Remember the 55-38-7 communication rule? Even though its specifics have been disputed, there is truth to the idea that the messages you send are muddled when your words don’t match your behaviors. The same confusion occurs with your company’s strategy, initiatives, and daily work. To avoid confusion, align your leadership spine by adjusting your intention, attention, and actions, so strategy, initiatives, and daily work flow together. Aligning this leadership "spine", will bolster your capacity to lead.
Clarify Your IntentionsIntentions set the course for what we want. Your intentions seem obvious to you, but they aren’t to everyone else. Without the benefit of knowing exactly what’s in YOUR head, others interpret your messages based on what’s in THEIR heads. For example, from your perspective, if you’re hesitant to move forward on something, you’re concerned about identified risks. However, others might interpret your slow decision-making as a lack of know-how or interest in the initiative. Your intentions are unclear, when: 1) your decision and resulting action plans are disconnected from your company’s vision, mission, values, and strategy and/or 2) you haven’t communicated your decision and proposed action plan in a way that explicitly ties them to the company’s broader strategy. To clarify your intentions, create a clear line of connection between company vision, mission, values, and strategic priorities/goals with decisions made and action taken. Communicate this connection to direct reports and others before you start moving your decisions forward.
Move From Distraction to Focused AttentionWith clear intentions, your employees will follow your lead about where to put THEIR focus. Thus, you will model an ability to focus your attention on the things that will help your company stay the course. To determine your level of distraction versus focus, look at how much time and effort you give to people and tasks related to what you say are the company’s most important priorities. The 80/20 rule serves as a general rule of thumb. Using this rule, you will spend approximately 20% of your working time on important initiatives and the related tasks that are important, based on your role. Check yourself by looking back at how you’ve been using your time over the past couple of weeks. If you’ve been distracted from the company’s most important priorities, look at what’s getting in your way (e.g., poor boundaries, unclear work processes for direct reports that create dependency on you, failing to take time to plan/think/work without interruption, etc.).
Take Deliberate ActionWith a clear intentions and focused attention on important priorities, you’re ready to walk the talk and to do what is appropriate to your role to move things forward. This could mean you . . .
- spend time following up with direct reports on progress in their respective roles,
- communicate with a broader group of employees about what’s happening and how progress is being made,
- spend time fostering internal and external relationships that will further those initiatives, and/or
- ensure direct reports develop new competencies that support the initiatives.