Updated: May 12
Often times people fall victim to the false sense of power in a process, especially in Corporate America where the path between idea and implementation can become a shiny web of wrought commitments. Process provides packaging to an idea and offers the visualization of how that idea may come to life, it gives ideators a shield to hide behind, with an assuredness that if the idea does not work, it is the fault of the process. In fact, a process offers layers of scapegoats, a myriad of executors can have a finger pointed at their spoke in the wheel, a finger that jabs them the culprit of why it didn’t work. Those that cling to process grasp the safety of never being at fault rather than the ownness of failure and the opportunity to learn. While process is needed and necessary for organizations to maintain a solid foundation, it will suffocate the future of work if it becomes the fall back for everyone with an idea. The people are what make an organization and there are too many variables in the human condition to be tethered to a process first, effective leaders understand that they must discover a process out of their people’s gifts rather than manipulate and contort their employees to a process.
The fastest way to get the most out of your employees is to free yourself of the standard process so you can see people for who they are and where they are at. Don’t worry, processes will always be there, and you can go back to them as often as you’d like but to catalyze a dramatic shift in employee engagement, a quick pit stop to revisit what is working and what is not within your team will create fast momentum. So how exactly do you relinquish the restraints of a process and get the most out of your employees at the same time? Let’s take a look at the 3 ingredients to maximizing yourself as a strategic leader and your team as engaged employees:
Current State-----> Momentum-----> Future State
1. Set a clear path forward….
The first step is to practice objective awareness as you assess the current state of your team and work output. You cannot get better until you are honest about what is working, what is not working, and the roadblocks currently in your way. To be world-class in this effort, you will need to take a look at yourself and determine your deficits as a leader and your part in holding the team back. The key here is to own it all, the good, bad, and ugly without judgment. It will be helpful to bring in outside parties that are close enough to you and your team to support in this unveiling of sorts. Once you have gotten very clear on the current state it is time build out your vision: what does your future state look like? What assessments from the current state leave the most room for error and improvement? What roadblocks can you eliminate or at least temper? What training will your team require? Ask yourself these questions and dream big as you envision the future.
Once you have a clear set current state and future state, you will be able to identify the work that needs to take place.
CAUTION: stop here! Do not proceed forward without your team’s involvement. This is where leaders often fail, they assess the problem areas and begin to plan out a process to fix, then they delegate the process out for their team to execute. Be better than this, plan to involve your team in the how, this will not only engage them in the work, but it will create momentum.
2. Build Momentum…
This phase is easy: clearly share (perhaps error on the side of over communication) the future state goal and path forward then involve as many people as possible in the decision-making and execution piece. The principal point here is that you have already decided on a future vision, so that won’t change, however, you are empowering your team with ownership in achieving the vision. Go wild with this step: stand up project groups, put different levels of people in charge of these groups, ask lots of questions, host Q&A sessions, and become obsessed with receiving the opinions and feedback of everyone on your team, get as curious as possible and step into a learning mode. Your people will teach you what you need to know, and they will reveal epiphanies that you wouldn’t have had on your own. You may even adapt your future state vision based on their advice. This phase cannot possibly happen if you are pigeonholing people into a process which makes them small and conformed. Give your team the opportunity to be big.
If done well, you will find that your team will happily take ownership of the how and the execution piece of this work, they will provide you with valuable insights, and will guide the journey forward, all the while you remain the strategic leader that sets forth the vision and keeps people guided in the right direction.
3. Provide Feedback…
The final step is to provide feedback. As the leader you want to ensure that people are facing the right way and that their efforts will have meaning and impact. Get comfortable providing fast feedback in the moment. It is as apparent as recognizing or redirecting behavior as it happens so that your team has a very clear and well-lit path toward the future state.
None of these 3 steps are rocket science, in fact they are fairly simple and obvious, however, leaders have a tendency to get caught up in the process or the way things are done around here, which has become Corporate America’s very own version of ADHD. Processes and nuances are distractions from the obvious work that needs to happen, which is to connect with your team, and provide them the opportunity to be their best and do their best by leading rather than distracting.
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