Developing Action Plans

When a person is in the earliest stage of learning a new task or working toward a new goal, even though they may be excited about starting the work, they typically lack knowledge on how and where to begin. An effective SLII® leader knows that this individual requires a Directive leadership style. One of the specific directive leadership behaviors for supporting someone at this stage of development is developing an action plan for the direct report to follow.

As I’ve suggested in previous posts, other directive SLII® micro skills include leadership behaviors such as setting SMART goals, showing and telling how, establishing timelines, identifying priorities, and clarifying roles. These are actions that shape and control what, how, and when things are done. SLII® leaders call on these directive skills when direct reports are in the first stages of learning a new task or working on a goal—when their competence is relatively low and they need specific direction.

Developing an action plan follows the assigning of a goal or a task. When a direct report is low or very low on competence regarding the goal or task, they need to know more than just how to do it—they also need to know that their leader will be there for them if they need help. To that end, as an SLII® leader, you will ensure the person understands the goal or task and what a good job looks like. You will then lay out a step-by-step plan showing how the work is to be accomplished. In other words, you will not only pass out the test, you will teach them the answers!

Without a clear plan, there is no real focus. And without focus, your direct report might be working hard—but not smart. It’s as if you are forcing them to move forward with a blindfold on. They won’t be able to see the big picture. Ultimately, this will create extra work in the long run for both of you.

To paraphrase a well-known adage, when you take the time to plan the work, your team member will be better able to work the plan. An effective action plan allows the direct report to be proactive at making continuous progress toward the end goal instead of being reactive when issues come up along the way that slow them down. They will save time, be more focused, and avoid many pitfalls along the way. Most important, they will feel supported by their leader. And after all, what is your goal as an SLII® leader? To help your people achieve their goals.

I’m not done with SLII® micro skills yet! Watch this space—there are more to come!

Empowerment: The Key to Creating a Collaborative Culture

Effective leaders learn early in their careers that they can’t manage whole projects singlehandedly. They need an empowered team working collaboratively to achieve goals. In our new book, Collaboration Begins with You: Be a Silo Buster, my coauthors Jane Ripley, Eunice-Parisi Carew, and I explain the importance of empowering yourself as a leader and building collaboration by empowering your team.

In past blogs, I described the first four elements of the UNITE acronym that we developed to help describe what it takes to build a collaborative culture: Utilize differences; Nurture safety and trust; Involve others in crafting a clear purpose, values, and goals; and Talk Openly. Today I want to share more about the fifth element—Empower yourself and others.

When I think of a leader trying to go it alone, I imagine a crew team with only one oar in the water. It isn’t hard to realize that the boat isn’t going to get very far with only one person rowing. But, when all oars are in the water and team members are working together, the boat seems to glide over the water without effort. The same is true when a leader tries to manage all aspects of a project. Doing it alone just isn’t efficient. Having an empowered team take initiative and accept responsibility is the most effective way to not only reach goals but exceed them.

It is important to remember that a collaborative leader must still set work direction, resolve conflicts, and remove obstacles. However, with an empowered team the role of leader is to coach the team members and support collaboration. Leader and team members work together with a unified vision, complete trust in each other, and open communication in a truly collaborative culture.

How well do you think you are empowering yourself and your team? Ask yourself these questions.

  1. Do I continually work to develop my competence?
  2. Do I feel empowered to give my opinions during idea sessions, even if I disagree?
  3. Do I actively build and share my network with others?
  4. Do I share my skills and knowledge with other departments?
  5. Do I believe my work is important to the organization?

If you answered yes to most of these questions, you probably feel empowered yourself and serve as a role model for your team members to become empowered, too. If you answered no to any of the questions, think about what you can do to change your behavior. Encourage your direct reports to collaborate not only with team members, but also with others in the organization. I guarantee you’ll see people start to share knowledge, generate new ideas, and reach higher levels of performance—all in a culture of collaboration.

Collaboration Begins with You Book coverTo learn more about Collaboration Begins With You: Be a Silo Buster, visit the book homepage where you can download the first chapter.