon as [people are] able to say what’s on [their minds] — and be heard and acknowledged — [they] are unburdened.”

Your new practice of listening and taking people on the journey will have the powerful result of making you someone people want to follow.

Reggie James is a CEO / Sales Guy at Beaker & Flint where he helps organisations build digital products and guide them on their digital transformation journey.
Have some ideas or questions you want to run by Reggie? Reach out either via the comments below or start a conversation by email here.

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