Sunday, September 21, 2008

Four Powerful Words

We're at the end of our fiscal year. It's time to roll up the sleeves and "git 'er done." Goals and metrics must be met. No excuses. I truly love this time of the year. This is where leadership truly matters. Execution!

I am regularly reminded that 4 simple words can turn a problem around. These 4 words can overcome roadblocks and help teams push through to the objective. When people say, "We can't do it" or "it won't happen" -- I ask, "What Will It Take?"

What will it take to overcome this problem? More people, more money, more equipment? Who can I speak to in order to overcome this issue? How can I help adjust priorities to help meet your requirements? What factors that are beyond your control (but within mine) might I adjust to help make you successful? How can I help?

Too often when team members say that something can't happen, they are basing this belief on the exhaustion of options and resources at their level. We know there is so much more that can be applied to these issues, so much more grease to lessen the friction. But it is not my experience that teammates will ask this question on their own. They culminate when they cannot solve their own problems with their own resources and conclude that it cannot be done. I ask...What will it take?

-- When teams say the schedule does not support mission completion, I ask them to show me one that will. Unconstrained...without assumptions about the availability of resources. Just tell me what it would take to be successful. Let me decide if resources are available to support the plan. Show me a perfect schedule that does complete the task and let me determine how to help you get there.

-- When a teammate suggests that an external party cannot provide something in time to meet the schedule, I ask for their supervisor's number. Let me speak with them and let us confer about how to get the team back on track. Let me find an alternate source of this product that will keep you on your timeline.

-- When a leader shows me a schedule that is based on "doctrinal" processes and procedures, I ask where we might streamline or "crash" the schedule. I understand that "legal review" typically takes 10 days...but they work for me. I know that contracting needs a week to complete their actions...but they work for me. I know that our manuals say it must be done this way...but we wrote the manual! What would it get to where you are trying to go? Let me determine how I can help you get there.

Leaders are focused -- first and foremost -- on mission execution. There is no "can't." Teams have to understand that the mission "MUST" be completed. Together you can determine what it will take to do so. If it is longer hours, more people, more resources, streamlined processes, adjusted priorities...whatever. We must accomplish the mission. No excuses! What will it take?

So I ask you (and myself)-- are you (am I) focused like this? Are we asking our teammates this question and then following up with the assistance that will enable mission accomplishment? Turn the negative into a positive. Don't accept -- "We Can't." Ask them -- "What will it take?" That's what leaders do! That makes it...Leader Business!

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