Teaching People to Reach for More

As a leader, I know I’ve made a big mistake, more than once. By taking things away when people couldn’t get everything done, I’ve taught them to throw their hands up and throw in the towel. How do I teach people to stick with it and climb up that big hill, overcoming more challenges than they think they can, without having them get lost, and without jeopardizing the business’ progress? Appreciate the help!

Thoughts of the Day:   Manage your expectations into the realm of reality. Be willing to let people fail. Listen carefully to what’s going on. Build an expandable toolkit. Put the customer front and center.

Is the problem really that people couldn’t get things done, or that you have unrealistic expectations? If you’ve never done something before, the assignment may appear a whole lot easier than it is. If you’ve done something a thousand times, you may have forgotten how hard it was to do before you became an expert.

Don’t assume that a task gets completed on time and in budget just because you said do it. Allow for people to come up the learning curve. Figuring out how to make things work, and correcting course when things go wrong takes time, energy and resources – often more than planned.  Overestimate what it will take to complete, and be happy when everyone comes out ahead.

Keep a lid on your impatience to make progress. The best kind of progress is when people learn to do something new. And then can replicate the success a second and third time. Give your people room to work through challenges.

It often seems that lessons are things we learn just after we needed them. When things go wrong, encourage people to refocus on the mission, and what can be done to make things better going forward. When at a resting place, ask the team to process and document what’s been gained from each experience.

It can seem easier to jump in, especially if it’s something you know a lot about. But before you do, decide on your priorities. Do you want to have to keep jumping in? Or do you want to be free of the task, with someone else reliably able to do it?

Find out if your team is confident enough to keep moving forward. Make sure that your team gets why this is important. Are they passionate about accomplishing the goal? Do they get how completing this task or project will lead to betterment for everyone on the team? Talk up the end game, and what it means to the company, the individuals, the team, the customers.

Show people how to develop skills that become building blocks. Try simple things first. Cut a big project into small pieces. Gain confidence by having success with early attempts. Repeat successes several times before piling on more to learn.

Teach people to scope out the mission – what is to be accomplished, including how the team will define success. Ask about what’s been tried, what’s next, who’s involved and who else might need to step in. Get the team to assess each other – who brings what skill and experience to the table and whether there’s the right combination of innovators and doers.

Remind everyone, over and over, why you’re in business. To do good work as you serve the needs of customers. To build a future for the company and everyone in it. To have each others’ backs as you take on challenges and pursue opportunities. To learn, to grow. With these principals it will be hard to stray too far off track.

Looking for a good book? The Ordinary Leader, 10 Key Insights for Building and Leading a Thriving Organization, by Randy Grieser.


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