I remember having my mind rocked a few years ago while attending an elite entrepreneurs-only education program at MIT and Verne Harnish introduced the notion that Leadership, when done right, means that we are beating a drum like the heartbeat of the company. Part of that is consistency in our message, he said. Verne suggested that we’re doing it right when our teams can finish our sentences.
Sometimes this is also the case when the leader in question is disliked by their team. But if the leader is consistent, predictable in their message, it’s amazing how far they can go with their team. The team may dislike the leader, but the predictability and consistency is actually respected. Put simply, if the heartbeat is irregular, the organization has got big problems.
Think about the number of times you’ve heard something like: “so-and-so is a jerk, but at least I know where I stand all the time.”
Predictable Leadership is to the first ingredient in Predictive Success.
Here’s the harsh truth – the bottleneck is always at the TOP.
Leaders, that’s you … by being predictable you remove yourself as an obstacle (the bottleneck) to your team getting things done. Your team will get far more done as a result since their leader is not meddling, criticizing, or sabotaging your team’s confidence in themselves.
I know this flies in the face of what we imagine a great leader does; the traits that come to mind are almost those of a superhero. Dynamic, persuasive, compelling, and able to exert enough force on every situation to save the day. The reality is, however, that sometimes our need to be the hero is the very thing that holds our company back.
It’s time to shed the cape – let your team be the hero, give them the rope to save the day. Let’s face it, they’re great at what they do, which is why you had them join your team. Many of them have skills you simply don’t have. Others do stuff that you just don’t like or want to do, but they love it. So why do you get in their way? Get out of the way and let go of the superhero complex by becoming predictable from their perspective.
Perspective is the important word here. Leaders need to understand predictability from their team’s perspective, not just their own. In 2004 a couple psychologists researched employees and found that acknowledgment, encouragement, and structure around getting work done as determined by the team, not the manager/leader. In situations where all this existed the team exceeded performance standards and reported higher job satisfaction.
Predicable Leadership means consistent, clear articulation of goals and objectives, a shared set of core values that are brought to life by the actions of everyone in the organization every day. Repetition, consistency, and structure are the keys to establishing this kind of system of Predictive Leadership in the company.
In this structure, teams feel highly motivated because they have a great deal of ownership over the task, the outcome, and every point in-between. This is the most important distinction between delegation and empowerment. Here teams feel truly empowered, and they are powerful when they feel this way.
Teams that have Predictable Leadership are tight in tough times, they are responsive to challenges, they predict problems before they occur, they are nimble and able to shift toward opportunity, and most importantly they grow stronger over time.
Think about true teamwork and collaboration as a muscle, and like all muscles they need to be exercised. The only thing they need is a stable environment in which to accomplish this.
That’s the Leader’s job. Provide the consistency, structure, and Predictable Leadership your team needs and watch amazing things happen when you get out of their way.
When you’re doing it right, they’ll finish your sentences, and support the structure that you’ve created for them.
And this structure will set you free.
It did for me.
I used to come back from each new conference with a bunch of ideas to shift how the company worked. I would exercise my creativity and change processes with the motto “if it isn’t broke, I’m not trying hard enough.” I was the bottleneck in my company, no question.
Rules worked for everyone in the team, except me. I kept breaking them.
Amazingly, when I got more consistent – our results responded and became better and better. The more I resisted the need to fix every challenge that my team encountered, the more faith they KNEW I had in them – and they picked up the cape and became the superheroes.
I’m not saying that I don’t learn and grow, I spend time studying Leadership daily. That said, I can’t throw the systems and processes we have as a team out the window without the buy-in from the team. More importantly, I can’t keep shifting approach and direction relentlessly and expect my team to even know what I’m talking about. So, I don’t keep changing gears, direction, or messaging.
Setting a structure and becoming more consistent has paid off and given me a huge amount of freedom and leverage.