No MBA mumbo-jumbo, just stuff that's worked through 30 years of team-building in business and the military.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The First Job of a Leader: Set the Course

There are really only four jobs that a leader does for the team; everything else is a sub-role to one of those four. 

The first is to set the course; many call this vision-setting. It's the leader's job to see what needs to be done, and to get the team to see it. To do that, he or she must communicate a few things.

1. The what. This is a summary of the work, a brief statement of what has to be accomplished.

2. The why. This should be expressed in a way that links it to recognized organizational roles and goals. 

3. The outcome. This is a description of what the end state should look like.

4. The benefit. This is the emotional connection; it's a statement of how life will be better after the work is done. It answers "What's in it for me."

For example, consider this course-setting or vision-setting statement. "We need to create a second shift using a third of the team for a period of about 10 weeks (the what). We need to do this because Maintenance will be taking out two mills and replacing them with newer models; the new mills will grind faster and allow us to use less pigment (the why). The second shift will allow us to make up for the lost capacity during the transition, so that when we're done, we will be current with the production schedule and our customers won't see any interruptions in service (the outcome). If we can pull that off, when we all get back on day shift we'll have the same workload but we'll be able to get it done with about 20% less effort, and we'll open up new markets for the company (the benefit). Now, let's brainstorm the best way to do this."

Note that there's a lot of planning and team-enabling to come. You can only do those things, though, when the course is set.

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