A Critical Timeline for Leaders (Part I of II) – Weekend Reflections for Leaders: December 1, 2018

The next two Weekend Reflections for Leaders will address a critical timeline for leaders. Part I is about People and Part II is about the Marketplace.

The clock seems to be ticking all around us.  We have a product launch plan that needs to deliver on time. We have customer response software to ensure timely and routine communications to customers are delivered on time. We have weekly, monthly, quarterly targets etc. to assess the health of the business on an ongoing basis. In most organizations, these timelines and activities are visible for all to see to help gain alignment around a team effort to deliver on the goals of the business.

Part I for this Weekend Reflections for Leaders is about a most critical timeline that is rarely discussed among a group of executive leaders and is certainly not initially visible to anyone but the individual leader. If not addressed effectively, this most critical timeline for leaders has a significant negative impact on business performance and the culture of the organization. 

The most critical timeline for leaders that rarely gets any public attention, is certainly not added as a bullet point on an update on the business, and is only genuinely known in the mind of a leader is the timeline between that initial sense that change needs to happen and the time we actually begin to make meaningful progress to bring about the needed change concerning someone on our team.

I have seen it first hand, numerous times, in my own leadership journey and I have advised other leaders on this same issue. Most of us have a timeline that is too long in having that first difficult and direct conversation on a misalignment of behaviors, lack of receptivity to growth and learning, and near-term underperformance that is not exactly crystal clear among the complexity of issues facing the business.

Sure, the easy visible issues cause us to act quickly like someone acting inappropriately in a direct and overt way, the complete breakdown in a poor response to a customer, the mismanagement of finances, etc., we can all move quickly with those.

However, the real challenge is that subtle, but recognizable in the gut of a leader that a person’s behaviors are not well aligned, hustle and hunger for the business is not totally there, and a genuine desire to grow and develop is not at pace with the dynamic marketplace we find ourselves in trying to survive.

The time we realize that change needs to happen and the time we actually start making progress towards the desired change in someone on our team is a timeline worthy of our attention. Responsibility to be more efficient in shortening this critical timeline rests squarely on the shoulders of individual leaders as they are the only ones that hold that initial sense that change needs to occur.

Here are some thoughts to help us all better address this most critical timeline:

First, what holds us back? Here are a few common obstacles:

  1. Most leaders are biased to the positive. We bring a hopeful attitude to the table and with a few positive behaviors mixed with a few subtle negative ones, we often internally decide to believe the positives will outweigh the negatives over time and we hesitate to take near-term action.
  2. Most leaders fear that an over-reaction to what seems like an initial minor issue may create a difficult working environment going forward and we hesitate to take near-term action.
  3. Most leaders are honest with themselves and realize having these conversations is not easy and not comfortable, so we hesitate to take near-term action until the pain/embarrassment of inaction outweighs the pain of taking action…usually when things become clearly visible to others or the business performance becomes disastrous.

Second, what can we do about it? Here a few ideas:

  1. Realize that this timeline is probably one of the most important developmental areas of all leaders and should be addressed with intention and courage, not avoidance.
  2. Take action and get things rolling…Experience is the mother of all learning. Climb into the ring to learn and grow. The basic principles of coaching that we all know are a great place to start: (a) reinforce expectations and goals (b) focus on specific behaviors (c) listen and understand different points of view (d) decide on some clear action steps (e) remain engaged and supportive.  
  3. Partner with an advisor/mentor (internal or external to the company…external would be most effective for a host of reasons) with whom you can very open with about your instincts, benefit from a point of view that is not so close to the fight and can be a solid sounding board to identify action steps.

Today’s senior executives and top talent need to be careful that the old Credence Clearwater Revival song about “someday never comes” does not become an anthem for the difficult conversations we need to have with people on our teams. If “someday never comes” in terms of bringing about change and does become the norm in our leadership, we will soon build a culture where people see we don’t care enough to address the tough issues and we will quickly become an irrelevant voice around the leadership table.

What if I were to ask you, “What is the most difficult leadership challenge you are facing today?” What would you say?

Here are a few resources to help:

  1. Download FREE resources at www.harvesttimepartners.com
  2. Contact me. Email: david@harvesttimepartners.com (M) 269-370-9275

David Esposito

Young team leader correcting offended senior employee working on computer in office, female manager scolding aged old worker for mistake or incompetence, different generations and age discrimination