Last week my team and I got the go-ahead from NASA Headquarters to proceed with the next step in our strategic plan. We’ve been together for three months and this approval represents the first key milestone on our journey. It’s our first victory. In some respects, however, the work is just beginning; the road ahead is much tougher. Previously, everyone on the team was working together on the same action, contributing unique perspectives and strengths yet focused together on a common effort. The next step is different.
Instead of being focused on a common action, the step ahead requires us to divide our efforts along lines of specialization and focus on a series of interdependent results. For me as the leader, I can see a definite challenge for me. I’ve always heard one trait of the ideal leader: set the direction then get out of the way. I can see some sanity to that – I’d probably go crazy if I worried over details best left to the team members working them. It’s hard to let go, though.
I encountered this situation a few days ago as we were laying plans for an upcoming event. We started the discussion as a group, yet something kept nagging me in the back of my head. As the conversation continued, I realized that there was no need to tie up the entire group on matters that could have been handled by part of the team – especially given that two of my team members need to focus on a different matter. We agreed to actions and ended our tagup.
In formulating a plan to move forward, my energies need to be focused in two areas: keeping the team moving forward to our goal, and to continue interacting with the elements external to the team for communication and coalition building. I can assign leads within my team to focus on the day-to-day details of the various simultaneous activities we have underway. I can use tagups with the team to share information and solve problems that require the entire team. I can use special tagups with just the leads for more focused and frank conversations.
“Set the direction then get out of the way.” Let’s try that!