How to Become a Proactive Leader
Written by Cyril Peupion
Read This Article in the May Edition of Business Review Australia's Digital Magazine
Leaders have a very important role to play in driving the discipline of execution within their team. It is very difficult for a team to be effective with an ineffective leader.
Some organisations are far too reactive. I know a few large companies where people constantly receive emails from their managers to drop everything and produce another report with very short notice, all because the big boss at the top has requested some figures and suddenly, a whole section of the organisation has to stop everything to produce it. In these organisations, these last minute requests happen very often.
As a manager, ask yourself what kind of leader you are: the proactive leader who is clear with his team on the few things they need to focus on and create an environment to enable this focus, or the reactive manager who constantly bombards the teams with new requests, priorities and ideas?
You can summarise what a leader can do to create a discipline of execution in their team in three words: alignment, focus and discipline.
First, a leader needs to create a strong link between the strategy of the organisation and the role of the team. He or she needs to ensure each person in the team is clear on the following:
- What is the long term vision and strategy of the organisation?
- What is the role of the team in light of the organisational strategy, the annual team goal?
- What is the role of each person to ensure that the team succeeds? What are the two or three things each person in the team needs to deliver next quarter for the team to succeed?
One of the main issues for people in businesses is that they have too much on. I have yet to find a team who is not busy and overcommitted. The problem with this is when you and your team take too much on, you are diluting the focus of your team; they are spending a small amount of time on too many priorities. At best, it will take them far too long to achieve a few. At worst none of the priorities will be achieved well.
Steve Jobs had a simple mantra ‘Focus means saying no.’ These are four words every leader should write on their whiteboard and review daily. As a leader, you need to be very clear with your team – not only about what they need to do, but more importantly, what they should not do. This is not always easy, but it is key.
Rather than asking your team during the next offsite “What should we do? What should we focus on?” Ask a different question: “What are one or two things we should change in order to improve our performance and enable us to deliver?” One or two, not ten or twenty. Sound easy? Try it; it is harder than you think.
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You may have decided specifically what needs to be focused on, but the day-to-day running of the business will very quickly take over. Before you know it, your one or two key areas of focus will be put on the back burner because of urgent crises.
Each leader should drive the discipline of execution in their team on a weekly basis.
We suggest creating a short and sharp weekly operating meeting, 15 to 30 minutes, where the only topics discussed will relate to progressing these key areas of focus:
- What has each person done this week in relation to these key areas of focus?
- What have we learned from it?
- What each person commits to do next week to progress the key areas of focus.
Nothing more complex than this.
A few last words
All of the above is simple, but most is rarely applied. And as a result, many companies struggle to achieve what was agreed in their strategic plan. Bain Consulting did an interesting study on strategy execution. They surveyed nearly 2,000 large companies. Seven out of eight failed to achieve profitable growth, though more than 90 per cent had detailed strategic plans.
The strategic plan is only the tip of the iceberg. Execution is what lies beneath and what will enable businesses to perform.
About the Author
Cyril Peupion and his team at Primary Asset Consulting mainly focus on increasing productivity and work life balance by changing work habits. Cyril is the author of ‘Work Smarter: Live Better’, which was featured in the top 10 business books in Australia and Top 100 on Amazon worldwide.
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